“There is No Place in the City:”
Queer Youth, the Counterculture, and
Portland’s Early Gay Rights Movement, 1968-1974

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By Jayden Dirk

The preliminary research and writing for this project was supported through a summer internship with the Gay and Lesbian Archives of the Pacific Northwest in 2018. Their support was essential for the work that I have done here. Moreover, support from the George T. Nicola LGBTQ+ History Fellowship program allowed me to continue working on the project to its final completion.


As of 2018, LGBTQ+ youth are 2.2 times more likely to experience homelessness than their straight peers. And, in Oregon, LGBTQ+ youth are 3 times more likely to stay home from school due to fears about their safety.[2] Clearly, there is still a lot of progress that needs to be made, both nationally and in Oregon. Over the last several decades, several organizations in Portland have done very important work in helping underage queer folks in Portland. This includes Portland PFLAG, the Sexual Minorities Youth Resource Center, and the Oregon Safe School and Communities Coalition. But, to think that the problems facing queer youth are new, or that queer adults are only now getting involved, is wrong. As historical groups like Vanguard in San Francisco and Gay Youth in New York demonstrate, queer youth have been active participants in queer cultural spaces and political movements for nearly as long as there has been something of a queer “culture” or “community” to speak of. [3] This article looks at the place of queer youth in Portland between 1968 and 1974, the formative years of Portland’s now-flourishing queer community, to analyze what the city’s early queer movements did for youth, and why they struggled to make lasting changes.

From an analysis of newspaper records, surviving manuscript records, and oral history interviews, this paper finds that some queer youth were able to meet others like them and to create their own spaces, even before the rise of gay political action in the city. This paper also argues that Portland’s early queer rights organizations were particularly concerned for the problems that faced underage queer youth. As will be presented, activism in the issues of youth in Portland was a major concern for the city’s counterculture during the late 1960s. This discourse was readily adopted by Portland’s early gay organizations, which arose out of the countercultural community itself. Although there were attempts to support queer youth during the early 1970s, these attempts were often hindered by financial limitations and the prevailing homophobic belief that homosexual people were likely child molesters.

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Defining Key Terms

This article uses specific definitions of a few nebulous terms in order to try to make order out of a soup of intersecting experiences and identities that make up the historical narrative presented here.

“Queer” is used throughout the article as an umbrella term to describe the wide array of gender and sexual identities that do not ascribe to a cisgender and heterosexual standard. The use of a term so broad is important given the fluidity of gender and sexual expression that is often most dynamic in young people’s lives. Moreover, although the majority of the people discussed in this paper would have identified as either “gay” or “lesbian,” that does not mean that transgender folk, bi/pansexual people, or any other person covered by the acronym LGBTQ2IA+ were absent from this story. Therefore, I use the broad term “queer” to encompass the wide diversity of people who were gender and sexual minorities during the period of this study. The term, used throughout this paper, is anachronistic for the time period under discussion. But it is now widely utilized as an umbrella term and has been reclaimed by gender and sexual minorities in the United States, so I have decided to use it in its contemporary meaning throughout this paper. When a more specific term, be that “gay,” “lesbian,” or “transgender,” is used, then it is referring to that distinct identity group.

The term “youth,” in the bounds of this paper, is defined as people who are under the age of eighteen. Though many of the arguments presented in this article will also apply to adults between the ages of nineteen and twenty-one, focus will be paid to those under eighteen years old. Due to the nature of age categories, many of those teenagers who were “youth” at the start of this study, in 1968, were no longer “youth” at the end of this study in 1974. Therefore, it is important to emphasize that “youth” is an identity category that people enter into and then exit out of in a relatively short amount of time. The queer youth who were involved in the coffeehouses in the late 1960s, were (for the most part) not the same people who were involved with the Portland Youth Alliance in 1974. This article is not a study of a historically specific group of youth, but rather how those under the category of “queer youth” navigated life in Portland, and where that life intersected with the actions of the greater queer community.

Throughout this article, I also use the term “movement” extensively when referring to the “gay rights movement.” I use the term “movement” to describe organizations and persons that were focused on acting to improve the lives of gay, lesbian, transgender, and/or queer folks in Portland. While it would be mistaken to declare that there was a unified political ideology that tied Portland’s queer people together into a powerful political bloc in  or before 1974, there certainly were groups and individuals that came to define themselves, at least partially, as political organizations. It is these organizations and people that I am referring to when I use the term “movement.” The distinctly political nature of this term is important in the context of this paper, because, as I will show, early attempts to help queer youth were really only made by these early politically motivated entities.

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Coffeehouses and Hip Youth: Finding Portland’s
Queer Youth Before The Movement

Unlike other major cities on the West Coast, Portland did not have any lasting queer political institutions before the national outgrowth of gay and lesbian organizing that followed the Stonewall riots in 1969. Before the founding of the Portland Gay Liberation Front in 1970, the queer community in the city was consistently isolated and quieted by city policies that sought to contain gay and lesbian activities to bars while also avoiding direct police harassment. Although steadily quiet, the city’s gay community during the 1960s was not small or unnoticeable. Socialization between gay men and lesbian women flourished in bars and clubs, all of which were 21-and-over. [4] Despite not being readily identifiable in the surviving historical record, underage queer youth certainly existed in Portland during the late 1960s, and many had to navigate a social landscape that created space for them while also ignoring their existence.

Finding Identity and Limited Discourses in the 1960s

The generalized silence about homosexuality in public discourses in Portland meant that many went through their teenage years with little to no awareness about what it was to be queer. In an interview account of her life, Frodo Okulam, a long-time member of Portland’s lesbian community, recounted how she first learned about the term “homosexuality” in her eighth grade classroom. During a lesson on Greek and Latin roots, her teacher wrote “homosexuality” on the chalkboard and defined it for the class. Okulam said “the minute he said it, I realized that was the word for what I was.” Even once she had a label to call herself, Okulam was isolated because of her sexual identity. Her friends, upon finding out she was identifying herself as a homosexual, turned away from her. Regarding how the other kids treated her, she recounted, “I was poison, basically.” During high school, Okulam found one teacher who she was open to, who accepted her as she was. But, at the same time, there were other teachers who “talked in class about how horrible gay people were.” [5] In a society where barely anyone mentioned the word “gay” or “homosexual” in a positive context, and where homophobia was a norm, the lived experience of most queer youth was consistently confusing, isolating, and lonely.

