Pride Essentials: Hear What Five Portlanders Consider Their Must-Haves for the Monthlong Celebration

“As a drag queen, I can’t drink directly without a straw or it’ll mess up my lipstick. People don’t realize the trauma and drama of it all!”

Pride 2023 Some of Pride 2023's more demurely dressed guests. (Chris Nesseth)

Pride is upon us, packed with a robust amount of engaging, fun, formative, communal, and wild events throughout the month (see events calendar, page 20). But seasoned attendees of any marathon celebration know you’ve got to be prepared to party. WW reached out to five figures in the LGBTQ+ community to hear what they view as three essentials for their Pride experience. Communal, practical, precise—here are the goods needed to make the most of Pride.

Poison Waters, drag performer

This isn’t Poison Waters’ first rodeo. The drag performer, emcee and community activist is kicking off her 36th Pride this year—36th in Portland, to be specific—and for her, the essentials have changed over the years. “Now, I take patience,” she says—which she mixes with a little humor. As the celebration has grown over her three decades attending, she’s started to realize she can’t get to every event, and that patience is needed. Her second item? A portable fan—specifically, one that recharges to help keep cool in the midsummer heat. And Waters’ third must-have is to always, always carry a drinking straw. “As a drag queen, I can’t drink directly without a straw or it’ll mess up my lipstick,” she says. “People don’t realize the trauma and drama of it all!” (Confession, she’s got a few others too, like cash and shoes. “When I’m done, I’m switching shoes,” Waters says. “I’m 55, I can make my own rules.”) You can see Waters most weeks at the Darcelle XV Showplace downtown, or catch her July 21 on the Portland Spirit for the Sea Sickening BoatpRide (see events, page 21). RB.

Blair Stenvick, communications manager for Basic Rights Oregon

You probably know about the stellar work done by Basic Rights Oregon, but if you don’t, here’s the CliffsNotes: BRO began in 1996 in response to anti-gay ballot measures in the state. In the decades that have followed, the organization has become a vital voice in the queer community. As BRO’s communications manager, Blair Stenvick is responsible for amplifying that voice through social media, a newsletter, and much more. For Stenvick’s Pride, they’re starting with bringing testosterone to the celebration. “Pride is about being out and loud about who you are, and also claiming the bodily autonomy that is still ours, no matter how many extremists try and take it away from us,” Stenvick says. “As a transmasc person, I do t-shots every week, but they become even more essential and sacred during the Queer Christmas that is Pride.” It’s a celebration, and occasionally celebrating can veer out of hand, so Stenvick carries Narcan and sober goodies. “Carrying Narcan—and making sure you know how to use it—is an easy way we can all keep our community safer,” Stenvick says. “As a person in recovery myself, I’ll also be stocking up on N/A beer (Heck is my favorite) and CBD cigarettes for parties.” Last necessity? Shoes that can easily be cleaned after walking around muddy or dusty outdoor events. “Don’t ruin your favorite shoes by wearing them to the festival—I promise it’s not worth the fierce look,” Stenvick says. RB.

Mikki Gillette, playwright

It’s no secret that here at WW, we’re big fans of Mikki Gillette, someone we consider to be one of Portland’s foremost trans artists, and top playwrights. For Gillette, her essentials aren’t necessarily ones you can carry, but that you find. The first? Some shade coverage during those day gatherings. “Especially since we moved to July, being at Pride can feel like being on the surface of the sun,” she laughs. “Midday time, anything I can do to keep cool is good.” (Side note: While you’re hanging in the shade, maybe taking a break from festivities, Gillette recommends you have a copy of Tell Me I’m Worthless by Alison Rumfitt. “If you want to read,” she says.) Her second need to celebrate is to do so with trans community. “I really love going to the trans family [reunion] on Pride Weekend, it’s just fun to be together and celebrate like that.” And one of the best parts of when the community gathers and an essential? The chants, which Gillette usually leads for the Pride parade. “My favorite is, we’re here, we’re queer, we’re fabulous, don’t fuck with us,” Gillette says. “Just saying that with hundreds of people is a good time.” (Eager to see Gillette’s work? Check out an upcoming reading of her newest play, Riot Queens, on Aug. 3 at Twilight Theater.) RB.

Debra Porta, executive director of Pride Northwest

Debra Porta’s first Pride Essential is one she’s needed ever since she moved to Portland from Dallas in 1997: sunscreen. “The sun is intense,” Porta says. “More people get burned, and we don’t want people to end up with cancer 20 years from now.” Porta started volunteering in 2006 for Pride NW, the nonprofit organization that plans and coordinates Portland’s annual LGBTQ+ Pride Festival and Parade. She worked her way up gradually to ED in 2018. Layered clothing is her next recommendation. No matter how flashy and sexy you dress, Porta says it’s better to have clothes you don’t need than need ones you don’t have. “I realize it’s July, so it’s less necessary than before, but it could still be 55 [degrees] Saturday morning,” she says. An empty water bottle is her last Pride Essential. “If you got a water bottle, you’re going to have to empty it before you come in, and then refill it when you get in there,” Porta says. AJ.

Atlas Marshall, nonbinary trans activist

Our last essentials come from Portlander Atlas Marshall, who notes they’re a nonbinary queer icon, trans activist, and a karaoke host around the city. Marshall—who just recently spoke with Rolling Stone about their toxic experiences on American Idol—first and foremost finds friends to be an essential part of Pride. “Gather your humans and live authentically and celebrate together,” they tell WW. Next up? Water is a must. “It’s a marathon, not a sprint,” they say. “Hydrate so you can run wild with self-love!” Similar to Porta, Marshall wants that sunscreen on hand (and a second pair of comfy shoes). “It’s hot and sunny most years, and for a lot of you cuties, you’re not wearing much else to protect from the sun!” Lather up! Marshall is currently gathering donations for gender-affirming surgery, visit their GoFundMe to contribute (link can be found through Marshall’s Instagram @partyxmonster). RB.

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