A History of Oregon LGBTQ Prides
By George T. Nicola
Gay & Lesbian Archives of the Pacific Northwest (GLAPN)
Last updated March 24, 2017
This article is not intended to be a complete history of Oregon LGBTQ Prides, but to provide some basic information from which more extensive research can be done.
Initially the term used was “Gay Pride”. At some point, the usual term became “Gay and Lesbian Pride”. More recently, the common term is “LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer) Pride”. Because there are varying opinions on what should be included in this spectrum, the word “Pride” with a capital P without any previous words or initials is most often used today.
I have limited time and resources, so I have only included the links for information on the various non-Portland regional Pride celebrations and some of the Portland based culturally specific Prides. After that, I have constructed a brief timeline of Portland Pride.
Some major sources of information for this include Larry Copeland, Susie Shepherd, Jerry Weller, Kathleen Saadat, Kristan Knapp, Eric D. Brown, Stef-Anie Well, and Debra Porta.
For comments or suggestions, please contact GLAPN at email@example.com.
Current or recent Oregon and nearby regional Prides:
- Portland Pride (organized by Pride Northwest): http://pridenw.org/
- Eugene/Springfield Pride: http://www.eugenepride.org/index.html
- Capital Pride (Salem): http://www.capitolpride.org/
- Oregon Coast Pride (Lincoln City): http://www.oregoncoastpride.com/ (Discontinued as of 2015)
- Southern Oregon Pride (Ashland): http://www.sopride.org/pages/home.html
- Central Oregon Pride (Bend): http://www.humandignitycoalition.org/pride.html
- Saturday in the Park, the annual Pride celebration in Vancouver, Washington. Though not in the state of Oregon, I am including it because Vancouver, Washington is a part of metropolitan Portland: https://www.facebook.com/groups/SITPPRIDE/
- Umatilla Morrow County Alternatives at one time organized the “Gay Pride/Multi-cultural event” each year in Hermiston: https://www.facebook.com/events/113365822618/. However, it appears that the event has not been held for the last several years.
Current or recent Portland culturally specific Prides:
- Portland Black Pride: https://www.facebook.com/portland.blackpride
- PDX Latinx Pride (formerly Portland Latino Gay Pride):http://latinogaypridepdx.com/2016-portland-latino-gay-pride-events
- Portland Asian Pacific Islander Pride: http://api-pride.blogspot.com/
In the parenthetical entry for each item below is the source of the information for that item.
PORTLAND PRIDE TIMELINE
The Second Foundation of Oregon, a Portland based gay organization founded in 1970, holds Oregon’s first Gay Pride celebration with an indoor dance in Portland. The Second Foundation also holds celebrations in 1972 and 1973. The organization disbands some time in 1974. (http://glapn.org/6022TimelineSince1970.html)
The Portland Association of Gay Equality wants Portland Mayor Neil Goldschmidt to issue a proclamation for Gay Pride Week, but the Mayor does not issue one. This implies that some group holds a Pride celebration, but it was probably not the Second Foundation. It might have been the group called the Portland Association of Gay Equality. (http://glapn.org/6020timeline.html)
About 200 people attend Portland’s first outdoor public Gay Pride celebration in autumn, in the South Park Blocks near Portland State University. It is sponsored by Portland Town Council (PTC), a gay civil rights organization that was launched earlier in that year. (http://glapn.org/6022TimelineSince1970.html) Those active in PTC during its earliest days included Susie Shepherd, Jerry Weller, and Larry Copeland.
Straight allies Ann and Bill Shepherd (parents of Susie Shepherd), and Charles and Rita Knapp (parents of Kristan Knapp) organize Parents of Gays (POG), later to become PFLAG (Parents, Families & Friends of Lesbians & Gays) Portland. They set up a table at the Gay Pride rally for people to sign up for their new group. (http://glapn.org/6022TimelineSince1970.html) Susie Shepherd’s recollection: “By spring 1976, we were maybe a dozen card tables down by the waterfront--no refreshments, just us and whoever was with us. Mother's blue 3-fold ‘Parents of Gays’ brochure was there with mom and dad. Chuck Knapp and daddy made a Parents of Gays sign, black paint on white, that they attached to an old pipe and took turns standing proudly with. There were maybe 200 of us all told.” (From an email Susie Shepherd sent me.)