The isolation and ignorance faced by Portland’s queer youth in the 1960s was exacerbated by the prevalence of the myth of the homosexual predator in local media. While Portland did not have the same degree of police harassment that other queer communities in cities like Seattle and San Francisco had to deal with, the city was swept up in a panic over sex crimes and child molestation throughout the 1950s and 1960s. [6] The vast majority of references to homosexuality in Portland media during this period were in relation to stories about “sex rings,” child molestation, and the danger of homosexual influence on youth. In 1953, the Oregon Mental Health Association published a pamphlet called “Parents, Children and the Child Molester.” Written by two family life specialists at Oregon State College (now Oregon State University), the pamphlet labelled child molesters “sexual deviates.” Though the pamphlet did not directly equate homosexuals with child molesters, the one example of child molestation in the work quoted a newspaper article titled “Man Abducts, Molests Boy, 9, Schoolbound,” [7] highlighting the homosexual quality of the problem. Moreover, in defining “sexual deviates,” the pamphlet included homosexuals in that definition, equating them with “child molesters,” exhibitionists, and pedophiles. Molestation was further equated with sodomy, “acts in which natural openings into the body other than genitals are used for sexual purposes.” [8] By connecting sodomy, which was mostly used to refer to sex between men, with molestation, the pamphlet furthered the link between homosexuality and child molestation in the imagination of straight Portlanders.
Although the national apex of panic over homosexual sex crimes was in the 1940s, Portland continued to be panicked over the threat of the homosexual child predator two decades later. [9] Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, many articles were published in The Oregonian with titles like “Police Juvenile Division Says Deviate Ring Broken,” which reported on a sex ring involving six adult men and eight youth. [10] Beyond the fear of molestation, Portland parents also expressed concern about the influence of homosexual men over their children. In 1965, J.G. Molner, a medical doctor, responded in The Oregonian to an inquiry by a concerned parent who asked if “it was possible for an eight year old to be homosexual,” and whether or not there was “a cure.” In his response, Molner argued that, “At such an impressionable age if a younger boy fraternizes with a somewhat older one who has homosexual tendencies, he can innocently fall prey to the older boy’s suggestions and behavior.” He also warned the parents to “be on guard when a youngster seems to be too much of a perfect little gentlemen.” [11] As a trusted medical professional, Molner expressed the prevailing idea of homosexuality—as transferable, threatening, and “curable.” By dissuading a child from interacting with homosexuals and by correcting behaviors deemed homosexual, a parent could prevent their child from becoming homosexual themselves. These medically-endorsed notions that homosexual men were child predators, that they could make children gay, and that they presented a threat to the lives of youth. These beliefs foreclosed the possibility of being openly queer in the home, and significantly shaped the responses of early queer organizations to the problems of queer youth.

Even once an underage queer person came to recognize their non-normative gender expression or sexuality, there was barely any recourse available for them to interact with other queer Portlanders. The existing queer culture in Portland centered on bars, meaning that any person under 21 years old was legally prohibited from even entering the few queer spaces that were thriving in Portland during the 1960s. Over the course of the decade, queer adults met at bars that included The Harbor Club, the Milwaukee Tavern, Derek’s Tavern, and The Other Inn.[12] Because of the very nature of bars, only those youth who came to learn about these bars and who were bold enough to illegally enter were able to interact with the pre-1970 queer community.

Although the vast majority of queer youth in the 1960s certainly remained unaware of, and distant from, the city’s queer culture, a handful took the leap to illegally enter the bars to meet others like them. In a letter to the Harbor Club from the early part of the decade, an anonymous patron expressed concern about the overt ways that some gay men talked about the bar while cruising in other spaces in Portland. In their letter, the patron specifically identified a “lad” who “appears so young he is scarcely shaving yet.” This “youngster,” as the letter describes him, had gone up to the anonymous patron twice in other bars to try to proposition him for sex. In describing these encounters, the letter stated that “[The youngster] has done so in the hearing of other patrons and bartenders in those places. . . . no doubt of excellent social background, he does make himself rather plain when he is in his cups, not only as to his intentions, but also as to the methods which he prefers, and invariably he mentions your establishment [the Harbor Club] in the hearing of everyone.” The letter writer expressed further concern that if the young man did not change his ways, “he will be getting something he does not want if he should tackle some good looking young John Law trying to make a name for himself on the vice-squad.” [13] Some queer youth, like the young man in the letter, were able to find their ways to the few bars that catered (predominately) to gay men and lesbian women. When they entered these bars, breaking the law in the process, they encountered existing queer cultures and communities. With little to no background on what it was to be queer, these youth had to rapidly learn and adapt to a culture that relied on small gestures and heavily coded language to communicate. As was the case with the young man who brashly talked about his sexual intentions and his enjoyment of the Harbor Club, these few youth who managed to enter into Portland’s queer community had to adjust, often clumsily, to the ways of interacting that predominated in queer spaces of the 1960s. [14] With the emergence of countercultural organizations and businesses in Portland in the latter portion of the decade, new spaces were opened to queer youth that did not have the same barriers as existing gay and lesbian bars.

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The Role of Countercultural Organizations

In the late 1960s, the outgrowth of countercultural institutions in Portland greatly shaped the experiences of youth, many of whom were certainly queer. The American counterculture of the 1960s was a rather amorphous conglomeration of various liberal groups that sought to make meaningful change in American society. While “counterculture” was not a term used by people who made up these groups, it has become the most common way historians have come to understand the liberal subculture that linked hippies to student protests to feminists. [15] Local countercultural institutions in Portland gained a louder voice with the first publication of the Willamette Bridge (often just called The Bridge). The Bridge was a bi-weekly underground newspaper founded to “provide a means by which Portland’s various liberal groups can learn of each others activities.”[16]The Bridge functioned as a foundation from which a large array of different countercultural spaces arose. It provided publicity to the different organizations across Portland’s cityscape, allowing people to more readily find groups that fit their needs. Though the newspaper scarcely mentioned homosexuality, let alone other queer identities, before 1970, it was eventually the origin point for Portland’s emergent queer community. With the expansion of the counterculture in the last years of the Sixties, Portland’s liberal community became acutely aware of the issues facing youth in the city. Queer youth were not a specific concern for countercultural groups in Portland, but these groups’ broader involvement in youth matters inadvertently helped many underage queer kids.

From its early days, Portland’s counterculture was greatly interested in the issues that faced teenagers. This was likely due to the simple fact that the vast majority of those engaged in the counterculture were in their twenties, so they had recent exposure to the various problems that youth in Portland had to deal with. The first article to appear in The Bridge discussed the likelihood that “10 to 20 thousand youth” would arrive in Portland in the summer of 1968. The article suggested that this figure would mostly be made of transient runaway and homeless youth. It also expressed concern over the widespread drug use among high school kids. [17] From 1968 to 1970, a swell of institutions grew that specifically sought to aid youth. From supporting all-ages coffeehouses to providing healthcare for homeless teenagers, Portland’s counterculture consistently demonstrated an interest and worry for the wellbeing of young people that they called “alienated youth.” This term was used to encompass a whole swath of youth who did not fit into mainstream society. It would have been used to describe teenagers ranging from those who were homeless to those who were driven by countercultural ideals. Though not explicitly identified, queer youth were certainly lumped into this broader category of “alienated youth.” [18]

