Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser is not a lesbian but is “proud to be a straight ally of the LGBTQ community,” she clarified last week in response to an activist’s question.
Mayor Bowser was marked the opening of Washington D.C.’s first LGBTQ+ Adult Shelter, which will be a 40-bed emergency shelter intended for homeless queer people 25 years and older located at 400 50th St. SE.
At the ribbon-cutting ceremony, while speaking, the Washington Blade reports, activist Ahmar Mustikhan addressed Mayor Bowser, “Mayor, I’m extremely grateful to you for the all the works that you have done so far for the LGBTQ community, including this shelter here. Mayor, I’m a little concerned because there is this word that you are lesbian and you are in this closet. Why is this the case?”
Bowser replied, “Well, I’m not in the closet,” and there was laughter from the crowd before things moved on.
A reporter with TV station WRC, Washington’s NBC affiliate, spoke to Bowser about the exchange Friday at a Democratic Party event. “I’m very proud to be a straight ally of the LGBTQ community,” the mayor clarified. She said many people have commented that Mustikhan’s question was “very inappropriate,” adding, “I gave a very nuanced response to shut it down.”
“We should not be, as elected officials, going into situations like that where we’re talking about very real issues where people want to make them personal,” she continued.
Mustikhan “describes himself on his Twitter account as the ‘first openly gay man on earth from Balochistan,’ a province in Pakistan that borders Iran and Afghanistan with a pro-independence movement,’” according to the Washington Blade.
D.C.’s shelter continues trend already building across America.
Major cities that have or have had lesbian mayors include Chicago, where Lori Lightfoot is currently in office; Tampa, Fla., where Jane Castor is mayor; Madison, Wis., where Satya Rhodes-Conway is in the post; Seattle, where Jenny Durkan held the office from 2017 to 2021; and Houston, where Annise Parker was mayor from 2010 to 2016. Other cities, including Boston, Los Angeles, Chicago and Philadelphia, also offer housing catering to an aging LGBTQ+ community.
The shelter represents a milestone for LGBTQ+ advocates who had long called on city officials to provide this resource. Last year, the Bowser administration announced their goal to “create dedicated shelter programming for LGBTQ adults to ensure people have choice and feel safe accessing emergency shelter,” as part of the Homeward DC 2.0 plan to address homelessness, per the DCist.
The city is dedicating this space to the LGBTQ+ community so people can have a more comfortable place of respite to queer people, “who are more likely to have a history of trauma or are more vulnerable to violence in existing homeless shelters.”
Bowser is running for her third term as mayor, having won her primary last month.