Photo by Bill Spencer

ProudTimes Welcomes the New Monarchy

An Interview with Empress JenuWine Surreal Beauté & Emperor Chance de Valmont

by Jewell Harrington, III
ProudTimes CEO & (Unofficial) Rose Court Correspondent

The Imperial Sovereign Rose Court is Oregon’s oldest LGBTQ Organization, and second only to San Francisco’s Imperial Court System. On October 19th, came a very special time in Portland at The Melody Event Center, the crowning of Portland’s own Emperor and Empress. ProudTimes CEO and (Unofficial) Rose Court Correspondent, Jewell Harrington III sat down with Empress JenuWine Beauté, and Emperor Chance de Valmont for a personal interview to meet the newly crowned monarchs.

Proud Times: Congratulations to you both! Was this a pretty exciting ride for each of you? 

JenuWine Beauté: This was indeed a very exciting journey.

Chance de Valmont: Yes, very exciting indeed.

PT: How long have you been wanting to be crowned Emperor & Empress? When did you first say, “Someday, that’s for me!”

JWB: I’ve always admired and love Portland’s Rose Court. I often wondered if I would ever be one. Then one day I moved here and joined the organization. Six years ago, was when I realized that someday it could be me. 

CdeV: When I was a teenager titleholder with Portland’s Youth Court, I was introduced to the Rose Court. Ever since then I knew I would someday step up to become a Monarch of Portland.

PT: Can you tell us a little bit about your court names, your inspiration, etc.?

JWB: Well my name is JenuWine Surreal Beauté. I created the name JenuWine to reflect my persona in and out of drag. Surreal is a family name that comes from Mark & Rob Surreal, my Papas, who reside in the Tri-Cities of Washington. Beauté is my last name and comes from a queen who called me that one night and my friends adopted it and started using it for me. My Inspiration as a Rose Empress began with Rose Empress XLIV, Poison Waters. She showed me that you can have fun, stay classy, and support your community all by staying true to yourself. 

CdeV:  My stage name, Dr. Chance de Valmont has evolved over the years. Originally I went by Chance because it was my mother’s nickname for me. de Valmont is the last name of the male lead from the French novel Les Liaisons dangereuses. The Doctor title was given to me by the late DJ Scooter from The Escape Nightclub. A Disco-Pharmacologist If you will. 

PT: When did you each decide you would run for this year’s title? 

JWB: I made a personal change in March/April and began my process. It wasn’t until about June/July when I truly was onboard and committed to running. 

CdeV: After a successful step down as Imperial Prince Royal in 2017, I knew this was my time.

PT: What inspired you to run for your titles, and how long had you been considering it? 

JWB: I have been inspired by numerous Rose Monarchs who have paved the way in Portland for our community to be who they are. I have been considering running for five years now. 

CdeV: This community is what inspires me, without it there would be no reason to run. I am inspired by our College of Monarchs that came before us. They created the oldest LGBTQ+ organization in Oregon and since then we have helped to create and fund many services and organizations that this community holds dear.

PT: Chance, I noticed you were running uncontested. How did this have an effect on your campaigning for the title of Emperor? Did you find that you could relax more, or did you have to step up your game?

CdeV: I wanted to run my campaign as if there was competition. The community expects and more importantly deserves it. This was a way for me to give a preview as to what is to come this year. Having run before, I knew what is expected and why it is important to get out and engage the community you will be serving. 

PT: JenuWine Beauté, who were the other contestants to the throne, and did you find it particularly challenging to run against them?

JWB: There was one other candidate for the position. Her name is Shima B. Valentine. Whenever one competes for a competition it is always tough. This campaign is unlike many people have ever experienced. You put a ton of heart, soul, money, and determination into showing your community that they should elect you to represent. Shima was quite the competitor and definitely brought a strong campaign to the competition. The most challenging aspect is the fact of not knowing how you are doing or which way the votes will go. It really makes you anxious to know the results. 

PT: How long have you been involved with the Rose Court and/or participating in other pageants? What titles have you each held previously, and from where? 

JWB: My involvement with the Rose Court has been 6 years, however I have been involved in the International Court System for 20 years. I have held a few titles here and there. LaFemme Magnifique Tacoma 2001-2002, Miss Gay Tacoma 2002-2003, Empress XXV of Tacoma, LaFemme Magnifique Olympia, Miss Gay Oregon XLV, and now Rose Empress LXI. 

CdeV: This year marks 20 years of involvement with the Imperial Court System.  In 2001 I was crowned Thorn XXV of Portland, in 2005 I ran and won the title of Mr. Gay Portland XXX and in 2016 I was appointed Imperial Prince Royale XLII. I am the third person to elevate to the position of Rose Emperor from the Portland Youth Court. His Most Imperial Majesty, Rose Emperor XLIII, The Nobility of the Rose, Dr. Chance de Valmont.

PT:  Are either of you affiliated with any other LGBTQ organizations, and if so, what will holding the Emperor and Empress titles bring to these other organizations?  

JWB: I personally have participated in a few other organizations by attending their events and helping their organization. Some of those include but not limited to are as follows; Oregon Reign Football, Rose City Bowling League, HIV Day Center, and more. Reigning as Rose Empress LXI allows me the position in our community to help make a difference to those organizations on a broader scale. Leading the ISRC with my Rose Emperor, we are able to ask our constituents to volunteer/donate to this other organizations to truly unite all aspects of our diverse community. 

CdeV: My partner Ty VanHelsing and I head the world’s oldest LGBTQ+ Youth Court. It is my intention to bring more exposure to this amazing group of youth leaders by inclusion and community presents.

PT: I know reaching out, activism, giving back to the community is important to both of you–& important for those running. Did you establish a platform together? Or did you come up with individual ideas then meld the two together? 

JWB: We came up with our own platforms separately. We each have a passion to support our local queer businesses. We both worked on our own platforms and then after we were crowned, have been working together as a team to achieve our goals. 

CdeV: After sitting down with one another and many conversations it is clear that my Empress and I have the drive for community, inclusion and charity. It’s just the right thing to do.

PT: I know that traveling and taking time off of work has an effect on your jobs, so how do you work around that type of situation?

JWB: Luckily for me, traveling is my job. I’m a flight attendant for a living. The tricky part about that is I’m constantly traveling for work. This makes it a tad difficult when wanting to represent in the city during the weekdays, yet when I’m home in Portland, I definitely make sure I do my best to represent wherever I am able. 

CdeV: Recently I made a career move to go back to education. It happens to mesh very well with the obligations of this position. Weekends and holidays off. I am able to travel in the evenings and attend local events. Also summers off never hurt anyone. 

PT: Speaking of travel: we saw you went to Hawaii a few weeks ago. What was that like? 

JWB: Indeed we sure did. It was The Imperial Court of Hawaii’s annual Coronation. It was our very first walk together as the reigning Rose Monarchs of Portland. We were instantly greeted with the Aloha spirit from the moment we arrived until the time we left. The Rose Court members present represented Portland so beautéfully that we were awarded Hawaii’s highest honor of the night. The Teddy Award for Best Overall Presentation. An honor we both will cherish and remember. We also created lasting memories with the newest Monarchs of Hawai’i, Emperor Keoki Nalu Nunies and Empress Averianna Jewel Nunies! They are excited about making a journey to our City of Roses for Coronation on October 14th-18th. Hawaii was a great beginning for our reign. 