Countercultural resources for youth first arose the year before The Bridge began printing. In 1967, a coffeehouse called Charix opened that had live music every night and notably was all-ages—it did not sell alcohol, only coffee and tea. Though it was a coffeehouse and music venue, Charix was established as “a place where young people may gather,” where they could “talk,” “find community,” and “be themselves.” [19] Coffeehouses in Portland, like Charix, arose from the same Beat Generation intellectualism and liberalism that formed a foundation for the growing counterculture. Other coffeehouses opened shortly after Charix, including Agora and the Ninth Street Exit. These coffeehouses were small music venues that also came to provide a gathering space for Portland’s emergent hippie and “alienated” populations. [20] Charix’s advertising in local newspapers did not directly target a youth or queer audience, but the club itself attracted a predominantly adolescent clientele, most of whom did not fit into mainstream society’s expectations in one way or another. Among these youth, there were certainly some who sought refuge in coffeehouses because of their sexuality or gender. In its short lifespan between 1967 and 1970, Charix also provided a number of important services for youth including drug counseling and support groups for parents who sought to understand the lives of their so-called “alienated” children. By the end of 1968, however, Charix was forced to reassess its lack of an age limitation. Due to pressure from the Portland police arising from alleged drug use within the space, the coffeehouse stopped admitting teenagers under 17 years old. Around this same time, Charix also began to struggle with financial challenges, likely as a result of the low admittance fee of 75 cents. [21] Sometime in the middle of 1970, Charix went the way of many other Portland coffeehouses and closed down, probably due to a lack of funds.[22]

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Homeless Youth and Queerness in Portland

Beyond providing spaces for youth who felt like they had nowhere else to go, Portland’s counterculture was also deeply concerned about the rate of youth homelessness in the city. Teenage homelessness was considered a crisis in Portland at the end of the 1960s, and Portland did not have the resources to deal with it. Private and non-profit “drop-in centers”—places where homeless teens could go for resources, aid, and socialization—were unable to deal with the large number of homeless adolescents in the metro area. [23] Of these homeless youth, a disproportionate number of them were queer. Although the discourse around homeless youth did not address queer kids until after 1970, later attempts by the Second Foundation, one of Portland’s early gay organizations, suggest that queer youth were a notable portion of the homeless population. Many of these homeless queer teenagers were either thrown out of their homes or were migrating away from rural and isolating hometowns.[24]

A disproportionate number of homeless youth in Portland during this period were youth of color. Racist housing policies and widespread discrimination in Portland institutions led to increased homelessness among people of color, and especially within Portland’s black community. Attempts to help youth of color were met with hostility by surrounding white communities. In 1969, the Buckman Youth Center was shut down by neighbors who protested the “irresponsible behavior” of the youth at the shelter. This “behavior” that they took issue with was ultimately just a racist coded term for the fact that the youth at the shelter were black. [25] Unlike other resources like Outside In or Charix, which mainly aided white homeless youth, youth centers that helped black youth were more likely to be shut down or defunded, further exacerbating the problems faced by homeless youth of color. Although they were not clearly identifiable in the historical record, it is likely that there were relatively more queer youth of color on the streets than one would expect solely based on Portland’s demographics.

Lasting resources for homeless youth, including those that were queer, began to arise around the same period that The Bridge began publishing. One of the most prominent organizations was Outside In, which began in 1968 and continues to operate in the Portland-Metro area. Prompted by the threats he saw to the continuation of Charix, Dr. Charles Spray opened Outside In out of a small house in Southwest Portland on 13th Avenue and Salmon Street. Spray sought to create a health center that could cater to the same youth that attended dances at Charix, including the queer kids identified above. [26] Early on, Outside In offered a variety of different resources to queer youth that were not found elsewhere within the city. These resources included counseling, parent-teenager discussion groups, drug testing and health aide, as well as shelter services. Since these resources were all offered for free, the barrier for entry was virtually non-existent. [27] This allowed many queer youth to enter Outside In. Some surely avoided going to Outside In for assistance, however. Reluctance to utilize health resources, prompted by the fear of homophobic hostility or rejection, certainly prevented some from even going to Outside In in the first place.

The most readily identifiable community of queer youth in Portland before the 1970s existed on the block between Second and Third Avenue on Southwest Yamhill Street, in the heart of downtown Portland. Here, homeless queer youth fostered a space that became collectively known as “Camp.” Desperate for a way to make money, homeless and runaway queer youth gathered at “Camp” to engage in sex work. These youth, most of whom were male-presenting teenagers, would gather along Yamhill Street to wait for adult men to cruise by looking to pay for sexual acts. [28] Prostitution in “Camp” allowed young gay and queer men to earn money to survive, while also providing them with a place to socialize with other queer adolescents. Sociologists studying homeless and runaway youth have argued that prostitution is a major source of income for adolescents on the street. [29] By selling their sexuality, some queer youth in Portland engaged in survival sex as a way of ensuring security and subsistence for themselves. Moreover, “Camp” was an early example of the ways that queer youth could independently create spaces for themselves within the geography of the city. By establishing a place for adolescent male prostitution in Portland, the young men who operated within “Camp” constructed a space where they could express themselves and socialize with other queer men. Through the production of space, the queer kids on Yamhill Street fostered community and comradery that did not exist elsewhere for that population.[30]

Across Portland’s urbanscape, many queer youths sought out community and support in countercultural spaces like coffeehouses and youth shelters. Few entered existing queer spaces, with opportunities foreclosed by the 21-and-over nature of gay and lesbian bars. Overall, the situation of queer youth during the 1960s was greatly limited and was obscured by the generalized silence of queer issues in the pre-Gay Liberation Front period. Once queer organizations began to arise in 1970s, the opportunities for queer youth to meet others like them greatly expanded. However, with increased publicity, the prevailing myth of the homosexual predator and the stereotypes that it carried came to significantly hinder specific improvements for queer youth.

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Hesitant Support: Queer Youth and Portland’s Early Gay Rights Movement

The supposed “emergence” of Portland’s queer population came over half a year after the Stonewall riots fueled the origin of gay liberation in New York. Sexual minorities in Portland only began to organize politically after an anonymous gay man submitted an advertisement to the Willamette Bridge. The ad stated, “Gay longhair, young, lonely, seeks meaningful relationship with same.” John Wilkinson, a writer for the Bridge, wrote an article responding to the ad. Wilkinson wrote about the “Gay Liberation Front in other cities,” and called for Portland’s gay population to unite under the ideals of liberation. A month later, in March 1970, the Portland Gay Liberation Front (GLF) held its first meeting in the Centenary-Wilbur Methodist Church on Southeast Ninth Avenue and Ash Street. The Portland GLF started out slow, as it struggled to establish cohesion between gay men and lesbian women and had to mobilize Portland’s rather reluctant queer community. By January 1971, the tensions between queer men and women in the GLF proved too great and the GLF, in its original incarnation fell apart. Gay men continued to organize around the GLF, while lesbian women formed their own organization known as Gay Women’s Liberation. The GLF and Gay Women’s Liberation were notably more politically motivated than earlier queer groups in Portland. Both embraced countercultural ideals of liberation, empowerment, and direct action, aligning themselves with the goals of gay liberation groups in other cities across the nation. These two groups failed to last, however, with both slowly disappearing from the historical record by March 1971. The mantle of queer rights in Portland was ultimately passed onto a more conservative organization known as the Second Foundation by the middle of 1971.[31]

Portland Gay Liberation and Queer Youth

The Portland GLF was heavily influenced by greater countercultural trends in the city. John Wilkinson, one of the GLF’s founders, was one of the main photographers for the Willamette Bridge, and became responsible for ensuring that there was coverage of the GLF and gay culture in the paper. The GLF also met in the Ninth Street Exit, a coffeehouse that was run by the Centenary-Wilbur Methodist Church. This coffeehouse functioned similarly to Charix and was a major location for countercultural activities. In this way, the GLF was an extension of Portland’s already thriving counterculture. Arising from its countercultural roots, the GLF was well versed in the problems that faced Portland youth. Unlike previous organizations, however, they were the first to specifically express concerns for queer youth specifically.

