Building Community Together

Photo of Debra Porta by Stephanie Diller
Photo of Debra Porta by Stephanie Diller.

By Debra Porta, Pride NW President

The last year has seen a number of positive moves forward for the LGBTQ community. More and more queer couples around the country can marry. In Oregon, we reached our one-year anniversary of the right to marry. Members of the Trans* community are able to worry a bit less (a bit) about being discriminated against in the workplace (at least in certain sectors).  LGBTQ visibility is at an all-time high. At the same time, an undercurrent of “something isn’t quite right” filters through our community. A community-wide sense of unease and uncertainty seems to have set in over the last year—truth be told, longer than that. Reasons for this are, in some cases, obvious.

From our perspective, winning rights and gaining equality within the larger society rings a bit hollow as long as our queer community’s members of color still have to watch over their shoulders because of the color of their skin. There is still much work to do, as long as our alter-abled family is ignored in their needs and contributions, and our LGBTQ elders are afterthoughts.  As long as 40 percent of homeless youth are LGBTQ-identified, we have not arrived.  As long as we establish a standard of who is an “acceptable” queer—and who is not—community will remain difficult to build. And, as long as we remain unable or unwilling to build real community, we will continue to wake up—as I did recently—to news of another of our own being attacked, bashed, and harmed.

A lot about Pride Northwest has changed in the eight years I have been involved in the organization. We’ve made friends and we’ve lost friends. Board members have come and gone. Finances have followed the ups and downs of our country’s larger economy. Some years have seen rain while others have shone brightly. (Andy Bell can bring his sunshine back to Portland any time!) One thing has remained steadfast about Pride Northwest—our commitment to community. Our guiding vision and unshakable priority has been to create a home in which everyone under the alphabet soup umbrella can find their place and be welcome—and to ensure that the visibility, work, and leadership of the LGBTQ community involves and engages ALL of that community.

Earlier this year, we made the decision to put our money and our time where our vision is, and engage in the reorganization of Q Center. That was not an easy decision for us. There had existed a very serious rift between our organizations for a number of years. We didn’t collaborate, didn’t communicate, and barely acknowledged each other, should we periodically end up in the same room. But we knew that what was most important to us as an organization—the health and vitality of our community—was more important than any slight or offense ever could be.  We knew that, if we were going to honor what Pride means to us, we had to step up. If our vision for what is possible in our community was going to mean anything, or ever come to fruition, it would be because we did it together. Now, I don’t know exactly what the future holds for Q Center. But I do know that Pride Northwest will continue to do what we do best—and that’s build community.

Speaking of building community, just a couple of days ago, Pride Northwest was one among many in a room of organizational representatives from all across Oregon. Most were LGBTQ, but a great many were organizations working in the Black, Latino, and API communities who have also begun to actively engage with the LGBTQ-identified members of those communities. It was one of the most diverse and broadly attended LGBTQ organizational meetings I had ever attended. Even then though, I knew that many in our community were still not represented at that table. Pride Northwest will work to continue building more and more inclusiveness into what, by all indications, is a long-haul process.

With another Portland Pride celebration just days away, Pride Northwest is also reflecting upon our own direction. We have come through some tough times and are looking ahead to growing as an organization, and to being part of building a strong, resilient, and inclusive (without that, we will never be strong or resilient) LGBTQ community. I’ve said many times before—Pride will always reflect those who are involved and engaged. We invite you to engage, to be part of writing Pride Northwest’s next chapter.