CdeV: I think my Empress covered this one for both us.

PT: Has it been decided how many other coronations will you be traveling to, and is there a calendar of events that people can check out to see what’s happening in the LGBTQ community? 

JWB: We have a tentative list of Coronations we plan/hope to attend during the year. We also have plans to attend local events here in Portland as well. Your readers may follow along on our Facebook group or they can become a member of our organization for the year on the Rose Court’s membership page. These are just a couple ways for members to follow along. 

CdeV: Yes, we do have quite this list of events here in the States, Canada and Mexico. We will be spreading the message of love, charity and community in more than 20 cities this year. My Empress mentioned our local webpage but also check out the International Court System and the Imperial Court System for more information.

PT: Perhaps, what issues you most wish to focus on over the course of the next year? 

JWB: We’d like to focus on raising funds through partnerships with local queer owned businesses and organizations. 

CdeV:  I will second my empresses statement but also would like to focus on community engagement and youth participation in the organization.

PT: Lastly, is there anything you’d care to add? 

JWB: We want to let everyone know that you may get involved by attending any of our monthly meetings. They take place the first Monday of every month (unless it’s a holiday) at Darcelle XV Showplace 208 NW 3rd Ave at 7pm. Attendance is free. We invite one and all to come check out our organization and see what we are about. We’d also like to thank Proud Times for this amazing opportunity to be featured. It’s very much appreciated. Thank you Portland and we look forward to seeing you out and about in our Beautéful community. 

CdeV: If any of the readers have further questions, comments or want to get involved please check out our website Rose Court. Thank you to Proud Times for this interview and taking this opportunity to get to know about our organization. And remember “For you in Portland a rose grows.”

With any news or information related to the Imperial Sovereign Rose Court please contact our CEO, Jewell Harrington, III at proudtimesmagCEO@gmail.com & he’ll get back to you as soon as possible.

The Bubbles No Longer Tickle My Nose: How Hellen Almost Became Mrs. Quetzalcoatl

By Hellen Back

Ms. Back is a performer, originally from Santa Cruz, who now makes their home in Portland. She has kindly agreed to share recollections from her life, in and out of drag.

Quetzalcoatl. Do you know him? Yes, darlings, I had a few dates with him. So here’s one from the annals of my dating file. Although “anals” may ring truer, but not in the way you think.

Dressy Casual

A number of years ago I decided I wanted to begin dating again and meet a nice guy and get back into a serious, monogamous relationship. Good luck with that one, right? So I put up a profile on one of those so-called dating sites.

There were a number of men who caught my eye, but one stood out as rather special. He was middle-aged, a bit of silver coming through, and very attractive. He had posted a number of photos and I noticed that he was rather nicely dressed in each one. A tuxedo here, a lovely suit there, and very California “dressy casual” in the others.

Why Was He Still Single?

I’ll admit, cars are a weakness of mine, and in some photos he was leaning against VERY expensive cars. He also had shots of him standing in front of his home. A place which resembled the house from the TV show Dynasty, a show I was obsessed with at one time. So much so I dressed up as Alexis Carrington one fateful Halloween. Money means squat to me, but he was handsome and stylish. I wondered though…why was he still single?

After a few emails back and forth we met at a lovely restaurant in Los Gatos which is a charming community of ultra-expensive homes populated by very thin white women who shop incessantly. They occasionally stop briefly for a surgical procedure or to judge someone over martinis with olives, the only thing they can eat in public. Their husbands appear sporadically to announce how much their homes cost and compare portfolios. Because comparing penises would be just futile and sad, unless you live in Boston.

All Tied Up in Silk


My date arrived with a gorgeous bouquet that he had made himself for me. It was a perfect combination of colors and textures, hand wrapped in silk ribbon. He was as handsome as his photos if not more, and a fascinating conversationalist. After picking up the tab for dinner he walked me to my car, kissed me rather passionately, complimented me repeatedly, and drove off in his Rolls convertible. I went home that evening and began packing for my honeymoon. “Most of these clothes will have to go,” I thought to myself. “Well that’s OK. I’ll get a completely new wardrobe very soon!”


A few nights later I invited him up to my place for dinner. He complimented my collection of antiques, my uplighting, my style and even my cat…he had me at the cat! Well, the Rolls helped, you know.

I’m a fabulous cook so I pulled out all the stops. He was impressed, which was what I hoped. He complimented me even more and between bites gave me small, sweet kisses.

“Hmm,” I thought to myself. “I’ll need to get rid of most of these black clothes and focus more on navy and khaki…possibly pastels.

What would my friend Morticia say?

I winced at the very thought, but what I was ready to sacrifice for love. “L’amore, l’amore!” the countess says in 1939’s The Women. Everything was going perfectly.

The Conversation Turned to Travel

We had both traveled the world extensively. We regaled each other with lovely stories of drinks at the top of the Spanish Steps overlooking Rome at Sunset, of people watching from a Parisian cafe. I shared my love for the views across the jungle treetops from high atop a Mayan pyramid.

And that’s when it happened. I was babbling away about the Mayans, their art, culture, religion, etc, when suddenly he turned on me. He just completely snapped, and became VERY aggravated.

“Stop talking this instant! Don’t ever speak of that! Never, EVER,” he yelled at me. I sat there stunned, “What had I said to upset him?” My mind reeled, I couldn’t quite grasp what was going on.

Still angry and shaking, he explained that his travels to places like Machu pichu, Tikal, Easter Island etc. were necessary because these were the chakras of the planet.

“Chakras of the planet,” I may or may not have whispered aloud.

“OK, sure, what the hell I’ll play along. The planet has chakras, fine, whatever,” I don’t think I said aloud.

He said that he would go there to meditate on the chakras…fine, dandy. “Have a fuckin’ ball,” I thought. “When we’re married he could go and meditate his ass off. I’ll be back at the hotel poolside making eyes at the cabana boy, telling him how my husband is always off meditating on chakras and how alone I am…and could I have just one more vodka stinger please?”


As if his chakra world tour wasn’t weird enough things were about to get a whole lot weirder; weirder on a scale I’d never imagine coming from a man with a Rolls and a tuxedo. It turns out that he did his chakra-hopping because the only thing holding our entire planet together was his meditating at these sacred locations.

And why may you ask, what was it that made him so special as to be the one that holds our third rock from the sun together? Well that’s simple, really, once he explained. It’s because he was the reincarnation of Quetzalcoatl the Aztec deity. I included a wiki link in case you missed that in Comparative Religions 101. Quetzalcoatl, the feathered serpent…well, well, well, well, WELL SHIT!

My Feathered Friend

“He’s crazy as a shithouse rat,” I thought, seeing how deranged yet sincere he was. There was no reason to give up on an “us.” I could deal with his little…quirk. I mean, some people are superstitious, so they avoid the number 13 or wearing hats indoors. If they are religious–some people are snake handlers for Jesus. Some people, namely this one believed they are a reincarnated Mesoamerican snake-diety; with plumes.

So, yeah sure. That’s what it was: “a quirk.” Nobody’s perfect. I could deal with that, “So, he thinks he’s a deity,” I imagined myself telling the well-heeled women of Los Gatos in between boutiques and over martinis. “Well shit, most guys think they’re God, I could put up with this. I mean, what the hell?”