As part of the GLF’s concern for queer youth, the organization published several articles in the Willamette Bridge that directly addressed sexual minority teenagers. Dave Davenport, a member of the GLF, wrote an opinion article discussing his life as a “homosexual teenager.” In the opening line, Davenport bluntly addressed his teenage audience: “I have a sneaking suspicion that if you’re gay (or think you might be) and are still in your teens, your head has a good chance of being fucked up.” In the remainder of the article, Davenport discussed the process of coming out and the psychological burden of that process. With his closing line, he sought to reach out to his underage audience to provide assistance. Davenport wrote, “So if you want to talk, we’ll listen—and we might be able to help.” Holly Hart, a writer for the Bridge and one of the founders of the GLF, included a note after the article directed at young women: “Hey girls… this means you too.” [32] Members of the GLF were aware of the burdens placed on queer youth in Portland. Believing that community formation and liberation were of utmost importance, the early GLF sought to bring Portland’s youth directly into the fold through inclusion within the movement. Here, however, it is important to highlight the simple fact that the Portland GLF was really only thinking about gay boys and lesbian girls. Though the Portland GLF did encourage transgender people to join the organization, the vast majority of members identified as either gay or lesbian and the organization rarely mentioned trans issues.[33]

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Starting on July 27, 1970, the GLF sponsored two nights each week at the Ninth Street Exit coffeehouse, which was open to all ages. Monday nights were meant for gay men, and Tuesday nights were intended for lesbian women. Though it had not previously been a queer space, and was not a queer-exclusive space the rest of the week, the Ninth Street Exit was a welcoming venue that allowed the GLF to create an important space for organizing and socialization. When it first began, the GLF assertively advertised the fact that the coffeehouse was an under-21 space. In an article titled “A Place To Go,” John Wilkinson claimed that, “There is no place in the city where a gay kid can go to dance with another gay kid, unless he is unusually brave about dancing at straight dances.” From this, Wilkinson advertised the new GLF meetings as a place where under-21 queer youth could go. He warned, however, about using drugs or alcohol, which was certainly meant to guard against potential police harassment. [34] From its founding, the Portland GLF consciously tried to promote itself as a space for the whole gay and lesbian community, including underage youth. Despite this, however, its support for youth was eventually hindered by the continued pervasiveness of the myth of the homosexual predator.

After the first month of meetings at the Ninth Street Exit, however, the GLF stopped pushing the idea that the coffeehouse was an under-21 venue. The Ninth Street Exit did not become the all-ages socialization space that some of the earlier articles had represented it as. Only around 100 people showed up each night at the peak of the GLF’s turnout, and the vast majority of those people were adults. [35] But why did it fail to attract queer youth? Based on the lack of spaces in Portland and the focus paid to youth by the GLF, it seems likely that the GLF would have attracted more youth than it actually did.

A possible explanation for the poor turnout of youth is given by looking at an account of an underage person in the organization. On August 25, 1970, a high school aged girl attended the GLF women’s night at the Ninth Street Exit. She was present for the whole meeting and had even decided to stay after the official end time to continue to talk with the other women. At around 11:30, however, “In stormed her mother, with her stepfather close behind. [The mother] immediately ordered her daughter to leave. The girl said she didn’t want to go home with them. The mother shouted, “You’re not staying here tonight!” She said a lot about what a terrible place it was, and how terrible all of us were.” One witness recounted how “it was also clear that [the mother] was obsessed with mental pictures of orgies with her daughter being mauled by dirty women.” [36] Here, the role of straight parents in the lives of queer youth was exemplified. Most underage queer youth remained in their parents’ household and were thus subject to their parents’ own homophobia and misgivings about gay people. The prevailing myth of the homosexual predator—the idea that queer people were likely to molest children—clearly had a large role to play in the interactions between parent and queer child. Viewing queer people as a threat, parents sought to protect their child, however misguided those beliefs truly were.

The above account suggests that a major reason why youth did not flock to the GLF meetings was because of parental control and authority. Even with resources available to them, queer youth were only able to attend them if they extensively lied to their parents or if they had no supervision at all. While some youth were certainly able to attend meetings behind their parents’ backs, those that were unable to do so were prohibited from going. Moreover, the prevailing negative discourse around homosexuality likely prohibited most youth from even acknowledging their queerness. The creation of space was not all that was required for queer youth. A shift in the ways that parents of queer kids, as well as society, thought about their child’s sexuality or gender was needed for these spaces to be fully available. Later activism in the late 1970s and 1980s would seek to address these obstacles to creating accessible and affirmative spaces.

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Finding Queer Youth in the Second Foundation and the Gay Community Center

In late 1970 and the early months of 1971, the Portland GLF slowly dissolved, and was gradually replaced by the Second Foundation. Tensions between gay men and lesbian women in the organization led the women to create another group called Gay Women’s Liberation. Neither the GLF nor Gay Women’s Liberation survived long past this split. [37] The disintegration of the GLF in the first half of 1971 allowed another gay rights organization called the Second Foundation to take up the helm of queer activism in Portland. The Second Foundation arose from a 1970 discussion between Neil Hutchins and Dennis Kennedy about the need for a “homosexual counseling center” in Portland. By February 1971, the group was recognized as a nonprofit by the state of Oregon. Early goals of the Second Foundation centered around the creation of a “gay community center” for Portland’s queer population, which could subsequently house counseling and community resources. [38] The Second Foundation was more organized than the GLF had been. The Second Foundation was also notably more focused on political activism than countercultural ideas like liberation and consciousness raising. [39] Like the GLF, the Second Foundation was concerned about the problems faced by queer youth in Portland. Unlike the GLF, however, the Second Foundation maintained a degree of reluctance and distance when it came to queer youth under eighteen, fearing accusations of predatory behavior.

Throughout its lifespan, the Second Foundation held a rather contradictory position regarding queer youth. From the outset, the organization acknowledged the problems that the lack of a social space for under-21 queer youth presented in Portland. At the first social event hosted by the Foundation, one of the main discussion topics was prompted by a suggestion “that the Second Foundation open and run a coffeehouse or similar place for those who are under 21 and at the present have no place to go.” As a part of this discussion, there was also an acknowledgement of the Ninth Street Exit and its problems. An article in The Fountain, a newspaper produced by the Second Foundation, stated that the Monday night timeslot at the Ninth Street Exit, when the GLF was holding dances, was “not the best for highschool and college students.” [40] Members of the Second Foundation acknowledged the limitations of the GLF’s programs, and advocated for alternative solutions to the problems of Portland’s queer youth.

Alongside this support for youth, however, was also a reluctance to associate with the youth. At the same social gathering where the idea of a coffeehouse was proposed, the same group made the decision that the Second Foundation could not allow minors to hold memberships to the organization. The article describing the gathering stated that this decision was due “to the nature of our organization. . . . although the general consensus was one of “we wish we could.”” [41] This veiled reference to “the nature” of the group, was an allusion to the fact that it was an openly gay organization, and therefore could not allow youth into the group. This argument was rooted in the fear that the group would be labelled “chickenhawks,” the slang term used to describe predatory gay men.