Lesbian activist Kathleen Saadat and six other community members hold Portland’s first Gay Pride March. Kathleen estimates the group being “less than 200” participants. Kathleen recalls “Nedra Bagley, Marcia Cutler, Jamie Partridge were part of the march planning committee. I remember marching in the street in downtown Portland north on 4th, I think. We went to Waterfront Park and gathered in front of the stage along with the ‘Turn or Burn’ guys.” The last term is a reference to anti-gay religious zealots who often picketed gay events at least into the late 1980s. (From a Facebook message Kathleen sent me.)
After considerable lobbying by PTC’s Jerry Weller, Portland Mayor Neil Goldschmidt issues a proclamation for Gay Pride Day. Negative phone calls pour into his office as opponents launch a short-lived effort to oust the Mayor. (http://glapn.org/6022TimelineSince1970.html) Nedra Bagley remembers that as a part of the Pride celebration, participants “gathered at Terry Schrunk Plaza for a brief rally. This is when I was given the honor of reading the Mayor's proclamation establishing Portland's official Gay Pride Day.” (From an email Nedra Bagley sent me.)
The newspaper Oregon Journal runs a front-page interview with PFLAG parents Anne and Bill Shepherd, along with their gay daughter Susie. It is published on June 25, 1977, Gay Pride Day. (http://pflagpdx.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/PFLAG-PDX-30th-Anniversary-History-3-portrait.pdf). Susie Shepherd recollects, “I’ll always see Denis Moore running across the open field waving a copy of that paper!” Susie also remembers “The first year we had any food was 1977, when MCC (Metropolitan Community Church) set up a hot dog and lemonade stand--we thought we were really going to town for that!” (From an email Susie Shepherd sent me.)
Jerry Weller considers 1977’s Portland Pride to be a major milestone: “This was the year of Anita Bryant, so the gay community was very politicalized. Pride really came of age in 1977 in Portland. Portland Town Council (PTC) organized Pride celebration and for the first time thousands walked in the march and celebrated with beer, dancing and political speeches at Waterfront Park. Lanny Swerdlow provided the sound system and music and PTC supplied the politics and beer. Selling beer was a major fundraiser for PTC at the time.” Jerry Weller served as MC and straight ally Oregon Representative Gretchen Kafoury was among the speakers. "Turn or Burn" anti-gay religious zealots showed up to protest those at Pride. In fact, Jerry notes, “Turn or Burn” showed up at all public gay events those days, causing verbal fights and an occasion scuffle. (From an email Jerry Weller sent me.)
PTC and committees organize Pride as it continues to do so through 1980, with the PTC taking a leadership role. (From an email Jerry Weller sent me.)
Mark Richards, Mark Jones, Steve Fulmer, and Gary Coleman form the Portland Gay Men’s Chorus. Its first concert is at Pride. (http://glapn.org/6022TimelineSince1970.html)
Jerry Weller relates that an ad hoc committee formed to plan Pride and wanted no help from PTC. The committee met many times but two weeks before Pride it turned the event planning over to Jerry Weller, PTC, and the Town Council Foundation (TCF). PTC and TCF were still able to organize another successful Pride March and celebration. (From an email Jerry Weller sent me.)
Portland Gay Pride changes its name to Portland Lesbian and Gay Pride. (http://glapn.org/6020timeline.html) This year’s is also planned by an ad hoc committee which disbands after that. PTC and TCF were major participants. (From an email Jerry Weller sent me.)
A formal Pride committee organizes the celebrations. Jerry Weller recalls Pride’s evolution. “Each year the celebration was larger with more and more groups joining in the march and the following informational fair. More booths were set up and Pride developed into what we have today. By the 1980s I believe the Gay Men's Chorus was performing Pride concerts and the one-day celebration developed into a weekend. MCC always participated in a positive leadership way. (From an email Jerry Weller sent me) Kristan Knapp recalls that in 1984 "Unity in Diversity" was the theme. She remembers that she and Cliff Jones were on the committee. (From an email Kristan Knapp sent me.)
