Lambda Rising has been a cultural icon for the gay community in Washington, D.C. and is scheduled to close its doors Sunday, January 24, 2010.
The phrase, “Mission Accomplished,” is how Deacon Maccubbin, founder and co-owner, feels about the impact Lambda Rising has had on the community.
“When we set out to establish Lambda Rising in 1974, it was intended as a demonstration of the demand for gay and lesbian literature,” Maccubbin stated. “Today, 35 years later, nearly every general bookstore carries GLBT books, often featuring them in special sections.”
Authors such as Andy Warhol, Sandra Bernhardt and Olympic Gold Medalist Greg Louganis, Leslie Feinberg and Rita Mae Brown, as well as many other authors, have attracted large crowds to the store over the years.
Maccubbin and his partner faced many challenges when they opened their first store on 20th St. NW in 1974. The Washington Post and the Yellow Pages wouldn’t print advertisements that contained the word, “gay,” or, “lesbian.”
Lambda Rising hosted the first annual Gay Pride Day in 1975, the roots of Washington, D.C.’s current Capital Pride celebration. The event attracted over 2000 people.
“We hosted it for the first five years,” Maccubbin said, “but when the crowd grew to over 10,000 in 1979, it was too large for the three block space we had, so we turned the whole thing over to a non-profit foundation to run in subsequent years.”
Washington, D.C.’s Pride Festival now attracts over 250,000 who participate in the parade, street festival as well as the many other events held during that week.
In 1984, Lambda Rising moved to their current location 1625 Connecticut Avenue NW, just north of Dupont Circle. The current Mayor of the District, Marion Barry, declared opening day, “Lambda Rising Day,” in Washington, D.C.
Maccubbin began publishing the Lambda Book Report; a review of GLBT literary works in 1987 and he also founded the Lambda Literary Awards in 1989. The Lammys, as they now referred to, was taken over by the Lambda Literary Foundation; a non-profit which still hosts the annual event.
“Closing the store now will certainly leave something of a hole in Washington’s literary and political scene, Maccubbin stated. “Even though I am excited about the opportunities that will open up for us as we move into the next phase of our life, there is a bittersweet component to it all.”
Today, GLBT books can be found in all the major book stores. Maccubbin and his partner’s influence have helped integrate gay culture into the mainstream.
“I spent 20 years wokring in Lambda Rising and it was a marvelous experience,” Maccubin said. “The store has touched the lives of so many people—it was never just a bookstore, but always so much more. Every day I went to work there, I knew I was doing something that made a difference.”
Many people may recognize Maccubbin as the man who proposed to his partner after the DC City Council voted to approve same-sex marriage in the District on December 15, 2009.