Due to the dominant myth of the homosexual predator in the early 1970s, adult queer organizations were unable to provide assistance and opportunities to Portland’s queer youth. The potential for outlash due to adult support for underage queer kids was too great of a concern for organizations, like the Second Foundation, that were focused on securing critical legal protections and social advancements. Though it was unfortunate that the Second Foundation had to choose to prioritize one issue over the others, the decision to focus on limiting and ending discrimination in public was certainly warranted in their eyes.

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Despite its contradictory position regarding queer youth, the Second Foundation attempted to navigate this incongruity in order to do what it could for youth.
Early on, discussions within the Second Foundation began to focus on the creation of a “gay community center.” The establishment of a community center for Portland’s queer population was motivated by two main factors: queer youth and frustration with the existing bar-dominated queer social scene in Portland. The latter combined readily with the former, as the lack of a social space for queer youth was the product of drinking laws and the predominance of the bars. [42] The community center was imagined as a place for both socialization and resource assistance. George Nicola, who would become a major figure in the Second Foundation’s legislative battles in the Oregon state legislature, wrote that the community center “would be a place where gay people could come anytime of the week, anytime of the day. It would be a place not only for a relief from loneliness but also a source of needed services.” The Second Foundation struggled to find a place that was affordable and could provide the space needed for the aspirations of the community. Finally, in May 1972, the Gay Community Center, run by the Second Foundation opened. It was located on the corner of Southwest 3rd Street and Alder Street—just three blocks away from “The Camp.”[43] 

Although it was not created for youth exclusively, the Gay Community Center became a major gathering place for Portland’s queer youth. The early Community Center had a recreation room with a pool table, card games, and vending machines. The room was large enough for the center to hold weekly dances on Fridays and Saturdays. These dances, however, were only open to people over the age of eighteen. This restriction was not due to the sale of alcohol, or any other logistical concerns. Rather, the age restrictions were the result of anxieties that the local queer community had over being labelled “chickenhawk.” The Gay Community Center and the Second Foundation initially prohibited the involvement of under-eighteen queer teenagers, but by 1973, queer youth had established a place for themselves within the Center anyways. The Second Foundation did not advertise the community center as a space for queer youth, even in its own newspaper The Fountain. The Center, however, became a major source of socialization for queer youth, despite official reluctance. Adolescents, predominantly from the streets, spent a lot of time hanging out in the community center. It became, despite the organization’s official reluctance, a respite for runaway youth who had nowhere else to go.

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The rise of the Gay Community Center’s youth population had large consequences for the development of the Center. As a free, welcoming, and affirming place for queer youth, many teenagers who lived on the streets came to the Center in search of a safe place to be themselves. Due to the accessibility of the space, many straight and cisgender teenagers also showed up at the Center. This occasionally created fighting when straight kids would enter the Center and behave homophobically. [44] Drug use and prostitution were also regular occurrences among youth at the center, particularly because it provided an alternative space for youth who were otherwise at Camp.

These problems also highlight the simple fact that the attitudes and experiences of queer youth in Portland did not always align with the goals and perspectives of these organizations. As many teenagers are wont to do, bans on drug use or unruly behavior were not always followed. This only served to add to the complications of running a space meant for queer youth.

A series of concerned articles in 1973 described the center’s youth community. An article written in January 1973, functioning as a response to rumors about the center’s involvement with drug use and prostitution, firmly pushed back against those rumors claiming that “We are not going to turn the center into a communal orgy, a drug scene, or a public bar.” The same article attested that some people “say we crowd out the older ones with the young ones.” Another article, written in response, harshly claimed that “A young, sexually insecure person coming to the community center for guidance” was “more likely to be cruised than counseled.” [45] Here, the anxieties that surrounded youth-adult interactions was evident. A large issue for these critics was the possibility that the work of the Second Foundation and the Center would become synonymous with homosexual predatorship and “chickenhawkry.” The degree to which these accounts were accurate is unclear, but due to the discourse that surrounded these debates, it seems that the Gay Community Center became a more disreputous place than intended.

Though it was certainly not a focus of the organization, the Second Foundation did discuss and attempt to address the problem of homelessness among queer youth. In September 1972, the Second Foundation began to work with the Contact Center, a youth service that interacted with a similar homeless and runaway population as Outside In. Recognizing that the Contact Center “had a number of cases involving gay youth recently,” and that “there are many cases where the gays do not reveal themselves,” the Second Foundation sought to work “closely together on cases involving gay youth.” [46] The organization was mainly concerned with supplying information and assistance to the Contact Center in regards to homosexuality. Direct on-the-street action to support homeless youth was never a goal or focus for the Second Foundation. As was the case with the Gay Community Center, the aversion to fulfilling the stereotype of the homosexual predator likely dissuaded the group from direct interactions with vulnerable youth, in turn limiting the actual support from the queer community.

The Second Foundation’s Gay Community Center struggled financially and legally throughout 1972 and 1973. In November 1972, the Center was informed that it would have to obtain a private social club license. Due to city ordinances held over from the 1930s, the Second Foundation would have had to make public a list of members, which would mean publicizing the sexuality of members who may not have been out in some parts of their lives. The Second Foundation refused to follow the ordinance, and the city ultimately did not enforce it. [47] Several months later in July 1973, the Center faced another challenge from the city. A fire marshal held that the building housing the Community Center on Southwest Alder Street needed an additional fire exit. The Second Foundation did not have the funds or the desire to make the necessary additions to the building, so they began to look for a new space for the community center. Coupled with the disappearance of $3,000 from their treasury, the Second Foundation’s search for a new place to establish the community center placed substantial financial burdens on the organization. [48] The Community Center shut down in September 1973 and was put on hiatus.

In November, the Second Foundation moved into the Pythian Building on Southwest Yamhill Street. The move, however, was unsuccessful. The Second Foundation continued to struggle financially and organizationally. In January 1974, they discussed the possibility of disbanding, as membership was dwindling. Although the group decided to remain together, the Second Foundation never got the Community Center up and going again. The organization would finally disband after four years of low membership and an even smaller treasury.[49]

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Establishing the First Queer Youth Group in Portland

Although the move to the Pythian building proved unsuccessful for the Second Foundation, the new space allowed a new youth program to take off. During the transition from the old community center building to the Pythian building, the Second Foundation established the Youth Organization. From the outset, the new Youth Organization was supposedly distinct and independent from the Second Foundation’s main body, though it was inherently tied to the adult organization.  One of its earliest activities was a Halloween Ball hosted in the new building’s ballroom. The ball featured live music and performances, as well as a drag pageant. Darcelle, a longtime drag queen in Portland, was honored at the ball, and crowned the winner of the pageant. The ball was significant because it was the first youth-exclusive space for queer teenagers in Portland. Moreover, it fostered connections to Portland’s drag scene and the Imperial Sovereign Rose Court, which would later work to the benefit of queer youth in the following decades.[50]

The success of the ball proved that a youth-exclusive space was possible, at least with enough money. The decline of the Second Foundation paralleled the rise of queer youth spaces in the late 1970s. In the subsequent years, various organizations would attempt to create places, usually nightclubs, for queer youth in Portland. The longevity of these organizations, however, was greatly hindered by financial difficulties brought on by rent hikes and social hostility. [51] Various groups tried to get spaces established for queer youth, and although attendance numbers were high, the groups were often unable to keep the spaces open longer than a year.

