In the waning hours of Jan. 20, as Donald Trump and his wife Melania danced on a rendition of Frank Sinatra’s My Way at the Freedom Ball, a different kind of celebration was taking place just a few miles away.
In Potomac, Md., the members of Gays for Trump hosted their Inaugural Deploraball. The attendees – not all of them were gays – had traveled from all over the country, ready to stand up to the criticism they’ve received from more liberal members of the gay community. “Theres no such thing as a traditional Republican anymore,” said Gays for Trump’s president Peter Boykin, who was the host and master of ceremonies. “They try to throw Gays for Trump in the Alt-Right [category] but I think we are the Alt-Alt-Right.”
At the door to the event Keith McLeod from Georgia was wearing a mask of Pepe the Frog, the fictional character that’s become a popular symbol of defiance among some people who self identify as “Deplorable,” a term used by Hillary Clinton to criticize some of Trump’s supporters.
McLeod, who made it clear that he wasn’t gay, had such a good time at the Gays for Trump event at the last RNC that he decided to join them again last night. “I’m so fed up with liberals you have no idea,” he told TIME. “I’m so glad they took a hit today. No one respects us anymore. Trump will make them respect us again.”
Andy Barr, another man who identified as a gay ally from Seattle and who donned a gold Lamé suit, met most of the people attending the event through Twitter. When asked about Vice President Mike Pence’s history on speaking out against gay marriage his response echoed a sentiment that many of the attendees throughout the night repeated: “He will not be the executive. Let’s give Mr. Pence the benefit of the doubt. We saw Mr. Trump holding the LGBT flag. Let’s see how it goes in the future.”
Boykin agreed. “People can grow,” he said, before adding that he had already registered the “Gays for Pence” trademark. For the master of ceremonies, the priority today is “to fight against the notion of the LGBT liberal.” During a late-night speech, he pushed his point. “I want to balance the LGBT community, not try to destroy the liberal LGBT community,” he said. “We need everybody out there together but we have to have a seat at the table.”
Dina Litovsky is a freelance photographer based in New York. Follow her on Instagram at @dina_litovsky.
Paul Moakley, who edited this photo essay, is TIME’s deputy director of photography and visual enterprise.
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