Jun 4, 2023 - Things to Do

D.C. Pride through the years

The 1995 parade. Photo: Mark Reinstein/Getty Images

The District hosts one of the country's largest Pride celebrations, and this year is our 48th.

Why it matters: Nearly 10% of D.C. residents identify as LGBT.

Flashback: The first Pride was a one-day block party held in 1975 on 20th Street NW between R and S.

  • The event has evolved dramatically over the years, expanding to include a parade and workshops, but always reflecting the national mood—an important reminder as Pride itself was born out of protest.

Zoom in:

  • In 1991, we saw the first Black Pride festival, an effort in part to raise funds and awareness for HIV/AIDs which was disproportionately impacting Black men. Hundreds came to the festival at Banneker Field, per organizers, and the event has been held on Memorial Day weekend ever since.
  • In 1993, D.C. was home to the first Dyke March, when 20,000 people walked to the White House to increase visibility for self-identified dykes. The rally still goes on, and this year's theme is centered around trans rights.
  • In 2016, the festival took on a somber tone after a gunman killed 49 people at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando.

What they’re saying: Pride in the 1980s “seemed like a big family reunion,” says David Mallory, community partnerships director at Whitman-Walker Health, which sponsored the festival until Capital Pride took over in 2008.

  • Yes, but: At that time there was no law preventing security clearances from being revoked because of a person's sexual orientation, which meant that LGBTQ+ federal employees were concerned about being identified at the festival, remembers Bernie Delia, a former president of Capital Pride.
  • “It’s so remarkable and stark because now there’s so much more freedom. Instead of shying away from cameras, I think people want to get in front of them and speak,” he says.

“To me, one of the most gratifying things is to bring it to the eyes of someone who has never been before,” Delia adds. “Every Pride is someone’s first Pride.”

🎈 1 cool thing: In 2025, the District will host World Pride for the first time.

📸 Here’s what Pride has looked like through the years:

1991. Photo: Mark Reinstein/Corbis via Getty Images
1995: A sign on the car refers to "Cocktails and Calor Latinos!" Photo: Mark Reinstein/Getty Images
2016: A moment of silence to honor the victims of the nightclub attack. Photo: Astrid Riecken/The Washington Post via Getty Images
2017. Photo: Jose Luis Magana/AFP via Getty Images
2019. Photo: Aurora Samperio/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Washington D.C..


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Washington D.C. stories

No stories could be found

Washington D.C.postcard

Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Washington D.C..


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more