PQ Monthly

LGBTQ+ History in Portland

The Rose City has a long history of LGBT activism and inclusiveness.

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PQ Monthly

Know Before You Go

This section was produced in collaboration with PQ Monthly, dedicated to serving the LGBTQ communities of Oregon, Washington and the Bay Area. PQ Monthly is published on the third Thursday of every month and updated daily online.

Portland’s LGBTQ history likely goes back to the first human inhabitants of the area. According to the First Nations Two-Spirit Collective, native people have celebrated gender and sexual minorities for millennia. Explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clarke noted a number of encounters with such individuals in Oregon. While some tribes have struggled to keep these traditions alive in the face of colonial influences, the Portland Two-Spirit Society is evidence of the resurgence of Two-Spirit pride.

LGBTQ Portlanders first found widespread visibility, and later organization, through the local media. In 1970, not long after the riots at Stonewall, John Wilkinson and Holly Hart wrote articles about gay life in the Willamette Bridge. They called for gays and lesbians to organize, and the Portland Gay Liberation Front (PGLF) was born.

After the formation of the PGLF, advances in gay rights began to mount. Two years later, in 1972, Oregon became the fourth state to repeal its sodomy laws (enacted in 1853). By 1973, Rep. Vera Katz (who later became Portland’s mayor) had introduced the state’s first gay rights bill, which failed to pass by just two votes. There were even enough gay rights groups to hold an Oregon Gay Political Caucus. The following year, the Portland City Council adopted a resolution barring employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

Portland’s first LGBTQ pride celebration took the form of indoor events such as dances, sponsored by the Second Foundation. The first outdoor public pride festival was held in 1975.

Portland saw its first AIDS-related death in 1982, and by 1983, Cascade AIDS Project and PALS (Personal Active Listeners) were formed. The 1980s also saw the beginnings of still-vibrant community institutions such as Esther’s Pantry, Portland Gay Men’s Chorus, Portland Lesbian Choir, Peacock in the Park and Equity Foundation.

In 1988, the Oregon LGBTQ community met a foe that would provide impetus for the next decade of activism. The Oregon Citizens Alliance (OCA), a conservative Christian group, sponsored Measure 8, which ultimately s\ucceeded in repealing Gov. Goldschmidt’s executive order prohibiting the executive branch from discriminating based on sexual orientation in employment. The measure was overruled by the Oregon Supreme Court in 1992.

Still, the OCA tried again to fight LGBTQ rights with 1992’s Measure 9, which sought to prevent “special rights” for gay, lesbian and bisexual people. This became a galvanizing battle for the community and led to the creation of the state’s primary LGBTQ rights organization, Basic Rights Oregon (BRO), in 1996.

Related

LGBTQ+ Resources

These publications and organizations will put you in touch with Portland's LGBTQ+ community.

In 2006, Q Center — Portland’s first LGBTQ community center since 1978 — opened its doors. The following year, the Oregon legislature passed bills banning discrimination based on sexual orientation in housing, public accommodations and employment based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Portland voters took that sentiment to heart in 2008 when they elected Sam Adams, the first openly gay mayor of a major U.S. city.

Adams led the Portland City Council in 2011 to unanimously make the health insurance policy for city employees transgender-inclusive. The state continues to be a leader in trans healthcare with a case currently in court challenging the policy for state employees.

In 2014, a U.S. District Court judge made marriage legal for all couples in the state after overturning Oregon’s ban on same-sex marriage. The Oregon district attorney declined to defend the law when it was challenged in a federal lawsuit, and the decision went into effect immediately. This was ten years after Multnomah County attempted to issue some of the first gay marriage licenses in the country in 2004.

In February 2015, Oregon Secretary of State Kate Brown made history as the nation’s first openly bisexual governor when she was appointed to the position upon then Governor John Kitzhaber’s resignation. Brown, the 37th governor of Oregon, has long been a vocal advocate for LGBTQ rights and organizations throughout the state.