Eric G. Brown says he went to Pride at the suggestion of a Naomi Harvey, a member of his congregation at Portland’s Living Communion Ministries. Eric is impressed by the PFLAG table. He later becomes a major gay activist as a result. (From an in-person interview with Eric D. Brown.)
Debbie Counts, CJ Tabor, and several others, including Eric D. Brown serve on the Portland Pride committee. Eric Brown drives Portland Police Chief Tom Potter in uniform in the march which by that time could be called a parade. Chief Potter joined the parade to show his support of his daughter Katie Potter, an openly lesbian police officer. Chief Potter is the first major city police chief to join a local Pride parade to date. Potter’s participation causes several weeks of visibility for Pride as it is condemned by the conservative Oregon Citizens Alliance (OCA). It is regularly used over the following three weeks as the OCA seeks the resignation of Chief Potter. (From an email Eric D. Brown sent me and from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_Potter).
Portland Pride Co-Chairs include Eric D. Brown and Debbie Counts. (From an email Eric D. Brown sent me.)
Because the previous group that organized Portland Pride went bankrupt in 1993, Eric D. Brown is asked by the community to create a new organization and attempt to hold a Pride Event. With that, Pride Northwest (PNW) is born. Chair in 1994 is Eric D. Brown. Eric works with a group of 7 volunteers. The celebration is moved to July to meet the financial constraints and impacts caused by the events that led to the previous Pride organization going bankrupt. Eric recalls that the festival was held in the North Park Blocks around NW Everett because the shade was better for people with HIV, given their the medication they were taking. Fundraising is a challenge and Pink Martini (Thomas Lauderdale) holds a benefit to help with that. Eric states that PNW was created in a way that it would be “community owned”. PNW has conducted the Portland Pride celebration every year since then. (From an email Eric G. Brown sent me.) Early in its history, PNW begins giving its annual Spirit of Pride Award to a person or organization that has given back to the community in a significant way. (From a Facebook message Debra Porta sent me) Stef-Anie Well states “Jack Keegan was the president for 6 years, followed by Tobin Briton and then me.” She also says “My highlight reel is.... we went from near bankruptcy to a rainy-day fund, forged a partnership with Deschutes Brewing, and broke records for both attendance and revenue. (I'm sure those records have been broke again by Debra [Porta], she's a power house.)” (From an email Stef-Anie Wells sent me)
PNW hires a part-time contract staff member. He works his first Pride in 2007. (From a Facebook message Debra Porta sent me.) Stef-Anie Wells recalls that “Pride NW has had a paid staff member from the 2000's. The first staff person was Ady Oren followed by Zebra Thomas then Cory Murphy.” Stef-Anie also states that “the first Trans March was in conjunction with the Dyke March in 2006. Pride NW adopted the policy to financially support both marches in 2006, after I personally paid for the Dyke March in 2005 when it looked like it was not going to happen. I was a Lesbian Avenger back in the 90's and could not let this happen.” (From an e-mail Stef-Anie Wells sent me.)
Debra Porta becomes PNW President in September. By that time, PNW had already applied professionalism to the logistical planning and execution of the festival. In the subsequent years, Debra makes some additional and important enhancements. “As a celebration and organization, we have become more inclusive. It is a conscious guiding principle for us,” she explains. For a number of recent years, PNW sponsors and collaborates with Portland Black Pride, Portland Latino Gay Pride, and Portland Asian and Pacific Islander Pride. At the same time, both the parade and festival have grown substantially. This is most visible in the parade. In 2009, crowd estimates for the parade are 10,000. In 2013, they are 25,000. The parade size itself has almost doubled in time and number of people. Contingents have gone from about 85 to as many as 130. Debra remains PNW President at the time of this writing. (From email Debra Porta sent me.)
PNW begins giving two awards periodically. The Community Activist Award goes to a Portland area individual or group that has participated in LGBTQ related grassroots efforts with limited resources. The other is the Youth Award, given to a young Pacific Northwest LGBTQ individual whose efforts have contributed substantially to the community. (From a Facebook message Debra Porta sent me.)
The PNW part-time contract staffer is transitioned to a full-time employee position. (From a Facebook message Debra Porta sent me.)
