October is LGBTQ History Month! Rainbow History Project
(RHP) established the Community Pioneer Award in 2003 to honor people whose contributions to the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community of the Metropolitan Washington, DC area merited special recognition. To celebrate the stories and contributions of DC’s LGBTQ+ community, we’re highlighting individuals recognized by RHP and the historic places that embody their legacies here and on Facebook.
Ric Mendoza-Gleason arrived in DC in 1965 after serving in the Korean War. He is recognized as an important leader in the Latinx LGBTQ community. His work helped develop organizations, improved relations between the police and community, and established health and cultural services.
He volunteered with the Gay Switchboard service at 1724 20th Street NW, a contributing site in the Dupont Circle Historic District. It served as a support hotline for the community. Mendoza was a founding member of Gays and Lesbians Opposed to Violence, GLOV, which improved relations between the LGBTQ community and the Metropolitan Police Department to improve safety for LGBTQ individuals at a time when police routinely entrapped queer residents and refused to meet with gay leaders. He was subsequently a member of the 3rd District Police advisory board.
Mendoza also served on the executive board of ENLACE, an LGBTQ Latinx organization established in 1987. ENLACE means “link” in Spanish – fittingly, it brought Latino lesbians and gays together from around the country and inspired new local, regional, and national organizations. ENLACE held meetings at the Gay Community Center (1228 17th Street NW) and El Dorado Restaurant (500 8th St SE). He participated in gay Latino contingents in the annual Hispanic Day parade, and joined the DC Latino Civil Rights Task Force as an individual, later helping ENLACE join as well. Learn more about Mendoza here.
Although DC has a rich LGBTQ history, there are only two related sites listed as landmarks in the DC Inventory of Historic Sites. The historic environment embodies a community’s history, and by protecting those spaces, we are also helping to preserve their identities, culture, and stories. The Historic Preservation Office was recently awarded a grant to identify and preserve LGBTQ sites across Washington, and is collaborating with DC Preservation League on the project.