LGBTQ People and Allies Recognized by City of Portland

GLAPN photo 2By George T. Nicola, GLAPN

On Thursday, November 6, the City of Portland held its 30th annual Spirit of Portland (SOP) Awards

ceremony. Recipients this year include some LGBTQ people and allies as well as a major LGBTQ and ally


The recognitions are described by the City as follows:

The Spirit of Portland Awards recognize local individuals and organizations who have demonstrated an

outstanding dedication to positive change in our community. Award winners are those who have not only

worked to improve the community, but who have also gone above and beyond a dedication to civic engagement

in order to make a lasting impact.

Award winners are chosen from nominations submitted by fellow Portlanders by a selection committee

of representatives from the Commissioners’ offices, the Office of Neighborhood Involvement, Neighborhood

Associations and other diverse community organizations. The Mayor and each Commissioner also select special

award winners to recognize specific works and achievements.

PFLAG Portland

I nominated PFLAG Portland because I have been so impressed with its love and acceptance. While

many individual LGBTQ people and allies have won the SOP Award in the past, this is the first year one of our

organizations has been recognized. SOP winner PFLAG Portland evolved from a 1976 group called Parents of

Gays (POG). PFLAG at one time stood for Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays. Today, the organization is

fully supportive of all LGBTQ people. It now consists of three components: Portland Chapter, Portland Black

Chapter, and East County Chapter.

By educating parents and guiding them to accept and love their LGBTQ children, PFLAG Portland has for

many decades helped keep families together. Parents and friends have organized to assist their kids and support

each other. PFLAG Portland has also advocated for LGBTQ people’s dignity, respect, and legal equality. The

group has regularly advocated for changes in schools, congregations and the broader community for full

acceptance for all of our youth, including those that identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer.

Today, PFLAG Portland is the largest of 13 PFLAG groups in Oregon. About half the members are straight allies,

while the other half are LGBTQ.

For more information on this amazing organization, see

Stephen Marc Beaudoin

Stephen Marc Beaudoin won the SOP Award for his professional work with PHAME, a Portland non-

profit. According to the group’s web site “PHAME creates opportunities for adults with disabilities to experience

the joy of artistic expression through lifelong arts education and performance, offering a safe environment to

inspire new connections with students, teachers, and the arts community at large.” Stephen has been Executive

Director of PHAME since 2010. (

Stephen has been active with the LGBTQ movement for many years. In 2013 and 2014, he co-chaired

the Basic Rights Oregon Ignite! galas. He currently serves as a Governor-appointed member of the board of

Oregon Humanities, volunteers for Business for Culture and the Arts, and supports the election of progressive

candidates and causes.

Amber Starks

LGBTQ people and allies recognized by City of Portland, Spirit of Portland awardee Amber Starks is an amazing woman and a dedicated straight ally. In 2011, she wanted to braid the hair of African American children in foster care. She based this on skills she learned growing up.

Amber soon found that she could not do this without a full cosmetology license. That would have

required time and money to learn skills she would never need. In fact, a third of the exam questions involved

chemicals, something which Amber never planned to use.

Amber got support from the Urban League of Portland. Her Oregon House Representative Alissa Keny-

Guyer introduced House Bill 3409 to create licenses for natural hair stylists. The bill was successfully enacted last


Amber has since opened her own Portland business, Conscious Coils, she explains “as a way to

encourage us, people of African descent, to love and embrace our hair, ourselves and our diverse culture. I also

wanted to create a space where people from all backgrounds and from all walks of life could come together to

celebrate, share (styles and tips), be informed about, and promote natural hair care. Finally, I wanted to provide

a service to individuals and families in need of natural hair care and styling.”

Although there were many other straight allies who won the SOP award, I am including Amber in this

narrative because she has been a close friend of our LGBTQ community and I personally nominated her.

George T. Nicola

I received an SOP award largely because of my work in documenting Oregon LGBTQ history through the

Gay and Lesbian Archives of the Pacific Northwest (GLAPN). The only major LGBTQ history organization in

Oregon, GLAPN has chronicled our past, and in the process produced information which has been used for

recent endeavors to advocate for our dignity and equality. My emphasis is that social change comes about not

just because of a few great heroes, but also through the efforts of countless “ordinary” people, who in fact do

some of the most extraordinary things. In the past few years, I have nominated many of those people for

awards, and several dozen of them have won. For more information on GLAPN, see our web site at

My nomination also mentioned that in 1973, I wrote and lobbied for Oregon’s first bill that would have

banned discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment and housing. The bill failed House passage by

just two votes short of a majority. However, the efforts created numerous straight allies. Within our community,

the bill and the process helped build a sense of purpose and identity instrumental in the evolution of what

became Oregon’s large LGBTQ movement.

For more about the SOP Awards and a full list of this year’s recipients, see