Due to the decline of the Second Foundation during the last months of 1973, the Youth Organization separated itself from its parent organization. In December, the Youth Organization rebranded itself as the Portland Youth Alliance (PYA), and in January was fully separated from the Second Foundation. The PYA left its short-term home at the Pythian Building and moved back into the building that housed the original Gay Community Center on Southwest Alder Street.

Membership in the PYA was formally available to anyone, but only those members between the ages of 14 and 21 could vote within the organization. In an article written for the Northwest Gay Review, a newspaper that started in 1974, the treasurer of the PYA, Skip Mooney, was quoted saying that the PYA was, “primarily a gay club but we welcome straights as long as they don’t cause trouble.” As early as February 1974, the organization had 90 official members, and many more attended PYA events. The PYA was Portland’s first youth-run queer organization and demonstrated that there was a sizable queer youth population in Portland. Though it only lasted eight months before disbanding due to financial difficulties and rent hikes, the PYA provided several very important resources for queer youth.[53]

Early on, the PYA importantly sought to create space for Portland’s queer youth, much like the GLF and the Second Foundation had. The difference with the PYA, however, was that they succeeded in creating a space where young queer people dominated. Shortly after moving to their new location, the PYA began running a nightclub called The Stairs Down. The Stairs Down was open every night, and only cost $1 to enter. It also had amenities that other clubs did not offer. Articles about The Stairs Down boasted about the fact that it had “the largest dancefloor of any gay place in Portland.” [54] Unlike the Ninth Street Exit or the Gay Community Center, The Stairs Down was created as a space for and by queer youth. The PYA succeeded, at least temporarily, in doing something that earlier gay rights organizations in Portland were unable to do. The Stairs Down stayed open for eight months, closing in August 1974, when the PYA disbanded, due to financial difficulties. The low entrance fee, though critical to getting young—and typically poor—kids to show up, certainly did not help relieve the PYA’s financial challenges. [55] The overall success of The Stairs Down was not left unnoticed. Several later all-ages queer nightclubs opened up in the latter half of the 1970s, building off the success of The Stairs Down.

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The PYA’s work was not exclusively focused on the nightclub. The PYA sponsored and promoted various other events and resources for Portland’s queer youth. Early on, the PYA organized ski trips up to Mount Hood, promoted a drama club, hosted dance competitions, and held pool tournaments. [56] These events, combined with The Stairs Down, created a space and community where queer youth could be themselves with other queer youth. By holding events for a wide variety of interests, the PYA encouraged the formation of community for queer youth. The holistic approach to queer youth community formation taken on by the PYA was unique within the 1970s. Only beginning in the early 1980s would other organizations be formed that supported queer youth culture beyond the walls of nightclubs.

Although Portland’s early gay rights organizations — the GLF and the Second Foundation—expressed great concern for the problems faced by queer youth, and even attempted to solve some of them, their actions were undeniably limited. Efforts to help queer youth, namely through the creation of age-inclusive spaces, ultimately failed during this early period. The GLF nights at the Ninth Street Exit and the social spaces of the Gay Community Center were both limited by the continuing strength of the homosexual predator stereotype. Fearful of aligning with mainstream “straight” beliefs that cast gay men and women as a danger to children, these groups chose to maintain a degree of distance between themselves and queer youth. Moreover, these groups, including the Portland Youth Alliance, were also all plagued by regular financial difficulties, which limited their ability to provide lasting resources.

It also cannot go without mentioning that both the GLF and the Second Foundation were only really focused on helping gay boys and young lesbians, the majority of whom were white. Due to generalized ignorance and a lack of discourses around identity, Portland’s early gay rights groups displayed very limited concern for the unique situations of trans youth and queer youth of color in the city. Only in the last couple of decades, groups have arisen that seek to specifically address trans youth and youth of color in this community. Despite these limitations, the GLF and Second Foundation both attempted to do what they could for queer youth, and laid down critical foundations for how future youth groups and resources would go about addressing the unique problems faced by queer youth.


Beginning in 1977, three years after the Second Foundation and the Portland Youth Alliance shut down, the landscape of resources for queer youth in the city began to dramatically change. No longer the focus of the central political gay and lesbian organizations in the city, groups with the specific mission of helping queer youth began to emerge in the city. Portland PFLAG, started by Ann and Bill Shepherd and Rita and Charles Knapp in 1977, emerged as an important resource for dealing with enduring parental homophobia and for helping families to accept their queer child. [57] Around the same time, a man named Lanny Swerdlow, who had been involved with gay male organizing in the city, opened up Mildred’s Palace, an all-ages nightclub intended for queer youth. The club was the first to attract a large youth population, as it was only a few blocks away from “The Camp.” Though Mildred’s Palace shut down after a couple years, Swerdlow opened another nightclub called The City Nightclub in 1983, which was hugely popular and important to Portland’s queer youth throughout the 1980s and 1990s. [58] These two organizations’ goals and concerns mirrored many of the same concerns that the earlier organizations had, but due to a variety of factors, these new groups were able to learn from earlier mistakes to forge lasting resources for Portland’s queer youth. Without the earlier attempts and failures by the Gay Liberation Front and the Second Foundation, as well as those by counterculture groups like Outside In and Charix, these later groups may not have had the foresight or experience to deal with the unique situation of queer youth.[59]

Queer youth were neither absent nor ignored in Portland during the early years of the city’s queer community. Before the emergence of gay and lesbian organizations in 1970, queer youth often found themselves with other so-called “alienated” youth. They participated in the city’s thriving coffeehouse culture, some snuck into gay bars, and those who were runaways or were homeless sought out assistance in growing resources for at-risk youth. Though often overlooked by the mainstream media and the straight counterculture, a large number of queer youth lived their lives in Portland and sought out spaces where they could be themselves. Once gay and lesbian organizing began in Portland in the middle of 1970, the developing gay and lesbian movements in the city immediately sought to help underage queer youth. These organizations’ primary focus was increasing access to queer spaces for these youth. Despite acknowledging the problems of queer youth, both the Gay Liberation Front and the Second Foundation’s actions were limited by their own concern about fulfilling the myth of the homosexual predator. As a dominant strain of homophobic discourse in Portland, the notion that gay men and lesbian women were more likely to molest children than straight adults was particularly harmful to the development of queer positive resources in the city during the early 1970s. Even with its limitations, the experiences of queer youth and the various attempts to help them cannot be overlooked in discussions of Portland’s early queer movements.

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The Fountain, Oregon Historical Society Research Library.
Just Out, Oregon Historical Society Research Library.
Northwest Gay Review, Oregon Historical Society Research Library.
The Oregonian, Newsbank 20th-Century American Newspapers.
Willamette Bridge, microfilm serial, Portland #68, Oregon Historical Society Research Library.


