By 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.
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 http://pflagpdx.org/wordpress/.
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. (http://phamepdx.org/events)
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.
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