I decided to find it charming. I pressed on and, being fairly well-schooled in pagan religions and being pagan myself, I began chatting away about something or other regarding my new feathered-friend Quetzalcoatl and BAM! He lost it again “Stop it! STOP IT! STOP IT,” he screamed at me. “Stop or I’ll start losing blood again!”

Wait, loose blood?”

This was definitely getting weirder when I really hadn’t thought that possible. “Yes,” he continued. “Lose blood! If I talk about my being Quetzalcoatl my stigmata acts up!”

Well, fuck! I’ve had my share of interesting dinner dates and guests but this one had stigmata! A raging looney this one!

“Excuse me dear,” I asked. “Did you say stigmata?”
“YES, STIGMATA,” he screamed out much to the amusement and perhaps confusion of my neighbors.

“Well,” I quipped realizing that he was mad as a fucking hatter and that my dreams of the two of us driving off into the sunset in his lovely Cornish convertible had just flown out my window on the wings of a feathered serpent. But not just any ol’feathered serpent, Quetzalcoatl at that!

“That’s ok dear. Don’t worry these are tile floors.”

“Don’t laugh at me,” he screeched out, and I half-expected him to start sprouting feathers and/or bleeding.

“The last time this happened I lost six pints of blood!”

Hmm, really I thought to myself, don’t we only have about six pints in us? I was curious now, having been raised in the Church of Rome and regaled as a child with stories of Padre Pio and other saints or mystics who–being so lofty and above us all–had lived with such Catholic piety and were so very close to God that He bestowed upon them the gift of spontaneous bleeding and…excruciating pain. Catholics, gotta love’m, they think that shit’s a gift.

“So you mean you have actual stigmata where you bleed from the five wounds of Christ? Both hands, feet and the side of your ribcage where the Roman soldiers spear slashed Jesus as–err, you um, as He–hung from the cross?”

 He paused, I can only assume for dramatic effect.

A Very Different Kind of Stigmata

“No, from my anus,” he screamed, as if he were shocked I needed clarification.

I had nothing to say, although I did wonder if my neighbors were still listening in to this or if they lost interest after thinking it was just a regular, run-of-the-mill, garden-variety stigmata at my table. I just looked at him blankly.

“You don’t believe me,” he fumed. “You’re mocking me, you think I’m making this all up don’t you?”

That’s when I put the nail in the coffin of my hopes and dreams of my handsome, though “quirky” husband to be. Back to Neiman’s went my new WASP-apropos wardrobe. Our “his-and-his” matching Rolls never to leave the lot. And, no hopes of martinis with the Los Gatos chatelaines who couldn’t laugh lest they popped a stitch.

“Ya’know,” I offered. “That just doesn’t sound like a good old-fashioned traditional Church of Rome stigmata to me. Are you sure that was stigmata and maybe you just didn’t get your crazy, lunatic ass fucked off somewhere?”

My Rolls, His Rolls, Rolled Away

Well, that did it. He stomped off furiously, all-the-while screaming obscenities. Which I personally feel seemed quite out of character and unbecoming for a deity. My Quetzalcoatl jumped into his coco brown Rolls, the very one that would have looked absolutely lovely parked next to my matching Rolls in fawn gold. I sighed to myself, as he burnt rubber outta there while giving me the finger. For a deity he really could be quite vulgar, tuxedo or not.

Since that evening I’ve gone on a number of dates, none of them quite as interesting to be sure, but all of them just as disappointing. Oh well, such is the single and dating world, right? I mean who amongst us hasn’t dated the occasional deity? Not you? Surely you jest.

Anyway, that’s the true story of how I almost became Mrs. Quetzalcoatl…I thought the name had kind of had a nice ring to it, but then again I guess it would have eventually gotten tiring having to spell and respell that name over and over every time I made dinner reservations. I doubt eating Mexican out again would have ever been possible.

“Yes, Q-U-E-T-Z…yes, that’s it. Oh, and by the way, could we have some extra napkins please. Yes, lots of extra napkins, just in case of the occasional stigmata.”

An Evening with David Sedaris at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall

Are you a fan of the wonderful, witty Mr. Sedaris? Well, faster than you can dress your family in corduroy and denim, quicker than you can explore diabetes with owls check out ticket availability for his one-night only appearance at the Schnitzer! The fun begins at 7:30PM, this Friday, November 8th.

From the Portland’5 Press Release

NPR humorist and bestselling author of CalypsoNakedDress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim and Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls, David Sedaris has become one of America’s pre-eminent humor writers, known for his sardonic wit and incisive social critiques. The great skill with which he slices through cultural euphemisms and political correctness proves that Sedaris is a master of satire and one of the most observant writers addressing the human condition today.

Calypso, his latest collection of essays, is a New York Times best-seller, and a Washington PostBest Book of the Year. The audiobook of Calypso was nominated for a 2019 Grammy in the Best Spoken Word Album category.

David Sedaris is the author of Barrel Fever and Holidays on Ice, as well as collections of personal essays, NakedMe Talk Pretty One DayDress Your Family in Corduroy and DenimWhen You Are Engulfed in FlamesLet’s Explore Diabetes with Owls, and Calypso, each of which became an immediate bestseller. The audio version of Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls is a 56th Annual GRAMMY Awards Nominee for Best Spoken Word Album. He is the author of the New York Times-bestselling collection of fables entitled Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modest Bestiary (with illustrations by Ian Falconer). He was also the editor of Children Playing Before a Statue of Hercules: An Anthology of Outstanding Stories.

“Sedaris ain’t the preeminent humorist of his generation by accident.”– Whitney Pastorek, Entertainment Weekly

You can follow David on Facebook at www.facebook.com/davidsedaris.

Portland Veteran with PTSD Given 15 Days in Jail for Assaulting Two Gay Men

By Sebastian Fortino, ProudTimes Editor-in-Chief

Last month, two gay friends were verbally and physically assaulted in Downtown Portland. Don Kirchhoff, who has been described by his attorney as being a former veteran who suffers from PTSD. The friends in question were sitting outside of a bakery, presumably just minding their own business, just radicalizing the gay agenda by having a coffee and a pastry.*

*If they had coffee it is unconfirmed; if they had pastry, we don’t know what kind.

Today it appears Kirchhoff was convicted of his crime but given what many locals may call a lenient sentence: 15 days, but…there is more to this story.

According to LGBTNation:

One of the victims is black and the other is white, and Kirchoff allegedly shouted homophobic slurs at them and used a racist slur for the black man.


Kirchhoff then attacked, pushing the white man against a brick wall. The victim had lacerations on his head and abrasions on his neck and back.
The men tried to walk away, but Kirchhoff went after them, pulling on their clothes. One of the men turned around and punched him and they left.


His defense attorney said that he was “severely intoxicated” and doesn’t remember the attack. She argued that Kirchoff is a veteran who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and uses alcohol to self-medicate.
“That’s not a good solution for him, and he knows that,” the attorney told the court, asking for leniency.


Kirchhoff pled no contest to one count of bias crime in the first degree, a felony. He was sentenced to 15 days in jail and three years of probation. He also has to stay away from Lovejoy Bakers and the victims.