The Homophile Movement: Papers of Donald Stewart Lucas, 1941-1976. Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Historical Society. Archives of Sexuality & Gender.
Metropolitan Youth Commission - “Alienated Youth - ‘Fusion or Fission?’.” 1969. AF/11677. City of Portland Archives and Records Center.
Church and Social Problems Collection, Mss 1516. Oregon Historical Society Research Library.
John Johnson. “Letter from John Johnson to Susan Shepherd.” 1978. Coll 256, Box 8, File 2. Portland Town Council Records, 1974-1982. Oregon Historical Society.


Personal Interview with George Nicola, July 17, 2018.
Personal Interview with Jim Clay, August 1, 2018.
Personal Interview with Kristen Knapp, July 25, 2018.
Personal Interview with Susie Shepherd, July 24, 2018.
“Oral History Interview with Ann Shepherd.” March 5, 1999. SR 4141. Oregon Historical Society Research Library.
“Oral History Interview with Frodo Okulam.” November 2, 2000. SR 4149. Oregon Historical Society Research Library.
“Oral History Interview with George Nicola.” February 14, 2009. SR 11294. Oregon Historical Society Research Library.

Published Materials

Boag, Peter. “‘Does Portland Need a Homophile Society?’ Gay Culture and Activism in the Rose City between World War II and Stonewall.” Oregon Historical Quarterly 105, no. 1 (2004): 6–39.
Brown, Valerie. “Music on the Cusp: From Folk to Acid Rock in Portland Coffeehouses, 1967-1970.” Oregon Historical Quarterly 108, no. 2 (2007): 246–77.
Cohen, Stephan. The Gay Liberation Youth Movement in New York: "An Army of Lovers Cannot Fail. New York: Taylor & Francis, 2007.
Eaklor, Vicki Lynn. Queer America: A GLBT History of the 20th Century. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2008.
Gair, Christopher. The American Counterculture. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2007.
Hillman, Betty Luther. “‘The Most Profoundly Revolutionary Act a Homosexual Can Engage in’: Drag and the Politics of Gender Presentation in the San Francisco Gay Liberation Movement, 1964–1972.” Journal of the History of Sexuality 20, no. 1 (2011): 153–81.
Jenkins, Philip. Moral Panic: Changing Concepts of the Child Molester in Modern America. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1998.
Kidd, Sean A., and Michael J. Kral. “Suicide and Prostitution Among Street Youth: A Qualitative Analysis.” Adolesence 37, no. 146 (2002).
Kohl, David Grant. A Curious and Peculiar People: A History of the Metropolitan Community Church in Portland and the Sexual Minority Communities of Northwest Portland. Portland, OR: Spirit Press, 2006.
Olsen, Polina. Portland in the 1960s: Stories from the Counterculture. Charleston, SC: The History Press, 2012.
Richardson, Diane, and Steven Seidman, eds. Handbook of Gay & Lesbian Studies. SAGE Publications Ltd., 2002.
Singer, Matthew. “In the City: The Story of Portland’s Original All-Ages Gay Nightclub.” Willamette Week, August 26, 2014.
“Sixth Annual State of Safe Schools Report.” Oregon Safe Schools & Communities Coalition, 2017.
Voices of Youth Count. “Missed Opportunities: LGBTQ Youth Homelessness in America.” Chapin Hall, 2018.
Will, Robin. “The Swerdlow Nightclubs, 1977-1998.” GLAPN, August 19, 2018.



2. Voices of Youth Count, “Missed Opportunities: LGBTQ Youth Homelessness in America” (Chapin Hall, 2018),; and “Sixth Annual State of Safe Schools Report” (Oregon Safe Schools & Communities Coalition, 2017),

3. These groups were formed in 1968 and 1970, respectively. Both were politically-motivated groups that formed out of support and encouragement by incipient gay rights groups in their cities. See Betty Luther Hillman, “‘The Most Profoundly Revolutionary Act a Homosexual Can Engage In’: Drag and the Politics of Gender Presentation in the San Francisco Gay Liberation Movement, 1964–1972,” Journal of the History of Sexuality 20, no. 1 (2011): 160-164; and Cohen, Stephan. The Gay Liberation Youth Movement in New York: "An Army of Lovers Cannot Fail. New York: Taylor & Francis, 2007.

4. Peter Boag, “‘Does Portland Need a Homophile Society?’ Gay Culture and Activism in the Rose City between World War II and Stonewall,” Oregon Historical Quarterly 105, no. 1 (2004): 6–39.

5. Frodo Okulam, Oral History Interviews with Frodo Okulam (Portland, OR, 2000), SR4149, Oregon Historical Society Digital Collections.

6. Boag, “Does Portland Need a Homophile Society?,” 15-20.

7. Emphasis mine.

8. Lester A. Kirkendall and Thomas Poffenberger, “Parents, Children and the Sex Molester,” 1953, The Homophile Movement: Papers of Donald Stewart Lewis, 1941-1976, Box 7, Folder 16, Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Historical Society. Archive of Sexuality & Gender,

9. Philip Jenkins, Moral Panic: Changing Concepts of the Child Molester in Modern America (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1998), 61-65, 124-125.

10. “Police Juvenile Division Says Deviate Ring Broken,” The Oregonian, January 20, 1956, sec. 5M. See also “Police Cite Sex Problem,” The Oregonian, October 7, 1961, sec. 6M; and “Sex, Murder and Juvenile Violence Mar Portland’s Police Blotter During Past Year,” The Oregonian, January 1, 1964, sec. 4M.

11. J.G. Molner, “Even Eight-Year- Old Can Be Homosexual,” The Oregonian, December 12, 1965.

12. David Grant Kohl, A Curious and Peculiar People: A History of the Metropolitan Community Church in Portland and the Sexual Minority Communities of Northwest Portland (Portland, OR: Spirit Press, 2006), 27-33.

13. “Letter from Anonymous to the Harbor Club,” The Homophile Movement: Papers of Donald Stewart Lucas, 1941-1976, Box 4, Folder 7, Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Historical Society. Archives of Sexuality & Gender,

14. For more on 1960s bar culture in Portland see Boag, “‘Does Portland Need a Homophile Society?’,” 28-32.

15. See, for example, Christopher Gair, The American Counterculture (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2007).

16. “Welcome,” Willamette Bridge, June 7, 1968.

17. “Nirvana on the Willamette,” Willamette Bridge, June 7, 1968.

18. Vicki Lynn Eaklor, Queer America: A GLBT History of the 20th Century (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2008), 117-118; and see Appendix A in Metropolitan Youth Commission - “Alienated Youth - ‘Fusion or Fission?,’” 1969, AF/11677, City of Portland Archives and Records Center.

19. “Third Annual Report to the Churches,” 1969, Mss 1516, Box 2, Church and Social Problems Collection, Oregon Historical Society Research Library.

20. Valerie Brown, “Music on the Cusp: From Folk to Acid Rock in Portland Coffeehouses, 1967-1970,” Oregon Historical Quarterly 108, no. 2 (2007): 250-257.

21. Nana Green Feldman, “The Charix: A View from the Bridge,” Willamette Bridge, October 11, 1968;
“The Charix Is Back,” Willamette Bridge, December 20, 1968;” “Charix,” Willamette Bridge, April 11, 1969; and  “Son of Charix Meets Koinonia Man,” Willamette Bridge, August 15, 1969.

