Queering Rehoboth Beach: A Journey of LGBTQ+ Community Resilience


Queering of Rehoboth Book Signing with Author, James T. Sears / Photo Credit: Joe Bennett

The picturesque town of Rehoboth Beach, located in southern Delaware, has undergone a remarkable transformation over the years. Once a quiet Methodist Church meeting camp, Rehoboth Beach has become a thriving seaside haven for the LGBTQ+ community. In his groundbreaking book, “Queering Rehoboth Beach: Beyond the Boardwalk,” historian and educator James Sears chronicles the extraordinary evolution of this charming beach town and its LGBTQ+ community.


Earlier this month as a kick off to Pride Month, CAMP Rehoboth, a community center dedicated to promoting inclusiveness and progress, hosted a book launch event for “Queering Rehoboth Beach.” As a new resident of this thriving gay American enclave, I was privileged to be in the audience as the author and his fellow guest panelists shed light on the rich history and experiences of the LGBTQ+ community in Rehoboth Beach, spanning from its early beginnings to the early 2000s.

Sunset on ‘Poodle Beach’ – Rehoboth Beach Delaware / Photo Credit: Corey Andrew

Importance of Understanding the Past

Kim Leisey, the Executive Director of CAMP Rehoboth, emphasizes the significance of understanding the past to shape a brighter future. By delving into the history of LGBTQ+ life in Rehoboth Beach, the book launch event seeks to foster conversations about the progress made since the early 2000s and the path forward.

Photo Credit: Corey Andrew

The Battle for Rehoboth

In “Queering Rehoboth Beach,” James Sears draws upon oral history accounts, archival material, and personal narratives to unravel the captivating story of the “Battle for Rehoboth.” This battle unfolded during the late 20th century as conservative town leaders and homeowners clashed with progressive entrepreneurs and gay activists. The book not only explores the emergence of gay and lesbian bars, dance clubs, and organizations that attracted the queer community to the region but also examines the efforts of various groups, including local politicians and homeowners, who savagely fought to maintain the traditional identity of this beach town.

Precious Pooch at Aqua’s popular seaside happy hour / Photo Credit: Corey Andrew

Intersectionality and Challenges

Sears masterfully explores how issues of race, class, gender, and sexuality influenced perspectives and opinions within Rehoboth Beach. The book addresses the struggles faced by both residents and visitors, from the AIDS crisis to the lingering legacy of Jim Crow. Through a comprehensive analysis of these challenges, “Queering Rehoboth Beach” highlights the resilience of the LGBTQ+ community and their determination to create a safe and inclusive space for themselves.

AQUA, Rehoboth’s gay outdoor Tiki bar & restaurant, minutes from the beach / Photo Credit: Corey Andrew

A Terrific Beach Read


While “Queering Rehoboth Beach” is undoubtedly an inspiring account of a community’s resilience, it also promises to captivate readers as a terrific beach read. Seamlessly blending historical analysis with personal narratives, James Sears offers a compelling narrative that captures the essence of Rehoboth Beach’s LGBTQ+ community.

Vender pop-up during Sun Festival street fair / Photo Credit: Corey Andrew

“Queering Rehoboth Beach: Beyond the Boardwalk” is an essential contribution to understanding LGBTQ+ history and the progress made by the community in Rehoboth Beach. As Rehoboth Beach continues to evolve, it serves as a beacon of hope and inspiration for LGBTQ+ communities worldwide, many of whom vacation here during its highly-anticipated summer season.


2023 Camp Rehoboth Sun Festival / Photo Credit: Corey Andrew
2023 Camp Rehoboth SunFestival Dance Party feat. DJ Robbie Leslie – Husbands Lon Miller and Angelo Ciro / Photo Credit: Corey Andrew

Learn More About Camp Rehoboth

(Participating Panelists included James Sears, Author of “Queering Rehoboth Beach: Beyond the Boardwalk,” Murray Archibald, Co-founder of CAMP Rehoboth Community Center; Fay Jacobs, Author and LGBTQ+ rights activist and Joyce Felton, Co-founder of Blue Moon restaurant)

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