This past Friday, he pled guilty to felony strangulation in a separate case – he was accused of strangling his girlfriend. She survived the attack, and he was sentenced to 30 days in jail and three years probation in that case.
Since he has already served a month and a half while awaiting his court dates, he has already served his time. The judge said that he will have to stay in jail until Monday.


As part of his probation he will have to wear a device on his wrist that will alert authorities if he consumes alcohol.


“Actions speak louder than words,” he told the judge. “I know I have a lot to prove to other folks besides the court, that’s my goal. To move toward a cleaner path.”

It is the first time that Oregon’s new hate crimes law has been used in the county since it went into effect this past July, according to prosecutors. The new law increased some bias crimes to felonies and added gender identity to the list of protected classes in the state.

H/T: LGBTQnation.com

What do our readers think? Is this a case of the new hate crimes law being used effectively? Is this a case of someone with mental illness getting away with too much? Let us know. Please send a message to proudtimesmag@gmail.com and we’ll be sure to include it in a follow-up piece we plan to write.

Autumnal Greetings from Pride Northwest

A Message from Executive Director Debra Porta

Hello! Welcome to the new Pride Northwest newsletter! Each month, we will bring you important news and updates, exclusive promotions, and opportunities to Make Pride Happen!

At Pride Northwest, we strive every day to bring visibility to, and celebrate, the accomplishments and talents of Oregon and SW Washington’s LGBTQ+ community. In addition, we educate all people about those things, and ensure that the LGBTQ+ community’s voice is included and heard.  As a 501(c)3 organization, we take seriously our commitment to honoring and lifting up that voice.

A year-round planning process, Pride Northwest staff is already hard at work on the 2020 Portland Pride Waterfront Festival and Parade. In 2019, we celebrated Stonewall as well as Pride Northwest’s 25th birthday. In 2020, we will celebrate the 50th anniversary of Pride itself! We look forward to spotlighting important milestones in our history, as well as the LGBTQ+ heroes who have paved the way for where we are today.

Portland Pride is a nationally recognized celebration, attended by approximately 60,000 people, and draws thousands of visitors from across the country. As the Portland Pride Waterfront Festival and Parade grows, we continuously look for opportunities to broaden and improve the Pride experience for attendees and participants. Look for updates in the coming months as well as opportunities for you to engage and support!

We have a few staffing changes this year.  Due to a promotion in his professional career, Max West has left his role here at Pride Northwest. Max has been instrumental in helping to streamline registration processes for the festival and parade, work that we will continue to build upon. Although he will be missed, we are super excited for Max and the opportunities ahead for him, in his chosen field!

We also said goodbye to Angela Ogren this year. Angela has been part of the Pride Northwest family for twelve years, serving as a volunteer, a board member and, most recently, as Volunteer Coordinator. Like Max, Angela is pursuing opportunities in their chosen career, working with at-risk youth. We wish Angela well and will miss them!

Kari Anne Horton joined the Pride Northwest family this year and will be taking on the role of primary contact, for festival exhibitors and parade registrants. Kari Anne brings with her a breadth of knowledge in program planning and communications. Community is important to Kari Anne and she hopes her work at Pride Northwest will help other queer folks feel accepted and welcome!

Thank you for your continued support – Happy Fall!
Debra Porta

Pride Journey: Columbus, Ohio

By Joey Amato

This was my fourth visit to Columbus, Ohio and every time I visit, I discover something new. What a lot of people don’t realize about this thriving mid-west city is that its LGBTQ community is one of the largest in the United States and growing every day.


Just a short stroll down High Street and you’ll run in to Union and Axis, two of the city’s many gay nightlife venues. On previous visits, there used to be a few more gay bars located on High Street, but they have since closed and others have sprouted up throughout the city.

Within minutes of arriving, I got a chance to visit Stonewall Columbus, their LGBTQ community center, located in the Short North neighborhood. The building, which recently went through a major renovation, offers a number of health and wellness services in addition to hosting numerous events throughout the year. Stonewall also houses an art gallery dedicated to local LGBTQ artists.

Never one to shy away from the camera, Joey Amato in Columbus.

Art enthusiasts will love the Columbus Museum of Art’s upcoming exhibition Art After Stonewall which opens in March 2020. The exhibition, which previously visited Miami and New York was actually curated by the Columbus Museum of Art. The entire process of curating an exhibition of this size, which includes about 250 works of art by LGBTQ artists, took around 7 years to complete. The collection includes a combination of well-known artists as well as some lesser known names.

The Columbus Museum of Art.

After exploring the museum, head to North Market for lunch. Dozens of food vendors are located under one roof which features a culinary explosion for the senses including foods from Somalia, Greece, India among others. Also located in North Market is Jeni’s Ice Cream, a homegrown shop which now has locations in other cities around the country. Try the Brown Butter Almond Brittle, it’s to die for!

A few doors down is Le Meridien Columbus, The Joseph. Developed by The Pizzuti Companies, the boutique hotel boasts a vast art collection of works acquired by Ron Pizzuti, one of the largest collectors of fine art in the world. Pizzuti’s collection is so extensive that he had to open a building to house it all. Guests of The Joseph get to explore The Pizzuti Collection free of charge. The property is also located in the Short North neighborhood, so it’s a great place to stay if you want to partake in LGBTQ nightlife.

For dinner, check out a gay-owned restaurant in German Village called Barcelona. The tapas-style restaurant offers a large indoor dining room as well as a lovely patio that makes you feel as if you are in Spain. I tried a variety of tapas in addition to a delicious charcuterie board which nicely completed the white sangria. Barcelona also offers four types of paella to choose from including a vegetarian option.

A few blocks away from the restaurant are some of the city’s neighborhood gay bars including Club DiversityBoscoe’s and Tremont Lounge. Club Diversity is located in a converted house and really does welcome the most diverse crowd I have seen at a gay bar in recent memory. The establishment makes everyone feel comfortable regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Boscoe’s is also quite unique. On the evening I visited, the bar had a drag show and male strippers alternating performances throughout the night. The concept was actually a great idea, however I felt like the crowd was more excited about the queens. Other Columbus gay bars worth noting include AwolSouthbend Tavern, and Cavan Irish Pub. The city also boasts many retail establishments dedicated to the LGBTQ community.

Columbus Pride is one of the largest pride festivals in the country, drawing over 800,000 revelers every year and according to local sources, their pride parade is larger than Chicago’s. Not a bad accomplishment for a city much smaller than Chi-Town. Plan on attending the next festival which is scheduled for June 19-21, 2020.

History buffs will love the newly opened National Veterans Memorial and Museum. It is the only museum in the country that honors all Veterans – from all branches of service, and from all eras of our nation’s history of military service from the Revolutionary War to present. I was moved to tears watching videos of veterans telling their stories about the trials of war and the pressure it puts on their families. It really is an emotional experience that I wasn’t ready for to be honest. I have been to many museums of this nature, but for some reason, this one struck a chord.

Veterans Memorial and Museum, Columbus, Ohio.

