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Gay Around The World: Portland

Jun 17, 2014

  • To celebrate our launch in Portland, Ky Ventura of Out Abroad has written about her top 5 favourite places for a queer girl in Portland.

    Readers of Dattch, I would like to introduce you to Portland, Oregon, the gayest, greenest, hippest little city north of California and south of Seattle and I’ve lived here for 8 years.  When I’m not off travelling the world and writing about it for Out Abroad, I am a teacher and outdoor enthusiast.  I pride myself in my in-depth knowledge of local happy hours and my devotion to brunch.  Allow me to be your guide to my beloved City of Roses.
    Portland is divided into 5 quadrants (I know…but there is no such thing as a quintrant): Northwest and Southwest, both west of the Willamette River, and Northeast, Southeast, and North Portland (or NoPo) on the east side of the river.  The 8 bridges that span the river connect the quadrants and provide glorious views of the city.  Walk across one hand in hand with a date on your next visit.  What makes this city great, though, are the 5 quadrants of the city’s heart: coffee, beer, live music, gays, and bicycles.  On any day of the week, you can pedal your way to a lesbian night with the hottest portland DJs to sip a locally brewed pint. Don’t let Portland’s lack of lesbian bars put you off — in Portland, every bar is a lesbian bar.  So lace up your converse and get ready to be part of the big, homo crowd.


    Image: Jim Yaeger

    When you’re ready for a hot, sweaty, lazer-accented dance floor, head to Holocene in Southeast Portland.  For more than 8 years, they’ve been hosting the gay mainstay Gaycation once a month, but don’t despair if your calendar doesn’t match up.  Other queer-friendly nights include Laid Out, Cock Block, Booty Bassment, SNAP! ‘90s dance party, and beloved lesbian DJ Beyonda’s soul night.  When the dance floor is packed, the backroom has room to actually have a conversation or a slightly-discreet make out session.  When they aren’t rocking the DJs in tight rotation, they’re hosting live music with up-and-coming scenesters. Bonus:  Right next door you’ll find Sassy’s, one of Portland’s many strip clubs.  Lots of ladies end up here after Holocene, if you think that might be your thing.

    Jeld Wen Field

    Credit: Craig Mitchelldyer

    If you’re the sporty type, try your damnedest to get to a Portland Thorn’s soccer game at Jeld Wen Field. Portland’s women’s soccer team is a lesbian hot spot and an utter spectacle. It seems that the football hooligans of the U.K. have inspired a much more happy-go-lucky version in Portland. Songs, chants, fireworks and microbrews, as well as the players themselves, will keep you entertained. Wear red and white to blend in with the crowd, and be sure to head over to Thorn’s Army section to get the full effect of all that drumming and yelling. This is the perfect place to pick up a sporty American lady, who can explain to you exactly which Thorns players are lesbians and which are rumored to be lesbians.  The local light rail train, The Max, will take you up into Southwest and drop you off at the field where the men’s team, The Timbers, also play.

    Ristretto Coffee Roasters

    Ristretto: Couch branch 

    Portlanders love their beverages locally crafted, and coffee is no exception. Never will you see a pot of Folgers brewing in this town, where people spend more on a cup of coffee than they do on a pair of pants.  While big regional names like Stumptown have ruled the coffee game for the past decade, smaller roasters are cropping up all over town with delicious small-batch coffee, roasted on site to tickle your nose holes. Ristretto is a local spot for freelancers typing away on their laptops and hungover hipsters trying to jumpstart their day with a jolt of caffeine. Start off your morning with a latte at one of their locations, my favorite of which is on NE Couch (pronounced Cooch), just off the newest Portland Streetcar line. The cute baristas behind the counter may top it off with a decorative foamy heart, because Portlanders love crafting (and you).

    The Local Lounge

    Credit: The Local Lounge Flickr

    This recent addition to the Portland gay scene is a smaller, off-the-beaten path bar that will serve you laid back happy hour drinks or Saturday night entertainment. Gay owned and operated, Local stands on North East Portland’s Martin Luther King boulevard, a short walk from trendy Mississippi Avenue. Take the 6 bus or pedal your way up here to take advantage of nights like Drageroke (Drag + karaoke + Burlesque + craziness), Twerk queer hiphop party, Queens of the Night drag show, or Slo’ Jams queer R+B slow dancing night. While popular with the gay men, Local also brings out the ladies of the gayborhood. If you can make it to Hedonistic Decadance, a night of body-positive queer stripping, you will feel great about yourself and your fellow homos.

    In Other Words

    Credit: Amanda Barnes featured on In Other Words

    Tired of bars? Want to do a little light reading on the intersectionality of class and gender as they apply to privilege? Stop by North Portland’s feminist bookstore, In Other Words. The book store is volunteer run and serves as a community center for queers and feminists across the city. It has everything you want in a feminist bookstore, including community yoga, slam poetry nights, film festivals, art shows, and more. Find members of the activist and artist community, or just peak at one of the locations regularly filmed for the TV show Portlandia.
    The bottom line is that Portland is a land of lesbians. If all else fails, pick up a free weekly like the Mercury and check out wherever DJ Beyonda is playing, because she brings the ladies. Find yourself a nice plaid shirt, roll up your sleeves to show off your tatts, and come visit us, because we are all suckers for a sexy accent.

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