Katya Butler Is Stepping Into Their Power in Royal-Blue Heels

Butler keeps it cute while advocating for queer, Hispanic and environmental issues.

Katya Butler Katya Butler quenches her thirst. (Courtesy of Katya Butler)

Partying and activism don’t have to be mutually exclusive. That’s especially true during Pride, but for Katya Butler, it’s an ethos they live by year-round.

Butler has been a fixture of the gay Portland club scene since 2017, when they were “just a wee little water girl at Holocene,” handing out water and doing social media posts for the nightclub. (Butler goes by any and all pronouns.) That grew into their event company called Klip Klop Productions, which throws big drag parties like the two-day Dollapalooza 3000 show coming to WonderLove during Portland Pride, July 20-21.

But as of this week, Butler is stepping into a new role. On July 1, the Oregon Commission on Hispanic Affairs announced that Butler will be its new chair after serving as a commissioner for a little over a year. The fact that they’re in this role at all—let alone getting a big promotion—has come as a happy surprise for someone who admits they are not at all politically correct, especially online.

“I was honestly sort of shocked when I joined this commission that it was not an issue,” they say of their social media presence, which includes many scantily clad photo shoots in their signature color, blue. “It’s sort of been fun to see what boundaries I can push.”

But Butler, a Latin Indigenous queer femme, has brought their whole self to the job. Saba Saleem, public affairs specialist and community liaison for the Oregon Advocacy Commissions Office, is here for it.

When asked which qualities Butler has that landed them the commission chair spot after a year, Saleem listed Butler’s community connections, social media savvy, and how they show up to support the office’s other work advocating for Black, Asian and Pacific Islander, and women’s issues.

But that’s not what Saleem said first. “They’re a fashion icon,” Saleem says, “but that’s my very biased opinion.”

In particular, she admires Butler’s ability to pull off fierce outfits (royal blue velvet, anyone?) even in stuffy surroundings, like the Oregon State Capitol. At OCHA, Butler and the commission have worked on issues such as language access—making sure that public meetings are being provided in English and Spanish and that the written portion of driver’s tests are being translated with care, not just rammed through Google Translate.

“One of the things I’ve realized is, the solutions are not as far out of reach as we think,” they say.

Butler—age 31, revealed after a playful scolding of “you never ask a lady her age”—is originally from a farm in Minnesota, briefly attended New York University, and moved to Portland in 2017. One night in 2018, the late DJ and event producer Patrick Buckmaster had to drop out of an event at Holocene. Butler pounced on the opportunity and produced their first party, which was called Extra. The theme was dressing as crazy as you could.

“I joke that I reverse-cowgirled my way into nightlife,” they say. “A lot of times, people throwing parties are either DJs or drag queens or they have some connection beforehand, and I really didn’t have that.” (Butler does DJ and perform, but only on very special occasions.)

In addition to running Klip Klop Productions, Butler has worked for the Portland Clean Energy Fund and as a fitness instructor. They see all of their activism—for queer, environmental, Hispanic issues and more—as interconnected.

Butler encourages their friends to find that front line of whatever issue is most important to them and get involved in whatever capacity they can manage. But there’s no need to neglect the dance floor. Dollapalooza 3000 features about 70 drag entertainers, DJs and dancers, including four alumni of RuPaul’s Drag Race.

“Pride is where I get my zhuzh, my energy, back to fight these struggles,” Butler says. “This is where I get my revitalization.”

GO: Dollapalooza 3000 is at WonderLove, 262 SE Main St., eventbrite.com/e/dollapalooza-3000-with-anetra-olivia-lux-mirage-and-willam-tickets-908452785737. 7 pm–5 am Saturday and 4 pm–2 am Sunday, July 20–21. $20–$150. 21+.

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