For more on the Portland’s rich LGBTQ history, visit the Gay and Lesbian Archives of the Pacific Northwest (GLAPN) and check out the walking tour.

Queer community events

Editor's Pick
Portland Pride Festival
June 13–14, 2020

Portland Pride Festival

Tom McCall Waterfront Park Free

Every June, the Portland Pride Festival & Parade makes a name for itself — and LGBTQ+ community members — all over town.

Editor's Pick
Festivals
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Spring
Summer
Editor's Pick
Peacock in the Park
Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Peacock in the Park

Washington Park Free

Sequins, boas and a rainbow of talent mark LGBTQ variety show Peacock in the Park’s takeover of Washington Park.

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Arts
LGBTQ+
Summer
No Human Involved: The Fifth Annual Sex Workers’ Art Show
Nov. 8–Dec. 14, 2019

No Human Involved: The Fifth Annual Sex Workers’ Art Show

Portland Institute for Contemporary Art (PICA) Free

No Human Involved: The Fifth Annual Sex Workers’ Art Show November 8 – December 14, 2019 The phrase “no human involved” (“NHI”) is a slang term that has been commonly used by police to refer to crimes involving the murder or injury of sex workers, drug users, gang members, immigrant and transient folks, with Black…

Art & Design
Exhibition
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Clown Down: Failed to Mount
Nov. 14–17, 2019

Clown Down: Failed to Mount

Pacific Northwest College of Art (PNCA) Pay-What-You-Can ($20 suggested)

Get ready for a clown to go down in the first evening-length Carla Rossi show since 2014, premiering November 14 – 17. Presented by Risk/Reward, Clown Down opens with Portland’s premier drag clown Carla Rossi (Anthony Hudson) being crushed by a new cabinet after she fails to mount it to the wall. Taking the traditional…

Comedy
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Performing Arts
A Thousand Cuts
Nov. 16–17, 2019

A Thousand Cuts

Fuller Rosen Gallery Free

Fuller Rosen Gallery is thrilled to announce A Thousand Cuts, a solo exhibition by B. G-Osborne. Join up for an opening reception Saturday November 16, 2019 from 6-9 p.m. and an artist talk and conversation on Sunday November 17, 2019 from 1-3 p.m. Closing reception Friday January 10, 2020 from 6-8 p.m. A Thousand Cuts…

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History
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Readings & Talks
I Do To-Do: Inclusive Wedding Planning Social
Friday, Nov. 22, 2019

I Do To-Do: Inclusive Wedding Planning Social

District East Free

I Do To-Do wedding planning event is a social Q&A event where couples of all sizes, colors, genders and loves can come ask inclusive wedding professionals all their wedding planning questions one-on-one for free.Because the event is a passion project from Beth Olson (Twisted Aisle Weddings photography), Jenn Reyes (AWE productions) and Tilly Dorsey and…

LGBTQ+
Readings & Talks
Invisible Touch & Drama Tops, This is For You
Nov. 22–23, 2019

Invisible Touch & Drama Tops, This is For You

Performance Works NW $12-$20

Seattle-based Elby Brosch and Portland’s Allie Hankins share an evening of compelling dance performance. Invisible Touch by Allie Hankins is a performance that centers deconstruction as a means of meaning-making. It takes many comb-throughs, and admitting things are tangled, but that’s all. In Drama Tops, This is for you a trans masculine dancer/choreographer Elby Brosch,…

LGBTQ+
Performing Arts
Vanity's Vaudeville Vixens
Saturday, Nov. 30, 2019

Vanity's Vaudeville Vixens

Curious Comedy Theater General Admission $20-$25, VIP $50-$80

It’s 1925 and you’re finally untethered from your family dinner table! Get away from your mother’s rant about rising hem lines and avoid Uncle Morty’s unsophisticated opinions on the Charleston. Bring your fabulous flapper self to Vanity’s Vaudeville Vixens: A Familiy-Free Affair. Vanity’s Vaudeville Vixens is an immersive theater experience, taking you through a reimagining…

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Performing Arts
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