End your day with a meal at The Guild House, a restaurant developed by local celebrity chef and restauranteur Cameron Mitchell. When you enter the restaurant, you are greeted by warm notes of color with a modern twist. I almost felt as if I was dining at a culinary version of West Elm. For starters try the Tuna Ribbons and Steak Tartare. Both presentations are elegant and artful, just like the restaurant itself. My favorite entrée on the menu was the Sea Bass served in a lobster broth accompanied by carrots, leeks, radish and chili oil. Finish off your meal with the Carrot Cake and savour Chef Mitchell’s twist on the traditional favorite.

An interesting fact about the city is that it is home to the 3rd largest number of fashion designers in the United States, behind New York and Los Angeles, due to the fact that L Brands is headquartered in Columbus. Local businessman Les Wexner founded the company in 1963 and has grown the fashion empire to include brands like Victoria’s Secret, Express, The Limited, Abercrombie & Fitch and Bath & Body Works. Although some of the brands have been spun off or sold, they have all called Columbus home. And where there are fashion designers, there are also models. Lot and lots of models. The eye candy is one of the city’s strong points.

If you are looking for an easy, affordable and fun city to visit, check out Columbus. You may be surprised at what this city has to offer, and you may keep coming back to experience its warmth and hospitality.

Enjoy the Journey!

Joey Amato is the publisher of Pride Journeys, a website dedicated to LGBTQ travel. Joey has spent over a decade in LGBTQ media and public relations and currently resides in Indianapolis, Indiana. He can be reached at joey@pridejourneys.com 

Madama Butterfly Opens 2019/2020 Portland Opera Season

Portland Opera Opens 55th Season with Puccini’s Madama Butterfly Japanese soprano Hiromi Omura makes her U.S. debut as Cio-Cio-San 

Portland, OR (September 26, 2019) – Portland Opera will mark the start of the 2019/20 season with Giacomo Puccini’s powerful drama Madama Butterfly. This production will feature the U.S. debut of acclaimed soprano Hiromi Omura as the title character, a role she has sung with Opera Australia at the Sydney Opera House, the Latvian National Opera, Deutsche Oper Berlin, and The New National Theatre Tokyo. This piece tells the story of a young wife and mother named Cio-Cio-San, in Nagasaki, Japan, who waits for the return of her beloved B.F. Pinkerton, a lieutenant in the United States Navy. Written in 1903, and last seen on the Portland Opera stage in 2012, Puccini’s stunning and emotional work continues to be one of the most popular operas performed in the United States. Portland Opera will present four performances of Madama Butterfly on October 25, 27, 31, and November 2 at the Keller Auditorium in downtown Portland. 

Portland Opera’s esteemed music director, George Manahan, will conduct Puccini’s intimate and heart-wrenching score, which features Cio-Cio-San’s famous aria “Un bel dì vedremo,” and the ethereal Humming Chorus. E. Loren Meeker, who was last seen at Portland Opera as the Assistant Director of Puccini’s La Bohème in 2009, returns to direct this production. Momo Suzuki and Kevin Suzuki make their Portland Opera debuts as Japanese Movement & Cultural Advisors for the piece. 

Tenor Luis Chapa will make his Portland Opera debut as Pinkerton, a role he sang at the Metropolitan Opera in the 2017/18 season. Suzuki will be sung by mezzo-soprano Nina Yoshida, who also makes her company debut. She has previously sung the role at the Manitoba Opera, Atlanta Opera, and Utah Opera. Baritone Troy Cook joins the company for the first time. He will sing the role of Sharpless, a role he has previously sung with the Washington National Opera, Utah Opera, and Central City Opera. Baritone André Chiang, a former Portland Opera Resident Artist, returns to the company as Prince Yamadori and The Imperial Commissioner. Bass Peixin Chen makes his Portland Opera debut as the Bonze, after making his Metropolitan Opera debut last season as Sarastro in Mozart’s The Magic Flute. Washington native tenor Karl Marx Reyes will make his company debut as the marriage broker, Goro. Current Portland Opera Resident Artist mezzo-soprano Camille Sherman sings the role of Kate Pinkerton. Lighting is designed by Mark McCullough. Performances will also feature the talented local and regional musicians who make up Portland Opera’s orchestra and chorus. 

“An idealistic, Japanese girl in the early 1900s falls for a brash, entitled American soldier whose actions turn her love into a story ending in exploitation, betrayal, and abandonment,” says stage director E. Loren Meeker. “Puccini’s masterpiece Madama Butterfly forces American audiences to consider our history, culture, and the unknown victims of our past foreign policy. Our goal within a traditional setting is to honor Japanese culture through insightful storytelling and modern characterization. This creates an environment where we can examine the harsh realities of our past in an effort to learn from our mistakes at global, national, and personal levels.” 

As work begins onstage with this production of Madama Butterfly, Portland Opera seeks to enhance community dialogue and context surrounding this piece. On Sunday, October 13, audiences are invited to a free preview event at the Multnomah County Public Library, featuring performances by Portland Opera artists and commentary by Nicholas Fox, chorus master and assistant conductor. On Thursday, October 24, Portland Opera will welcome special guest speakers Dr. Kunio Hara (Associate Professor of Music History at the University of South Carolina) and Dr. Laura Mueller (Portland Japanese Garden) for an evening of insights and conversation titled “Context & Conversation: Puccini, Madama Butterfly, and Honoring Tradition.” Portland Opera will also present “East & West: A Special Evening of Song” on Tuesday, October 29. This recital, featuring members of the Madama Butterfly company, will explore influence and musical cross-pollination between the East and the West. More information on these events can be found on page 4. 

Madama Butterfly was made possible by Barran Liebman, LLP and Et Fille Wines. Portland Opera is grateful for the ongoing support of the Meyer Memorial Trust, the James F. and Marion L. Miller Foundation, Oregon Arts Commission, Regional Arts and Culture Council, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Portland Opera is a member of OPERA America. 

Madama Butterfly Tickets and Information 

Performances take place at 7:30PM at the Keller Auditorium with the exception of the matinee on October 27 which begins at 2:00PM. One hour prior to each performance, audience members are invited to a pre-show lecture. 

Madama Butterfly will be sung in Italian with projected English translations. 

Student rush tickets are available for performances of Madama Butterfly. Call 503-241- 1802 Monday through Friday from 10AM–5PM for more information. Portland Opera is proud to also work with the Veteran Tickets Foundation (vettix.org) to share tickets to the performances on October 31 with U.S. Armed Forces personnel, veterans, and their families. In addition, a limited number of free tickets are available through My Discovery Pass, a program created by Multnomah County Library that offers access to local museums and cultural institutions for library card holders. 

A limited number of $5 tickets for Oregon Trail Card holders are available two weeks prior to each performance, subject to availability. These tickets must be purchased via phone by calling 503-241-1802. 

The performance on October 27 at 2pm will include an audio description of the visual and physical events on stage for patrons who are blind or have low vision. For patrons who are deaf or hard of hearing, each performance is visually translated with English text projected above the stage. 

Tickets for Madama Butterfly are now available, starting at $35. For more information, and to purchase tickets visit portlandopera.org or call Patron Services at 503-241-1802. For more information, patrons may also contact the Opera Concierge at concierge@portlandopera.org, Monday through Friday from 10PM–5PM. 

Special Events 

Madama Butterfly Preview: Multnomah County Public Library Sunday, October 13, 2019 | 2pm Central Branch | 801 SW 10th Ave. Free admission. 

A preview event featuring performances by Portland Opera artists and commentary by chorus master & assistant conductor Nicholas Fox. 