PFLAG Portland is 100 marchers strong at the Portland Pride. About half of them are from the black community. (http://glapn.org/6022TimelineSince1970.html)
PNW joins Portland Black Pride in sponsoring a screening of the film Brother Outsider: The Life of Bayard Rustin. The showing includes a speech and question-answer session by Bayard’s surviving partner Walter Naegle. Information on the movie can be found at (http://rustin.org/)
The first Portland Trans March conducted as an official Portland Pride event is held. There had been Trans Marches in previous years, but the pre-2014 ones were not officially part of Portland Pride. (From a Facebook message Debra Porta sent me and from http://glapn.org/6031TransTimeline.html) As has been a long standing tradition, the first contingent in the Pride March is Dykes on Bikes® Portland Chapter riding their motorcycles. (From a Facebook message from Debra Porta)
According to Pride Northwest President Debra Porta, this year’s Portland Pride is “by all accounts, the largest Pride Festival and Parade in Portland history. Estimates are about 50,000 in attendance; 135 contingents in the parade with about 5,000 members; 25,000 people watching; and 150 vendor booths at the waterfront festival. The Portland Pride Trans March quadrupled in size from the previous year.”
“Mainstream media interviewed and covered all three marches – the Pride Parade, the Trans March, and the Dyke March -- which isn't typical.”
This year’s Grand Marshall is Governor Kate Brown who identifies as bisexual. It is the first time that a sitting Oregon governor leads the parade. It is also the first time an openly LGBTQ governor leads a Pride parade anywhere in the U.S.
Pride Northwest launches a new award this year. The Gretchen Kafoury Ally Award honors the late Gretchen Kafoury who died in early 2015. The first recipient is Gretchen herself posthumously. Gretchen’s daughter, current Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury, receives the award for her mother. (All of the above items are from Facebook messages Pride Northwest President Debra Portland sent me.)
Trans activist Mia Macy is given the Spirit of Pride Award. Her lawsuit, Macy v. Holder, led to the EEOC ruling that transgender discrimination is sex discrimination. (https://verdict.justia.com/2012/05/01/the-eeoc-rules-that-transgender-discrimination-is-sex-discrimination)
Portland Monthly Magazine carries a timeline titled “Looking Back on 40 Years of Portland Pride” http://www.portlandmonthlymag.com/articles/2015/5/26/40-years-of-portland-pride-june-2015). Its items are based largely on this GLAPN article.
Portland Latino Gay Pride’s major event is Voz Alta, Spanish for “Out Loud”. Voz Alta is an evening of music and poetry that celebrates the Latino American experience through poetic narratives that feature the lives of Portland’s Latino and Latino LGBTQ communities, performed by actors and orchestrated live with Latin American folk songs. The organization presents its annual Mariposa Awards to Liz Rodrigues, Jensi Albright, Carmen Gutierrez, and Our House of Portland. (http://www.pqmonthly.com/portland-latino-gay-pride-holds-tenth-anniversary-celebration/23343)
In November, Pride NW announces that Debra Porta would step down from the board, after being President of the board for eight years. Debra had successfully presided over major organizational restructuring and stabilization, significantly grew the Pride Festival and Parade, and improved relations with several underserved parts of our community. New Pride NW President is James Waldner, who had been serving as board Vice President for many year.
Portland Pride Parade contingent total was up to over 150.
Pride NW’s Gretchen Kafoury Pride Ally Award was given to Dawn Holt who has been president of PFLAG Portland for many years. The Debra Porta Pride Award was created in honor of Debra Porta who had served without compensation as Pride Northwest president between 2009 and 2016. Debra has also made countless contributions to other local LGBTQ endeavors.
Pride NW created a part time paid Executive Director position. The position was staffed by Debra Porta. (From Facebook messages Debra Porta sent me)
Portland Latino Gay Pride, in order to be more inclusive in name as well as in action, changes its name to PDX Latinx Pride. Christian Baeff is chosen as President. (From an email Christian Baeff sent me)
Sogene Mah and Manumalo S. Ala'ilima become Co-Chairs of Portland API Pride. (From a Facebook message that Manumalo S. Ala'ilima sent me)
Portland Black Pride is run by the Sankofa Collective Northwest which is chaired by Darion Demartez Jones. (From a phone conversation I had with Darion)
In late 2015, I nominated Pride Northwest for the Spirit of Portland Award (SOP). Although Pride NW did not receive the award, I have turned the nomination narrative into the below article so that people are more aware of the organization’s many contributions.
