People start murmuring about it months in advance, plotting outfits and planning parties, dreaming of a queer critical mass in the Rose City. Ask some gay and lesbian Portlanders about their Pride plans and their eyes light up as they gleefully look forward to getting drunker and sluttier than college freshmen. "This will be the year!" they exclaim. "I'll make new friends, meet the partner of my dreams, and find personal satisfaction in gay life!" These same people can later be seen staggering along the waterfront, eyes glazed over in a sea of tank tops and buzz cuts, hypnotized by the sales pitches for cars and vodka and beer. This may be "pride," but is this dignity?
First, a history lesson. When most people think "pride," they think Stonewall, the legendary 1969 uprising of the drag queens and fags of New York against gay-baiting police. However! American gay pride demonstrations actually started with the Mattachine Society, a group of buttoned-down Communist "bachelors" who began holding public protests way back in the 1950s. These demonstrations were a cross between Leave it to Beaver and Mad Men—conservative PR events intending to show the public that "homophiles" weren't the wild degenerates they were commonly considered to be.
Fast forward to the present-day Portland Pride waterfront, where modern "homophiles" celebrate their queer freedom by, well, behaving like wild degenerates! It's enough to make one wish there was a little more Mad Men in the modern mix.
But beyond anything happening on the waterfront or in the bars, Portlanders hetero and homo alike have much to be proud of. We're the first major US city to have an openly gay mayor—and a handsome gay mayor who can DJ, at that! We're home to Storm Large, the omni-sexual neo-diva who's like Judy Garland with a Black Butte in her hand and a switchblade in her boot. We've got notable queers making world-famous music, writing world-renowned books, and designing tacky underwear worn worldwide. Hell, our Pride celebration is even one of the first in the world to be certified carbon-neutral!
With such an array of thrillingly gay things in this city, why be blinded by the glare of waxed chests at the waterfront? I present to you five places off the beaten path where breeders and queers alike can get a flavor of homo life without that viscous, salty aftertaste.
1) Crush Brunch. If you ever wake up asking yourself, "Where the hell am I?" or, "Why is glitter pasted to my face?"—welcome to my life! Crush lets you down easy after a night of partying with unique breakfast cocktails and the same DJ you heard last night. Have a Cactus Fizz and ogle the Eastside A-Gays. It's the breakfast of champions. (crushbar.com)
2) Rooster Rock. Pride weekend is the perfect time to check out Rooster Rock, Portland's own gay nude beach. All of the frightening trolls are off being sallow in the bars, so you're free to get a jumpstart on your tan without fear of ravishment! (oregonstateparks.org)
3) In Other Words Bookstore. Hell, it's the only surviving nonprofit women's bookstore in the country! This in and of itself is reason to support this gem. It's also home to Homorobics (which legitimizes your Spandex outfit collection) and Dirty Queer XXX Open Mic (which legitimizes your leather outfit collection). (inotherwords.org)
4) The North Portland Eagle. "Eeew!" collectively shriek the twinks and the lesbians. I hear you, it's not a place for women or children—but let's face it: where else in town is there a greater chance for a Thursday night pool tournament to lead to a man-on-man orgy? Hell yeah. (eagleportland.com)
5) The Q-Center. This overwhelmingly inclusive community center is the crown jewel of the things Portland can be proud of. From Trans Prom to Family Pride, yoga classes to gay teen dances—the Q-Center provides an intergenerational, multicultural, family-friendly, progressive, and rad expression of the vast diversity and unusually rich resources available to Stumptown queers, and it's open to everyone. (pdxqcenter.org)