I am an ally. I have always been an ally to the queer community.
I am also a straight white man admittedly coming from a place of some privilege.
Since high school I’ve been a supporter of the LGBT community. Always seemed like a no-brainer. Love who you want. Reject any religious faith or family member who condemns your love.
As a young child I was part of a dance class, so I was around gay men all the time. Kudos to my parents for putting me in those dance classes and not demonizing the gay men, like other parents might. One of the first jobs I applied for in high school was as a DJ at the local gay club in Eugene. My parent’s rental house was rented to a gay man, and I used to go over there to help my Dad do yard work and minor home repairs. Their example of not behaving any differently around him taught me volumes. When that renter became a more vocal activist in Eugene politics fighting against some hateful propositions, they didn’t evict him. They didn’t raise the rent. When the house got vandalized by bigoted morons, they never expressed wishing they had a straight renter that didn’t have these problems. I believe that they rented to him for many years after, until he also moved to Portland.
I’ve attended the gay pride parade every year since I moved to Portland in 1996. So that’s twenty years of gay pride. Some years I just attended as a participant. Other years I staffed the outreach booth for the non-profit dog rescue I ran. Other years I walked in the parade for that non-profit with available dogs for adoption. One year I held the banner for a drumming group. And for the last three years I’ve performed on the main stage at Portland Pride with my rock band, The Shrike.
I worked for many years as a mentor for at-risk youth. I would always work with them to understand others and learn tolerance and acceptance. Some years I would even bring the teenagers to Pride with me. A few youth came out to me over the years, and one helped start his high school’s first GSA group. As we would study the civil rights movement, we would also study the gay rights movement. I loved telling them about the Stonewall riots that ignited the fires that still burn today.
In the 2000’s I took a part-time job delivering the area’s only gay newspaper. It was called Just Out. I would work a couple of days a month delivering bundles of papers to over a hundred stops on my route. I wanted to support the cause and learn about cool businesses and venues in Portland, so it was perfect. I’m certain that everybody assumed I was gay as I walked into the gay club during the summer mornings in my tank top shirt. Getting hit on by people at noon in a bar is surreal. I also met one of my best friends while working at Just Out, Marie. After a decade of friendship, Marie introduced me to my girlfriend, Marcela. She and her two kids have moved in with me, and we are very happy and in love. Thanks again, Marie.
When the Multnomah County commissioners legalized same-sex marriage in 2004 I got to be part of the celebration. Hundreds of couples were standing in line outside the Multnomah County building waiting to get their marriage license. I was on my route delivering the issue of Just Out that had the story of recent legalization of gay marriage on the cover. I thought it would be a good use of my time to stop and get out with a stack of papers, offering them to everybody in line. So many people were excited to get an issue of Just Out as a souvenir of this historic date, and to commemorate the acquisition of their marriage license. It was a sweet moment, many people had tears in their eyes from happiness. Obviously, later that decision was nullified when voters made gay marriage illegal again. Luckily, about ten years later, a Federal Judge made same sex marriage legal across the country.
I have dated several bisexual women in my life, attended numerous lesbian weddings, and have always been a supporter of Planned Parenthood and NARAL. I could go on and on.
But all that is not the point of this blog.
The point of this blog is to inform you that now my job is to keep people safe. And in particular to keep the queer community safe. I’ve recently switched careers and work in the security industry. I got DPSST certified in November. My first event was a lesbian dance party at Bossanova Ballroom. My second event was a gay dance party also at Bossanova. I love these events. I felt kind of like I was back in college again. I have regular shifts at Doug Fir Lounge. Other locations include Stag PDX, Analog Theater, The Raven, and Tryst. I’m the bouncer. I’m the nice friendly bouncer, but I’m still the bouncer. I’ll check your ID, scan your concert tickets, answer all questions, maintain crowd control, help the bands load in/out, and even help you get a cab. But I’ll also kick your ass out if you’re too drunk, agitated, hateful or aggressive.
I feel really good about this new career switch. I’m around live music all the time, and happy crowds of people. My employers have stated that the security industry has changed for the better. Instead of wanting huge scary dudes to break heads, they want a kindler, gentler security presence. My rangering skills from Burning Man are coming in so handy. I don’t even care so much about refusing fake IDs. I’ve already politely refused several IDs that were fishy or expired. One guy felt such empathy for me having to deny his entry that he gave me a hug before he left.
But fair warning to the uninformed:
If I see you harassing a woman or trying to take advantage of someone who is too drunk, you’re gone. If I hear any homophobic slurs or gay-bashing, you’re gone. If I hear any racist hate-speech, you’re gone. You will be dragged out of the establishment and the police will be called for trespassing, disturbing the peace, harassment, or hate-speech. Not on my watch. The line has been drawn. That bullshit stops here.
Any venue that I’m working at is going to stay safe for everybody. I’ve already called for ambulances and police in just a few weeks on the job. I can kick you out for any number of reasons. And I will. So to all my queer friends, come out and have fun. Celebrate. Be heard. Be strong. Don’t hide. Unity is all the more important now. Nothing makes me happier than seeing 600 people dancing, flirting, drinking, and kissing in a safe space where acceptance and happiness is paramount. In some cases these dance nights are likely the ONLY place where people can feel this safe and open to be themselves. In the upcoming political landscape where our president-elect is condoning and encouraging sexism, intolerance, racism, and homophobia, this is all the more important. It’s gonna get worse before it gets better. I’ve got at least four more years of fight in me.
I can sign up for particular events and venues that I am drawn to. So I’m purposely signing up for lots of events at queer clubs, or music venues that support and book queer events. Doug Fir has a drag queen brunch every week. Bossanova has huge dance parties several nights of the week. I’ve already worked a Blowpony event and a Bearaccuda event there. Apparently when Euphoria stopped booking queer events, Bossanova took over and is now welcoming the queer community. Tryst and Stag are strictly gay clubs. So I’ll be carding a lot of drag queens. I worked one event where I was the only white person there for hours. That is an experience that I highly recommend to any of my white friends. It’s humbling and eye-opening. I know that my working security at these events isn’t going to change the world, but it’s important to maintain a safe place for people in our community. The more islands of safety and sanity in Portland, the better.
And I’m not posting this for ‘likes’ or for kudos from anybody. If you like what I have said here, awesome. If you don’t, feel free to unfollow me and unfriend me. I don’t have time for bigotry.
I’ve always been drawn to helping people. And I’m still doing that, just more directly now. I’m here to help. And I’m watching out for all of you.
Hoping for peace, love and understanding.
Love always wins.