22. Brown, “Music on the Cusp,” 256.

23. Barry Siegel, “It’s Not Easy to Knit Together the Loose Ends of Today’s Youth,” The Oregonian, August 16, 1970, sec. 1F.

24. “Runaway Counselor Raps With Gays,” The Fountain, November 1972; and David Grant Kohl, A Curious and Peculiar People: A History of the Metropolitan Community Church and the Sexual Minority Communities of Northwest Oregon, 1st ed. (Portland, OR: Spirit Press, 2006), 51-53.

25. “Youth Center Head See Racism,” Willamette Bridge, January 31, 1969; and “Youth Center Response,” Willamette Bridge, February 14, 1969.

26. Polina Olsen, Portland in the 1960s: Stories from the Counterculture (Charleston, SC: The History Press, 2012), 77-79.

27. “Outside In Newsletter,” June 1971, Mss 1516, Box 2, Church and Social Problems Collection, Oregon Historical Society.

28. Kohl, A Curious and Peculiar People, 65; “Community Rap,” The Fountain, July 1971. News sources did not begin talking about “The Camp” until 1971, but that was likely due to the lack of a strong public discourse about queer people before 1969. When “The Camp” was first discussed in The Fountain, it was not presented as a new space, but rather seemed to have existed for years prior.

29. See for example, Sean A. Kidd and Michael J. Kral, “Suicide and Prostitution among Street Youth: A Qualitative Analysis,” Adolescence 37, no. 146 (2002): 412.

30. For theories about the production of space by queer people see, Gill Valentine, “Queer Bodies and the Production of Space,” in Handbook of Lesbian and Gay Studies, ed. Diane Richardson and Steven Seidman (London: SAGE Publications, 2002), 145–60. For examples of community within “The Camp” see, “Crime in the Streets,” The Fountain, June 1971; and “News From Camp,” The Fountain, December 1971.

31. John Wilkinson, “Dear Gay, Young, & Lonely,” Willamette Bridge, February 4, 1970; John Wilkinson, “Gay Liberation in Portland,” Willamette Bridge, March 13, 1970; John Wilkinson, “Gay Liberation,” Willamette Bridge, March 24, 1970; Holly Hart, “We’re Coming Out!!! Portland Gay Liberation,” Willamette Bridge, July 17, 1970; “Gaiety Prevails,” Willamette Bridge, July 24, 1970; “Gay Liberation,” Willamette Bridge, August 28, 1970; ad on page 26 of Willamette Bridge, January 14, 1971; “Gay Women’s Liberation,” Willamette Bridge, January 21, 1971; and “In the Beginning,” The Fountain, March 1971.

32. Dave Davenport, “I Was a Teenage Homosexual,” Willamette Bridge, July 17, 1970.

33. Laura McAlister, “Transvestites Too,” Willamette Bridge, July 24, 1970. This article was the earliest positive reference to transgender people that I found in Portland media. The article was republished from Come Out, the New York Gay Liberation newsletter. The lack of any trans-specific articles written by Portland GLF members suggests that there were not any openly trans people involved with the GLF.

34. John Wilkinson, “A Place to Go,” Willamette Bridge, July 17, 1970.

35. Articles in the Willamette Bridge that discuss what the nights were like at the Ninth Street Exit do not mention queer youth, and seem to presume that the majority of people there were over the age of eighteen. This does not mean that there were not queer youth present, just that it was not a youth-prevalent space. See Susan, “Crazy Dancers,” Willamette Bridge, July 31, 1970; and “Gay Women’s Liberation,” Willamette Bridge, January 21, 1971.

36. Peachy, “Some People’s Parents…,” Willamette Bridge, September 4, 1970.

37. For more on this split, see Holly Hart, “Gay Women,” Willamette Bridge, November 6, 1970.

38. “In the Beginning,” The Fountain, March 1971.

39. George Nicola, “Oral History Interview With George Nicola” (Portland, OR, 2009), SR 11294, Oregon Historical Society.

40. “Under 21!,” The Fountain, May 1971.

41. Ibid.

42. See discussion within “Community Rap,” July 1971.

43. George Nicola, “Community Rap,” The Fountain, August 1971; “Portland’s Gay Community Center Opens,” The Fountain, May 1972; Dick Rodgers, “Gay Community Center Comes Out,” The Fountain, May 1972.

44. Personal Interview with George Nicola, July 17, 2018.

45. Roy Bouse, “Beware of Rumors,” The Fountain, January 1973; “Suppressed Letter Printed After Delay of Six Months,” The Fountain, October 1973.

46. “Runaway Counselor Raps With Gays.”

47. “Portland Community Center Status Threatened,” The Fountain, December 1972. There was no more coverage of this issue in The Fountain, which surely would have reported on it if it was not quickly resolved.

48. “Community Center Seeks New Location,” The Fountain, July 1973; “Foundation Reorganizes,” Willamette Bridge, August 1973.

49. “The Name is the Game,” Northwest Gay Review, March 1974; “Letter from John Johnson to Susan Shepherd,” March 23, 1978, Coll 256, Box 8, File 2, Portland Town Council Records, 1974-1982, Oregon Historical Society.

50. “Youth Halloween Ball Successful,” The Fountain, December 1973. Although the actions of the Imperial Sovereign Rose Court do not fall into the period covered in this paper, they were (and continue to be) a major resource for queer youth, starting in the mid-1970s.

51. See, for example, Mildred’s Palace and Epicenter. Kohl, A Curious and Peculiar People, 81.

52. “The Stairs Down,” Northwest Gay Review, February 1974.

53. “Youth Center Closes,” Northwest Gay Review, October 1974

54. Ibid; “Youth Power,” Northwest Gay Review, March 1974 ; Stairs Down ad, Northwest Gay Review, May 1974.

55. The PYA’s main source of funding was not the entrance fees, but rather a combination of membership dues, donations, and fundraising. The financial difficulties that the PYA faced do not seem to have arisen from The Stairs Down, but rather from steep rent hikes and poor money management within the PYA. See “Service Groups,” Northwest Gay Review, June 1974.

56. “The Stairs Down”; “Youth Power”; “Dance, Dance, Dance,” Northwest Gay Review, May 1974; “Society News,” Northwest Gay Review, May 1974.

57. “Oral History Interview with Ann Shepherd,” March 5, 1999, SR 4141, Oregon Historical Society Research Library; Personal Interview with Susie Shepherd, July 24, 2018; Personal Interview with Kristen Knapp, July 25, 2018.

58. Matthew Singer, “In the City: The Story of Portland’s Original All-Ages Gay Nightclub,” Willamette Week, August 26, 2014,; Robin Will, “The Swerdlow Nightclubs, 1977-1998,” GLAPN, August 19, 2018,; Personal Interview with Jim Clay, August 1, 2018.

59. Though this article closes with 1974, the story of queer youth in Portland is clearly not fully told by this paper. I hope that another historian, or someday even myself, will build from where I have left off to reveal and present the multitude of resources and experiences that Portland’s queer community has developed for queer youth.



Little GLAPN return

P.O. Box 3646 • Portland, OR 97208-3646 •
Copyright © 2019, Jayden Dirk
(reproduced by permission of the author)