There’s a New Queer in Town
You’re new to town, and you know you need help. Fortunately, there are resources in Portland for queer folks of all stripes. Consider this your guide to some of the top non-profits in town, arranged by age of those served.
About 40 percent of homeless youth in the United States are members of the LGBTQ+ community. Often kicked out by callous parents, these kids are uniquely vulnerable and often don’t know where to turn.
But Portland’s New Avenues for Youth has a special program for young people who fall under the broad categories of trans or queer: The Sexual and Gender Minority Youth Resource Center (SMYRC).
Started in 1997 by a group of queer youth, SMYRC is a colorful space full of art, food, beanbag chairs, and charge stations for queer and trans youth who need assistance. Program advocate Dede Desperate Willis says the program serves youth ages 13 to 23, though SMRYC also hosts an evening for ages 21 to 25 who are “aging up.”
“A lot of our youth are old enough to go to bars, but they don’t want to,” Willis says. “They want to be in the queer community and feel safe, but not around drugs and alcohol.”
Willis and other SMYRC staff frequently check in and take on the role of queer advocates to help guide these young people through a confusing system of resources. Five days a week, youth have access to clothing, food, and a safe place to land at one of two SMYRC locations—downtown and in East Portland.
SMYRC is also a sex-positive organization—there are free condoms, dental dams, and lube, and Willis says youth spend a lot of time talking about boundaries, self-esteem, and other tough topics.
“We top the ranks of taking our own lives,” Willis says, “so it’s really important to have frank and honest conversations about that.”
Willis adds that volunteers always walk away feeling better about themselves and more open toward the LGBTQ community.
“We don’t empower youth; they empower themselves,” Willis says. “We just give them the resources to do it.” SMYRC Downtown, 1220 SW Columbia; SMYRC East, 16570 SE Oak, smyrc.org, 503-872-9664
For trans folk younger than 13, Transactive is here to help. This nonprofit specializes in trans youth ages 4 through 18, helping them and their families find appropriate medical care for their needs. Transactive provides support groups, family education, doctor referrals, and assists young people in filing for name and gender changes.
No longer a youth? Head over to the Q Center, which helps LGBTQ+ folks of all ages by providing peer support groups, group discussions, addiction services, and much more, including a rotating art gallery, library, and a shared space where people can relax. Q Center is an excellent option for those seeking resources for housing, medical care, and general support. 4115 N Mississippi, pdxqcenter.org, 503-234-7837
If you’re new to town and looking for a primary care doctor sensitive to your needs, Prism Health may be a great option. Prism is a primary care clinic that operates under the non-profit Cascade AIDs Project, featuring doctors who understand and often identify with the LGBTQ+ community.
Alongside standard check-ups, the clinic provides hormone replacement therapy, HIV and STI testing, trans-sensitive pap smears, and pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) therapy, which can protect patients from HIV transmission. If the clinic can’t meet your needs, it provides referrals to a curated list of LGBTQ-sensitive medical practitioners in the area. Deputy Executive Director Peter Parisot says Prism will soon integrate mental health specialists as well.
“It’s an integrated model, so basically your mental health professional can work with your primary care professional to make sure you get the care you need,” he says. “Our plan is to hire people of different gender identities and expressions so there are different options for people to choose from.”
Parisot says the clinic bills insurance, but also helps those qualified for Medicaid to sign up. If you’re without insurance and don’t qualify for Medicaid, “We do offer a sliding scale and discount fee structure,” he adds. 2336 SE Belmont, prismhealth.org, 503-445-7699
Luckily for all, there are lots of resources to keep the LGBTQ+ community happy, healthy, and supported. Even if none of these services fit your specific needs, these nonprofits are happy to help you find a good fit. The community needs and deserves a lot of support—and in Portland, it’s easy to get.