Context & Conversation: Puccini, Madama Butterfly, and Honoring Tradition Thursday, October 24, 2019 | 7 PM Hampton Opera Center | 211 SE Caruthers St. Free admission. Reservations are recommended. 503.421.1802 | Concierge@portlandopera.org 

Portland Opera welcomes special guest speakers Dr. Kunio Hara (Associate Professor of Music History at the University of South Carolina) and Dr. Laura Mueller (Portland Japanese Garden) for an evening of insights and conversation, in preparation for the opening of Madama Butterfly. The program will be an hour, followed by a question and discussion session. 

East & West: A Special Evening of Song Tuesday, October 29, 2019 | 7 PM Whitsell Auditorium, Portland Art Museum | 1219 SW Park Ave. Free Admission. Reservations highly recommended. 503.421.1802 | Concierge@portlandopera.org 

Portland Opera invites the community to a unique musical program, featuring guest artists and members of the Madama Butterfly company. The selections will explore influence and musical cross-pollination between the East and the West. The evening will include an aria from An American Dream (music by Jack Perla and libretto by Jessica Murphy Moo), a contemporary chamber opera that reflects on the experiences of WWII-era Japanese Americans who were persecuted and imprisoned by the United States government. The performance will feature chorus master & assistant conductor Nicholas Fox as pianist. 

Madama Butterfly Cast & Creative Team 

Cio-Cio-San Hiromi Omura Pinkerton Luis Chapa Suzuki Nina Yoshida Sharpless Troy Cook Goro Karl Marx Reyes Yamadori/Commissioner André Chiang Bonze Peixin Chen Kate Pinkerton Camille Sherman Cio-Cio-San’s Cousin Cristina Marino Cio-Cio-San’s Mother Aimee Chalfant Yakuside, Cio-Cio-San’s Uncle Jim Jeppesen Cio-Cio-San’s Aunt Kate Strohecker Official Registrar Bryan Ross Sorrow, Cio-Cio-San’s Child TBA 

Conductor George Manahan Director E. Loren Meeker 

Lighting Designer Mark McCullough Set and Costume Designer Lloyd Evans Japanese Movement & Cultural Advisors Momo Suzuki & Kevin Suzuki Chorus Master & Assistant Conductor Nicholas Fox Assistant Director Conor Hanratty 

About Portland Opera 

Portland Opera exists to inspire, challenge, and uplift our audiences by creating productions of high artistic quality that celebrate the beauty and breadth of opera. 

Since 1964, Portland Opera has contributed to the cultural, artistic, and economic landscape of the city and region that we love. We celebrate the beauty and breadth of the opera repertoire with performances that take place in the Keller Auditorium, Newmark Theatre, and the Gregory K. and Mary Chomenko Hinckley Studio Theatre at the Hampton 

Opera Center. The company is also a committed educational partner, touring fully staged operas to schools and community centers throughout Oregon and SW Washington region each year, in addition to a host of other efforts designed to make opera accessible for all. 

The Bubbles No Longer Tickle My Nose: Gay Memories

When Alexis Carrington Met Baby Jane, Her Sister Blanche, and GI Joe on Halloween

By Hellen Back

Ms. Back is a performer, originally from Santa Cruz, who now makes their home in Portland. She has kindly agreed to share recollections from her life, in and out of drag.

Dried leaves rustled across the streets and sidewalks as the sky glowed in rich amber hues like a Maxfield Parrish sky began to sparkle with stars illuminating the twilight. Costumed children dart from porch to porch chiming “trick or treat” in unison, their plastic pumpkins held outstretched, eager for candy treats.

A ghost here, a witch there and I was Kharis, the mummy! High priest to the princess Ananka. Swathed in shredded linen bandages I held one arm outstretched, dragging one leg in my very best Boris Karloff impersonation that I could muster as an earnest eight-year-old…but that was long ago. Travel with me some twenty odd years later and those sweet Halloween memories now lay in the distant past. 

Nope, no Maxfield Parrish sky this time, no Norman Rockwell Halloween magazine cover here.

There I was, my evening gown pulled up around my neck, in a dark little shed as my neighbors teenage son banged away at me so hard I swore that any minute he’d either strike oil or the damn shed would rattle apart. But I’ve gotten ahead of myself. It was once again Halloween, or “The Bitches Christmas” as we always called it. Months had gone into preparation for my costume, every detail was perfection…I was every inch Alexis Carrington Colby! 

Dynasty was the hit of the year and I was prepared! Though I was a good foot or two taller than Joan Collins, I felt it only added stature to my characterization. I was in a word…flawless! The evening was a huge success, cocktails, cocktails, and more cocktails. The party was up at the old Pogonip Lodge in Santa Cruz, used as the house in the movie Lost Boys which had just been filmed in town. 

The party was loud and wild. Everywhere were fabulous costumes, hot guys, and great dance music. It was the 80’s and drugs were plentiful. Clouds of dope hung lazily in the air and if there was a flat surface somebody was laying a line of coke out on it! But, Cole Porter said it best, didn’t he? 

“Some get a kick from cocaine,

I’m sure that if,

I took even one sniff,

It would bore me terrifically, too,

Yet, I get a kick out of you.”

Now, being a bit high-strung bitch I was never one for cocaine. I really didn’t care for it…I never turned it down, but I really didn’t care that much for it. But what the hell, ‘tis the season! I guess. 

At one point, while dancing madly and having long since dropped my sophisticated Joan Collins persona, I lapsed into something closer to a drunken, drugged-up Tallulah Bankhead. I spied across the dancefloor Jesus and the Apostles! And it wasn’t the drugs, there really was a group of 13 fabulous men in biblical garb all perfectly done! 

Opposite them, heading in their direction, were two drag queens done up as Bette Davis and Joan Crawford in their roles of Baby Jane Hudson and her sister Blanche Hudson. Jane was pushing the wheelchair and “Blanche” was wringing her hands and giving it her Joan Crawford all! 

Well fucking Hell, what a convergence of characters! I immediately sprung into action. Racing to the center of the dancefloor I grabbed Blanch/Joan by the wrists and hauled her heavy carcass out of the wheelchair while calling on “Jesus” to “Heal this woman! Make her walk again! We need a miracle!”

Oh, it was perfect! What a scene, though I did begin to notice through my drunken haze that Joan/Blanche was putting up quite the struggle as I hauled her out of the wheelchair. Not only that, her companion Jane seemed to be overreacting just a bit to the whole situation and was flailing and gesticulating madly at me. But why? 

That’s when it happened, Joan/Blanche hit the floor like a sack of potatoes, Jesus freed himself from my clutches and took a few steps back along with the rest of the apostles and the entire dancefloor froze as baby Jane scrambled quickly to her friend’s side and attempted to haul poor Blanche Hudson back into her wheelchair, because, well…it was her wheelchair. It was the wheelchair she lived in and not–as I supposed–a Halloween prop.

Yep, the bitch actually needed the damn thing. She was paralized from the waist down and I had yanked her ass right out of her wheelchair and tossed her on the floor like a rag doll. (Unless of course, she was a student of method acting.) I now stood over her thinking, “What would Alexis do?” 

