Gay hiking

Gay Skate at Oaks Park Roller Rink Celebrates 30 Years

The first time I went to Gay Skate in Oaks Park I was 19and toa first date with a girl from my college.Bordered by the WillametteOak trees Low Owild life Rrefuge, picturesque Sellwood, and the theme parks oldcarnival rides, the place had an exitoftimefeel a dreamy, retro innocence.

Even in the dead of winter, when the Ferris wheel stopped spinning, the rink windows glowed orange and we could hear the faint echoes of a Prince song.

Most of what I knew about skating came from watching roller derby, that perfect blend of feminine creativity and tough punk rock attitude. As a young queer girl, I was fascinated by roller derbyWhich one islawup there with the softballand soccerlike the most lesbian of sports.

My date was good at skating.I wasnot, smashing the walls of the rink every time I had to stop. Still, it was the perfect excuse to hold her hand.

We didn’t know it exactly at the time, but we were part of a long tradition and community of LGBTQ skaters here in Portland.

the third Monday of every month for 30 years, LGBTQ skaters young and old, graceful and awkwardhave taken over Oaks Park Ice Rink. It has been around for so long that now people who started coming to Gay Skate as teenagers can bring their own kids to the event.

“My biggest goal is to provide a safe space for everyone, says Beki Safar, who has been the event’s DJ since 2007, rolling out all the pop and house hits, from Wham! and Whitney on “It’s Raining Men.”

A roller derby superfan in his youth, just like me, Safar always knew thatskating wold playera major role in his life. And what a major role it’s beenSafar even methiswoman to the ice skating rink.

Return when Safar started filming there, Gay Skate looked a little different. Started in 1991 as a fundraiser for the gay men’s square dance group, the Rosetown Ramblers,the event drew almost exclusively gay men at its beginnings-no women and certainly no young LGBTQ people.

Safar began developing the event by collaborating with iconic regional LGBTQ magazinesJust outandMonthly QP.She brought in longtime Portland drag queen Bolivia Carmichael for DJ sets and performances. And when attendance dwindled in the 2010s and Oaks Park management wanted to shut down the event, Safar went to bat to save it.

In her time, she has seen Gay Skate go from being an event that drew 50 people to one that draws hundreds.

Now with the revival of popularity of rollerblading thanks to TikTok, things went “supernova,” she says. Hundreds of gay people and their allies pass show off their skills and personality. In fact, the event has become so popular that starting in January 2022, Oaks Park will begin showcasing Gay Skate twice a month, every first and third Monday.

As the event has grown, it has also become more diverse. Portland and the LGBTQ community can often be overrun with more than 21 events. Corn gay skating to offers an alternative space for all ages to meet. Eight-year-olds stumble over Bambi’s legs on skates for the first time while old pros glide on suede skates they bought in the ’70s. It’s one of the few truly intergenerational spaces where gay youth in Portland can bond with community elders.

“Skating has always appealed to queer people,” says Emily MacKay, director of marketing and events for Oaks Park, who started working at the roller rink as a teenager. “It really opened my eyes as a youngster, to see people who were totally comfortable with themselves out in the open.” Years after starting to work here, MacKay has two daughters who come to Gay Skate parties.

The last skate of 2021 was Gay Skate’s 30th anniversary, and the team pulled out all the stops.The event served as a fundraiser forNew avenues for young people,a non-profit organization that fights youth homelessness.There was a raffle and a cake in addition to the belovedfat carnival staples like corn dogs and tater toddlers.

But themain event, as always, has been the rink. Herds of men in glittering topsspinningedwith ease while a couple of novice skaters in patterned indoor dresses mixture around a turn, hand in hand. Crowds ofGen Z-ersstare anxiouslyed their hair in the corners whilea family myDanda garland with their arms. A group of friends showed up in full drag, the disco ball glistening on their wigs. Ugly Christmas Sweaters were a recurring theme, in the same way chic retro flares.

In such a welcoming place,the crowd is by nature eclectic. No two people are the same. Goths in skate petticoatsD alongside men in sweatpants and Johnny Cash t-shirts.This was and is mea happy jumble of ages, genders, sexualities and styles. And it’s only just started.