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These days in D.C., the sight of a bunch of gay guys singing show tunes is hardly breaking news. But for members of the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, the 270-person ensemble that held its 136th performance last month, being able to belt out a Stephen Sondheim medley at the Kennedy Center can seem just short of a miracle.

“It’s amazing to me,” says Steve Herman, an original GMCW member. He recalls the chorus’ founding in 1981, when members would sing under pseudonyms (one guy listed his cat’s name in the program instead of his own) and few auditoriums were willing to let them perform.

Now the chorus does five major concerts a year, in addition to outreach events at schools and churches. And in a sign of how much has changed for the District’s gay community, instead of worrying about negative reactions, Herman laments that a gay chorus has become too mainstream to draw audiences.

“Quite honestly, there isn’t that need to come and see the chorus just because we have the word ‘gay’ in the title anymore,” he says. “It’s a challenge.” But one that he’s happy to have.