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This is the only barrier to permanent entry the Historic Congressional Cemetery provides prospective residents: “You just have to be dead,” according to its website. This should tell you two things: one, that this graveyard has too much personality to belong to Congress, despite the name (the site is part of local Christ Church); and two, it’s interesting enough to warrant a weekend visit if you’ve never been. The cemetery’s own LGBT Community Walking Tour claims that it’s the world’s only with a dedicated LGBTQ section of gravesites and memorials. “The gay corner” was started in 1988 after the death of Leonard Matlovich, the Air Force technical sergeant and Vietnam War veteran who told a superior officer that he was homosexual, specifically to challenge the military’s ban on gay service members. He was discharged despite a history of lauded service—his commendations include a Purple Heart and Bronze Star. Other notable gravesites and memorials in the LGBTQ area include Peter Doyle, Confederate veteran and presumed romantic partner of Walt Whitman; Barbara Gittings and Kay Tobin Lahusen, who, among other accomplishments, helped convince the American Psychiatric Association that homosexuality was not a mental illness; and Dandridge Featherston Hering, who has not only a remarkably great name but a lifetime of activism and leadership in the gay community. You may be surprised to see that some memorials bear the names of some community members who are still living—consider this an opportunity to learn about the country’s living history.
Read more from our 2016 Gay Issue here.