Leaders of several hundred gay organizations in the city are expected to meet Saturday for what organizers are billing as the largest gathering in five years of a community traditionally fragmented along ethnic, racial, single-sex and special interest lines.

Organizers say the meeting, in St. Thomas Episcopal Church near Dupont Circle, is designed to bring together isolated groups so that the larger gay community can project an image of greater cultural diversity.

"We have a wonderfully diverse and organized community, and the vast variety of organizations all serve important purposes," said Roger Doughty, president of the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance."But the time for this kind of community-building is ripe. It is perfectly clear to a lot of people that we really need to advance our multiple agendas as well as learn about each other."

Bob Roehr, chairman of the Gay and Lesbian Community Center, said that until now, gay groups in the city have traditionally galvanized only in crises. Afterwards, he said, the momentum was difficult to sustain.

The interest now, said Doughty, who is spearheading Saturday's meeting, is to look at "the segmentation of the community along lines of race, sex and, to some extent, geography," and encourage dialogue.

"While the lesbian and gay community has earned a certain place in society, we are also under siege from Capitol Hill, AIDS and the religious right," Doughty said. "In order to counter those threats, not to mention to push a pro-active agenda, we need to be able to pull together more strongly."

Suzanne Bryant, co-chair of the Gay and Lesbian Rights Committee of the D.C. Bar , said the existence of many separate groups also perpetuates an inaccurate image of the composition of the gay community.

"Very often women and blacks are invisible, and I think that's very true in the lesbian and gay community, as well. I am often reading something about my community that is totally described in terms of white males," she said.

The Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance, which has emerged as a powerful political voice on local issues such as domestic partnerships, violence and mayoral elections, has more than 300 members, but fewer than 30 percent are women and a "low" percentage are black, Hispanic or Asian, Doughty said.

Other gay organizations are similarly segmented, having sprung up as offshoots of mainstream groups: gay bridge players, gay AT&T employees and gay railroad enthusiasts.

"There are people . . . {who} because they are gay, feel a degree of ostracism or prejudice and form their own organizations," said Roehr.

Aundrea Scott, co-chair of the Melvin Boozer Leadership Roundtable, a two-year-old coalition of 33 groups fighting AIDS among blacks, said gay blacks have begun to fight their isolation.

"To do the work we have to do, we must network with everybody -- Hispanic, white and Asian," he said.

Saturday's meeting will be from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. St. Thomas Episcopal Church is at 1772 Church St. NW.