Portland Pride is an annual celebration of our city’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) community and its allies. It has been held in some form every year since 1971.
Previous to 1972, almost any homosexual conduct was a crime under Oregon law. Between 1978 and 2004, Oregon endured 35 anti-gay ballot measures, almost surely more than any other state in the country. Over that period of time, the Portland LGBTQ community, with the support of its straight cisgender allies, continued its annual Pride celebration.
In 1994, Pride Northwest (Pride NW) was founded to provide a consistent and stable structure for Portland Pride. For 21 years, it has done a spectacular job.
Portland Pride is distinctive from many other local LGBTQ events in that is accessible to anyone. It is one of the largest Prides in the country without a required gate fee, and is often photographed and televised. It represents a wide range of ages, the whole LGBTQ and ally spectrum, along with every color and ethnic group. It sponsors numerous events, the Portland Pride Parade and the waterfront Portland Pride Festival being the largest. The many corporations that participate often do it through their employees, both LGBTQ and allies. This tells LGBTQ employes that they are welcome in their workplace, and allows allied employees to express their support for diversity and tolerance. Both the parade and the festival are exceptional in their creativity and themes, promoting substantial cross-cultural awareness.
LGBTQ people are still subject to a huge amount of prejudice and marginalization. For instance, rejection by family is seen in the fact that about 40% of homeless youth are LGBTQ. By sponsoring a public display of identity, Portland Pride gives hope to those who cannot find it elsewhere. Pride is, for many LGBTQ people, their first experience of safety, community, and belonging.
This year, Portland Pride’s overall attendance was about 50,000. The parade had 135 contingents. The waterfront Portland Pride Festival featured more than 150 booths. About 70% of those booths were for local small businesses and community organizations. Because Pride NW has only one paid staff member, all its activities rely heavily on trained volunteers. Pride NW actively prioritizes and engages the full diversity of the LGBTQ community, particularly its traditionally marginalized segments. Those include people of color and trans people. Pride NW has promoted cross cultural awareness by working with and promoting Portland Black Pride, Portland Latino Gay Pride, and Portland’s Asian Pacific Islander Pride.
The size of Portland Pride events, as well as its media coverage demonstrates to the general public that LGBTQ people are among their family, friends, neighbors, and coworkers. As a result, many people find that those they once thought they hated are really people they love.
Pride NW has been exceptionally responsive to current events. Q Center, which was established a decade ago to serve the Portland LGBTQ community, found itself in a struggle for survival in late 2014. Pride NW promptly joined the alliance established to help revive and maintain it. As a result, Q Center is thriving today, meeting the community’s needs. Pride NW has also responded quickly to violent attacks on people assumed to be LGBTQ. The organization has a history of responding to those attacks and pushing for action from the community and the city. Early this year, Pride NW met with the Portland Police Bureau and the Bureau of Neighborhood Involvement to deal with recent bashing incidents.
In February 2015, Kate Brown became the first LGBTQ person in any state to become governor while openly LGBTQ. Knowing what a great role model Kate has become, Pride NW got her to lead the annual Portland Pride Parade as Grand Marshall.
In March of this year, Oregon lost one of its great human rights pioneers. Former City Commissioner Gretchen Kafoury passed away unexpectedly. Realizing how crucial Gretchen had been in the quest for LGBTQ rights and dignity, Pride NW created the Gretchen Kafoury Pride Ally Award, with the first one going to Gretchen posthumously.
Pride NW, through the Portland Pride Festival and Parade, provides the largest display of LGBTQ artistic, cultural, and community contributions. This includes performers like the Gay Men's Chorus, the Portland Lesbian Choir, and the collection of LGBTQ and allied community companies and organizations who have a significant impact on the larger community. As a result, Pride NW is unmatched in spotlighting the contributions of the Pacific Northwest LGBTQ community. Portland Pride, through its many events, also contributes to the area economy.
Pride NW, in gathering people for its huge peaceful, creative, and cultural events, promotes the civic values of neighborliness and harmony that makes our city a wonderful place to live.
P.O. Box 3646 • Portland, OR 97208-3646 • firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2014