I adjusted my flawless wig and the fabulous gown. I looked around the room of horrified faces and said, “Well, so much for miracles,” and made a hasty exit through the crowd before they could turn into an angry mob. Heading home, gunning my enormous convertable Cadillac, I roared around curves squeaking my tires, cursing that damn bitch for rolling around in her fucking wheelchair and ruining my evening!

I mean, who the hell did she think she was? 

I slid into my gravel driveway a bit drunker than I should have been, when behind a wheel. But, fortunately no Hudson sister, Blanche or otherwise, met me at the gate. Hell, let’s face it, i was so high I shouldn’t even have been allowed to walk home let alone drive! But I made it…I was home and just about to put the entire debacle behind me when I heard a voice in the darkness cry, “Happy Halloween.” I turned and could see a vague shape in the darkness. 

“Happy Halloween” I answered. 

“Who are you supposed to be,” he asked insolently. 

Smartass, i thought. And so responded: “I’m Alexis Carrington Colby, who the fuck are you?” 

“I’m GI Joe,” he said as he stepped out into the porchlight. 

Dear gods, it was Bobby, my neighbor’s hot, teenage, surfer son. He was wearing a full army uniform and looked amazing! I’d spent the past couple years watching his daily routine of stripping out of his wetsuit behind their home when he returned from surfing. He’d peel out of his wetsuit like a banana and then slowly hose himself off. Sometimes his brother would join him.

They had a little shed behind their parents house where they hung out, drank beer, smoked weed and hosed off the sand and saltwater from their nubile, strong, young bodies. it was a daily routine that was not lost on me. The memories still are not lost. 

“Wanna smoke a joint?” he offered. 

Yep, that’s all it took and that’s how I found myself moments later drunk, high and dressed like a seven foot tall Amazonian Joan Collins, getting my brains banged out by the neighbor’s son. No, this was not the Halloween of my childhood memories, though I’m sure that if I had craned my neck as I bent over his surfboard I might have caught just a peek of a lovely Maxfield Parrish sky through the shed door. 

And if my head hadn’t been pushed into the wall, and listened very carefully I might have once more heard the soft rustle of fall leaves as they skittered across the pavement. And though that part of my Halloween experience somehow managed to slip past me, all in all it wasn’t a bad night. Not a bad night at all, and though we came up a bit short on miracles, I still got my trick or treat.

The Colors of Converse

By Kenyth Mogan, ProudTimes’ LA Correspondent

Converse once again releases Pride Collection for 2019, to celebrate the LGBT Community.

I was born proud.

Most of my family had figured out I was gay by the time I was three. It wasn’t something that was talked about, nor was it something I was taught to be ashamed of – or hide. I was free to live my life exactly how I wanted. This included Hello Kitty tee shirts and hot pink converse with electric blue laces. I was a walking, one man, gay pride parade living in a tiny little town in northeastern Montana.  

I was lucky. There were a lot of men and women who had to fight like hell to put me, and others, in a spot where we didn’t have to be afraid of how we were born. While there’s still a LONG way to go, the strides we’ve made have been monumental.

This year is the fiftieth anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. For anyone who doesn’t know, it was a turning point in gay history. Marsha P. Johnson, a beautiful and brave trans woman threw a brick, and collectively, as a community, we stood up to say “enough!”

To learn more about her you can check out a preview of the Netflix documentary on Marsha P. Johnson’s life, here.

To celebrate a half-century of LGBTQ visibility: Converse has released a very special collection that encompasses the community as a whole. A special collection for Pride is a way to show they celebrate diversity and inclusion. In fact, Converse has been doing them for a while. But, they’ve always been ahead of the curve, which is one of the reasons I love the brand so much.

“Converse’s Pride collection was born out of our LGBTQ+ employee network in 2015,” their press release states, “and it has since evolved into an annual celebration.”

It’s easy to slap some rainbow product on a pretty model and call it pride. Whether the model is part of the community or not. Not Converse, and not with this line. The models are as diverse, colorful, and unique as the shoes they’re wearing. They’re also genuine members of the community.  Included in the 2019 campaign you’ll find: Desmond is Amazing, Drag Kid and LGBTQ+ advocate, Kristin Beck, a retired United States Navy SEAL and trans activist, Alexis Sablone, a pro-skateboarder (and CONS Skateboarding teammate) and the artist Felix, a student advocate and nature enthusiast who first connected with Converse through OUT MetroWest, Ayishat Akanbi, UK-based fashion stylist, writer and cultural commentator, and Fran Tirado, a queer podcaster and Deputy Editor of OUT Magazine.


The style makers & LGBTQ+ shakers for the 2019 Converse Pride Line. From left to right: Ayishat Akanbi, Kristin Beck, Alexis Sablone, Desmond, Fran Tirado, & Felix.
Fran Tirado, Deputy Editor of OUT Magazine.
All photos found on Converse.

When companies like Converse, such as Nordstrom, Gap, Doc Martens, not only celebrate Pride Month, but represent it with members of our community, the conversation goes beyond just a pair of shoes. It shows the queer community for who we really are, people. Because of the integrity of Converse as a brand, LGBTQ+ people and allies will spend their dollars wisely…and, queerly.  

The shoes, which retail from $60 – $100 became available on May 6th. They can be found in Converse stores and through their website. In celebration of Converse’s annual PRIDE collection, contributions are supporting longstanding local and global LGBTQ+ partners, including It Gets Better Project, OUT MetroWest, & Fenway Health.

Faye Fearless of Lez Prom: Coming Out & Producing LGBTQ+ Events

ProudTimes connected with Faye Fearless, LGBTQ events planner extraordinaire.

Faye Fearless

ProudTimes: You have been producing a wide spectrum of events from Buffy the Vampire Slayer fandom, trivia nights, to LezProm’s in the queer community. We connected with you through Lez Prom Portland. How did you get your start creating and hosting events?

Faye Fearless: I got my start at the end of 2015. Lez Prom was actually the first event I ever produced. The idea came from the community itself via a post on a popular Austin lesbians Facebook group.

PT: You are involved with the LGBTQ and fandom communities through your events. Also, you produce events for self-empowerment. Do you feel intersection in these communities?

FF: Absolutely. That’s actually the common factor across all my events. Each and every event we produce is designed to be a safe space for self-expression. A place where a lesbian, a superfan, a witch, a cuddle monkey, or a princess can be exactly who they are without feeling inhibited and free from judgement or shame.

These events are about freedom of expression and living as your authentic self, whether that’s a lover of ladies or a super nerd. Each event empowers the individual to be freely themselves, to not hold back. We dance like no one is watching, we sing out loud, we cast spells, and we show our true color, whether green/silver or rainbow toned.   

PT: What are some of the methods that you incorporate into your self-empowerment events?

FF: Each event is a judgement and shame free zone. That includes ensuring everyone feels welcome to wear what they want to prom, to believe in magic, or to express just how hardcore of a fan they are at trivia nights. We all see ourselves in a very specific way and know who we are better than anyone else ever could. One of the best feelings in the world is having someone else truly accept who you are. That validation is what we try to provide at every event.  

PT: Which events do you feel have made the most positive impact on folk’s lives; do you have a specific example?

FF: Lez Prom is definitely an event that leaves a lasting impact. For a lot of folks who attend, it’s about recreating that perfect prom experience, but for others, it’s the sense of belonging and the true community feel that the event creates. It’s the one night a year all the lesbians come out for, and it’s really special to share that night with our sub-community.

