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For DC’s Trans Community, the Ask Rayceen Show Is a Vital Gathering Spot

Photograph by Jeff Salmore/Ask Rayceen Show.

It’s been a scary year for the area’s trans community, with two murders and a spate of assaults serving as a reminder that despite how LGBTQ-friendly Washington is, violence can still be a hazard. Amid this atmosphere of fear, a long-running monthly event, the Ask Rayceen Show, has been serving as both a source of information and a celebratory gathering. Held on the first Wednesday of each month from March through November at the Human Rights Campaign’s headquarters near Dupont Circle, it’s part variety show, part education session, and it functions as an important hub for a segment of DC society that’s often overlooked.

At the center of it all is Rayceen Pendarvis, who founded and emcees the affair. “I wanted to create a space where LGBT people could feel safe—of all ages and all colors,” says Pendarvis. The format is loose—maybe there’ll be a poetry competition or a game-show night, and there are often interviews with notable locals.

The August show kicked off with a Q&A with Ward 3 DC Council member Mary Cheh. The overall vibe was positive, but attendees we spoke to shared their unease in the wake of recent attacks.

By the end of the evening, the mood grew more uplifting, especially when it came time for the big finale, a burlesque performance. Dancer Bebe Bardot sported a hot-pink dress while sashaying to the Supremes’ “Where Did Our Love Go.” As she offered the audience her best Diana Ross moves, she couldn’t have looked happier.

This article appears in the October 2019 issue of Washingtonian.

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Web Fellow

Mion Edwards is a web fellow for Washingtonian. Previously, she was a digital mobile and off platform intern for CNN. Her work has appeared in VICE, DCist, and the Current Newspaper. Mion graduated from Hampton University in 2018 with a degree in journalism.