When I Moved to a New City, I Found My Queer Community Through Shared Housing

published Nov 30, 2022
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Community x queer housing personal essay
Credit: Photo: Serena Zets; Design: Apartment Therapy

When I first moved to Washington, DC, last January and walked past my closest independent bookstore (the lovely Lost City Books) I was often taunted by one specific title. Maddy Court’s “The Ex-Girlfriend of My Ex-Girlfriend is My Girlfriend” struck me every time I walked past. Yes, it’s a funny and clever dig at how insular queer communities can be, but in the context of my recent move, it resonated almost too deeply. 

While the ex-girlfriend of my ex-girlfriend might not be my girlfriend, the queer connections in my corner of DC feel just as serendipitous and unbelievable. The queer community I’ve found in my first six months of living here have all been formed by sheer coincidence, unexpected connections, the internet, and saying yes to any invitation that intrigued me. While speaking to other queer DC residents, a lot of them echoed the importance of having intention in building communities, relationships, and spaces. I feel lucky that a lot of the seemingly random queer community I’ve found traces back to one singular intentional choice I made: my living space. 

The actual physical space I live in — a beautiful dark purple and almost too-big queer group row house in the Adams Morgan neighborhood — has been foundational in building a full, joyous, and queer life here. I have learned so much from all of the people who have come through this house, who lived here before me, and those who live here with me now. I have learned how to live authentically, work together to tend to our homes and ourselves, and build community out of these places.

Credit: Serena Zets

When I moved into my home in January 2022, half of my then-housemates identified as queer. While not all of us identified as women, we lovingly referred to the house as the “hot girl house,” in honor of Megan Thee Stallion’s anthem “Hot Girl Summer.” As my former roommate Amanda said, “In the hot girl house, everyone led very full lives. The house’s ethos helped support people [to] explore parts of themselves in all ways without expectation, judgment, or shame.” 

By creating a culture of openness and fluidity, the house served as a site of all forms of exploration for its residents and their friends. This July, my former housemates decided to move out, which led to four different housemates taking their place. In our first few months of living together, we’ve created a safe and welcoming environment for the five of us. The dark purple facade, a disco ball turning above our hearth, a rainbow garland hanging on the exposed brick wall of our Dakota Johnson-inspired green kitchen, an accent wall painting of the sun in the center of our living room are among the many quirky details that make it distinctly our own. 

Credit: Serena Zets

To quote Rihanna, I found love (this miraculous queer joyful house) in a hopeless place (Facebook). While initially shocking to me, most young people I know who moved to DC for work, school, or a change in environment have found their housing through sites like Facebook or Craigslist. This practice ironically reminds me of my first brushes with queer culture online on Tumblr and Instagram a decade ago. Similar to other queer people who don’t know where to find community in a new place, the internet was the first place I started. 

On Facebook, I found groups like Queer Housing Washington DC, DC Queer Exchange, and Adams Morgan/ Mt. Pleasant/ Kalorama Queer Neighborhood Pals. When searching for new roommates, my former housemate Sharon said they were “specific and proactive in the language of advertising the house as a space welcoming of people of color and queer people.” As a queer person of color coming to this home from having only lived with my family, where I didn’t feel I could be out as my fullest self, or in predominantly white college spaces, this intention was really important to me and immediately convinced me to move into the house after only a short Zoom interview. 

Sharon shared that while they had come out before living in this house, “this was the first living experience I had where it was explicitly a queer community. In college, the queer spaces were almost carceral in that there was only one way to be queer. This house was the counter to that.” When she first moved in, Sharon said the house began to come together through “a vibe of respect and non-judgment that eventually grew into a love for community that flourished in and through this house.” I benefited from the same non-judgment when I moved in and have continued trying to extend it to new residents.

Credit: Serena Zets

Throughout my first year of living in this house, I have learned how to care for myself, my housemates, and my neighbors. I have learned how to tend to a space and welcome neighbors into it. I have rejected gendered labor expectations in terms of who cooks, cleans, and manages house obligations and practiced an equitable distribution of labor that supports genderless-ness. I have learned how to host and cultivate a space that allows people to comfortably be themselves. I have finally brought my own self into a space and claimed it as my own.

In a city where 40 percent of its unhoused youth identify as LGBTQ+, I feel immensely privileged to have a space to call home and build community in. So many of my community members and neighbors here in DC cannot say the same. I urge those looking to directly help queer neighbors in DC to get involved with organizations like SMYAL and Covenant House that work to support and help people safely live their lives.

Described as a “utopia of a place and a beautiful vibrant space and experience,” I dream that my home inspires other visitors of a queer utopian future where all queer peoples’ needs are met and we can live fully, freely, and in relation to each other. Living in this house feels like a microcosmic experiment of this future. May we all build a joyous queer future together, one home at a time.

This piece is part of Community Month, where we’re sharing the best ways to connect with, strengthen, and celebrate the communities you live in and belong to. Head on over here to see it all!