Often this slice of the LGBTQ+ community goes overlooked and under represented at larger queer gatherings. It can be overwhelming to be at PRIDE with everyone and yet not feel like there is much common ground. Events specifically for lesbians and non-binary folks are very rare. So, having a place like Lez Prom where we can gather once a year to share our lives and love is exceptionally special.

I’ve had the privilege of hearing about the powerful experience of attendees at the end of each Lez Prom. This is why I do it. It’s powerful to hear people describe the experience of how they felt welcome, accepted, and a sense of belonging. Getting to create this space each year that allows these emotions and experiences to happen has been such an honor.  

PT: We have to know – have you seen love bloom between people who met at LezProm?

FF: Yes! The love is infectious at Lez Prom. You can really see it when the photos come out. Our photographer captures a lot of candid photos, and you can see the pure joy on so many faces. What is really neat about this event is it doesn’t just attract couples.

We have a lot of folks who attend with a group of friends or solo and meet people at the event. We even reserve a special section of tables just for singles to find each other and meet dancing partners. A new love blooming at Lez Prom is definitely a possibility! This event is also inclusive of the non-monogamous/polyamory community. Being a member of that community myself, I like to make sure folks with multiple partners feel free to express their love in this space.

PT: Do you mind sharing your personal journey with coming out and how it’s shaped you as a public figure?

Faye Fearless – 2016 , Austin, TX (First LezProm)

FF: Sure! My coming out was pretty unique in that the first Lez Prom event could be considered my coming out party! Here’s the story. I came to the realization that I was gay just five years ago when I was 25. It was not until 2014 that I actually considered dating women to be an option for myself.

Dating and being with men felt like the default mode and I didn’t question it. It wasn’t until I moved to Austin in 2011 that I considered other options. Shortly after, I met a woman who practiced polyamory – an open style of relationship that allows you to date and form relationships with multiple partners with the knowledge and consent of all involved. I had never heard of this lifestyle before and wanted to learn more.

Eventually, my long-term boyfriend and I decided to give polyamory a try. I went on my first date with a woman shortly before PRIDE in 2014, and it was glorious. In early 2015, I attended several queer women’s events and started to experience what the culture was all about. This was incredibly liberating. As I continued to date women in 2015, I became more and more disconnected from my male partner. Sometime around the summer of 2015 we officially split, although we remain very good friends to this day.

I was fortunate to have found a few lezzy centered events right around the time I was discovering my own sexuality and this had an impact on my career as a producer. If I had not experienced for myself that special kind of energy that comes from an event with 500+ lesbians and non-binary folks in attendance, I might not have thought about creating this kind of event.

I’m so fortunate to have family and friends that accept me. I am forever grateful to the friends I met in Austin who enlightened me by sharing so openly about their lives and loves. Because I was always accepted completely on my journey, I never was pressured to hide any part of my identity. This is something I have learned to be extremely grateful for and to cherish because I know so many others who never received the same acceptance.

I want to recreate that experience of acceptance for folks who attend my events, especially those in the LGBTQ+ community. At least at my events, folks can have that acceptance, validation, and the love they deserve. It’s a small thing I can do, and I know how powerful those feelings are.

Photo from LezProm

PT: What are some of your upcoming projects and is there anything in the pipeline that has you especially excited?

FF: I was thrilled to be able to bring Lez Prom to Portland and Seattle this year after having established the event in Austin. I hope to continue to bring the event to more cities. I have a few ideas in the works but cannot release details quite yet.

PT: What is the vision for your event business and what steps do you take to ensure that your events align?

FF: I hope the business always stays authentic to its original values. Each event is created for the community (LGBTQ+ or fandom) and by someone deeply connected to that community. As Faye Fearless Productions grows, I personally may be less involved with each event individually. But what will never change is that those working the events will be a part of the community. I couldn’t imagine running it any other way.  

PT: As a successful female entrepreneur, what is the best advice you’ve ever received? Today, what advice would give to others following in your footsteps?

FF: The best advice I ever received is “never take it personally.” A business is not about you; it’s about the product you are creating. So, the feedback you receive is about the product and not an attack on the one who made it. This has been particularly prudent advice for LGBTQ+ related events.

It’s hard to predict how individuals will interpret an event, and when I learned in the past that particular groups didn’t feel as welcomed because of representation in marketing materials or the event description, we worked to correct this. But sometimes even when working towards a resolution, the feedback can feel like a personal attack, and sometimes it’s absolutely designed that way. I was shocked to find bullies within the LGBTQ+ community, but even here, they exist.

As an event producer, it’s my job to listen to any and all feedback, evaluate it and reply in a way that is professional. Those giving the feedback, however, are under no such professional obligations. My advice: always take the high road, consider all feedback fairly and implement solutions that are important and reasonable, and remember that you can’t please everyone.

Another piece of advice that I was given was to “accept that failure will happen.” I have been fortunate to have what I consider very few losses or failed events, but there have been a few. Working for yourself is a risk. Entrepreneurship is like gambling; it’s a roller coaster. But I’ve always thought you need the lows to realize how epic the highs really are. You have to have that perspective to appreciate it; I’ve never liked neutral anyway.

Your first loss is always really hard, especially as a small company. It’s easy to feel responsible. One way to mitigate this is to know and to trust that you did everything you could have done. Usually, our regrets come from wanting to change something about our actions in the past, but there is nothing I would change about the events that failed because I feel secure in my efforts.

Lastly, here’s my advice that should be particularly helpful for women entrepreneurs “be confident in your abilities and decisions.” Paralysis in decision making is the death of many businesses. You have to take the leap at some point. And finally, don’t be afraid to negotiate and don’t accept the terms you are given in life or business. There is no default mode anymore: not straight, not working for someone else, and not getting married and having kids.

PT: Since this year marks the 50th anniversary of Stonewall, this is a big Pride year. What does Pride mean to you on both a personal and professional level? What will you be doing to celebrate?

FF: To me PRIDE is about acceptance, and that goes beyond sexuality and identity. It’s about accepting that our journey is fluid and full of discovery. I have only been a part of this community since 2014. When I first realized what I wanted and how different it was from everything I knew about myself, it made me feel self-conscious. Not because I didn’t want people to know or thought they would judge me for it, but that I was judging myself for not knowing sooner. Like why didn’t I know this about myself, especially when faced with a community that appears from the outside to be mostly people who have always known for a long time. This somehow made me feel less legit.

Photo from LezProm

Pride month also happens to be my birthday month, and for the last several years I’ve hosted a lesbian boat cruise on the lake the weekend closest to my birthday! So that is how I’ll be celebrating PRIDE this year and my 30th birthday!

PT: Anything else that you’d care to add?

FF: Talk and get to know people from all walks of life. Learning about other lifestyles was fundamental in my discovery of who I am. Don’t be scared to try something new. Sure, you won’t have a blueprint for it, but that means you have to trust something deep within you, something powerful. Don’t be afraid to explore in love and dating, try new things, be confident, no one knows what they’re doing at first but you have to try to get better.

If you know any event producers or artists who you think ProudTimes should celebrate, emailproudtimesmag@gmail.comand we’ll see what we can do!