I love Portland. There is a part of me that always feels right at home here. Of course this is also now influenced by my oldest best pal living here. I just love all the little mini houses with all the little yards.
I had a layover in NY on my flight out. As I got to the gate for PDX I could see my people. Visible queers with rat tails and funny clothes and queer families and overall hip and sharp looking weirdos. It always puts me at ease to see something familiar.
With all the bathroom drama going on in the world my bathroom anxiety is at an all time high-particularly at an airport. I’ve always been uneasy about bathrooms ever since I was about 7 or 8 when the constant questioning about why I was in the girls bathroom began. 30 years later it hasn’t quite stopped but I’ve gone thu an array of coping strategies starting with avoiding public bathrooms all together to keeping my head down so I can’t see the look of alarm on other women’s faces thus not inviting any comment to holding my head high and being defiant and sometimes I’d rather just fly under the radar and use the men’s room. But now with all the intense political focus on bathrooms I’m scared of running into the wrong person in the wrong bathroom. I’m afraid of being confronted by some paranoid person who holds the irrational fear that if trans folks can legally use gendered bathrooms then this is going to open a flood gate of dangerous men walking into the women’s bathrooms. What people don’t realize is that the bathroom issue isn’t just about transgendered folks. It also affects folks like me who are not trying to pass but have simply been harassed my whole life in women’s bathrooms cuz some people mistake me for a guy. I’ve had friends who look like me get escorted out of bathrooms by security. While I have always been grateful for all gendered family bathrooms, I’d still rather pee outside.
Back to Oregon. We go back about 15 years. What first brought me to Oregon was the plethora of free outdoor concrete skateparks built and designed by skaters. These organic bowl shaped parks made for an effortless and extremely fun time. I first visited them in 2001 with my friend Jen who was spending the summer surfing in San Diego where I flew out to meet her. We drove up the coast skating all these parks and when we got to Oregon we just skated everyday making our way up the coast. Some of the skateparks had lights, grills, electrical outlets and water fountains and we would skate all night and camp in the giant redwoods behind the park. In Portland there was an indoor park with a wooden bowl that we loved as well.
My next trip to Oregon was with my band at the time, Secret Cock. We made friends with some Portland queer rockers who toured Boston and invited us to do a northwest tour with them. I met a lot of Portland folks on this trip and learned of all these punk houses. Young people bought houses here in the late 90’s and early 2000’s cuz they were affordable at the time and everyone seemed to live in these mini houses with basements so everyone seemed to have a band. I of course brought my skateboard and met queer bmx riders who took me to new skateparks. I was convinced I’d be moving to Portland.
The holy grail of the northwest skateparks is on Orcas Island which is part of the San Juan Islands and you can only get there by ferry. Travis and I made a pilgrimage to Orcas Island when we went on our epic skatepark tour on 2004 ripping up the west coast. It was everything we dreamed of and more. We also collectively knew a lot more people in Portland by then and had a fun social time going to queer rock shows and visiting friends and skateboarding around the neighborhoods.
Homo-A-GoGo, this queer music and art festival brought me back out to the Northwest a couple more times and my band would usually play a show in Portland before or after we headed to Olympia, WA where the festival was held. Again I always had my skateboard.
Now that Travis lives out here I’ve been so happy to have a great reason to visit this area. This is my first visit without my skateboard. Instead I’ve rented a splitboard which is basically a snowboard that splits into skies so one can ski up into the backcountry and then clip it back into a snowboard and ride down. Tomorrow Travis is taking me to ride down a glacier on Mount Hood. Surreal.