April 9, 2007 — -- It was Friday night at the Black Cat, a bar in the heart of Washington, D.C.'s increasingly trendy U Street Corridor.
The wall-to-wall crowd was a mix of hipsters, indie rockers, and tonight, several hundred gays and lesbians.
Chris Trott, a 25-year-old copy editor by day, surveyed the scene with a beer in hand, and a satisfied smile.
"We don't look at it so much as a takeover as a, a," Trott began, as Karl Jones finished the thought with: "A blending."
"Yeah," Trott agreed. "A blending."
The blending is Guerrilla Queer Bar DC, a social experiment bordering on activism that Jones, Trott and "the lesbian of the group," Amy Mulry, host.
Through a network of Internet profiles on Myspace, Friendster and Yahoo, they sound the call to gays and lesbians around the city and descend on a straight bar, on the third Friday of every month.
Tired of being limited to a few dozen gay bars, and Mulry points out, just two lesbian bars in the city, the group began seeking out straight bars three years ago. The trio began with an e-mail list of around 200; it's now approaching 2,000.
"When you're the only gay person, people tend to engage on that level, like 'Oh, I have a gay friend.' That's what defines you," Jones said. "If there are 20 gay people, then all of a sudden the conversation changes and it becomes about you being a person who has other qualities."
The concept began in 2000 with a group in San Francisco. Guerrilla Queer Bar groups are now in cities across the country, from Austin, Texas, to Atlanta, Seattle to Salt Lake City. London and Heidelberg, Germany, also have Guerrilla contingents.
There's no formal organization, no one seems to be making any money at it, and it does take work. Fun work, as Jones calls it.
The D.C. group has Guerrilla Bar business cards and job titles: Mulry "Curly-haired Maverick," Trott "Sassy Face Maker" and Jones "Dance Machine."
"We've got gay male Republicans, lesbians from Takma Park, hipsters from Northwest and couples from Capitol Hill," said Jones, a 29-year-old event coordinator who sports a beanie and a large "I Hate Men" button.
"It really is like every single type of queer person," he said. Usually around 200 show up, but on this night, the group was celebrating its three-year anniversary with a party, and the line was spilling out the door and crowding the sidewalk.