Queer people on wheels. What could be better? Oaks Amusement Park pairs the fun of roller skating with queer community to offer an inclusive space for queer people to come together and express themselves publicly. Gay Skate occurs every first and third Monday of the month and lasts from 7 to 9:30 p.m. Tickets cost $10, which includes skate rental. People of all ages attend and share the feelings of empowerment and enjoyment that the event has provided since its beginning.
Gay Skate first debuted at Oaks Park in 1991. It was one of the first events in Portland for LGBTQ+ people of all ages, and originally began as a fundraiser for a private gay men’s square-dancing group called the Rosetown Ramblers. Initially, the club rented out the rink as an extra event for their members, and it turned out to be wildly popular. Once the club stopped hosting the event, Oaks Park decided to continue, sometimes pairing with other LGBTQ+ oriented organizations. Eventually, Gay Skate dropped the partnerships and became its own independent event at Oaks Park.
Emily MacKay, the marketing and event director for Oaks Park, said the event’s main purpose is to offer a safe and inclusive space for LGBTQ+ people and their allies.
“It is definitely serving as a safe space for LGBTQ individuals, but also people who wanna come and just be supportive and show love to the community,” MacKay said. “People from all walks of life come to this event because it has the coolest vibes and is so fun.”
Despite being a space that is welcome to everyone, MacKay also reflected on how the event is aimed specifically at offering a safe space for LGBTQ+ youth. When the event was founded in 1991, there was a lack of spaces for queer people, especially queer teens, to express themselves publicly. This sense of safety for the public expression of queerness has carried on to today in the welcoming atmosphere Gay Skate has created.
While being open to all, the park decided to keep the Gay Skate name as homage to the event’s history.
“We’ve kept the Gay Skate name because it implies more than just gay obviously, just as heritance, being that it was such a longstanding event and that gives a nod to the brave people who at the beginning started it,” MacKay said. “It keeps that continuity and that nostalgia alive.”
The event takes place in Oaks Park’s roller rink, with the lights off and replaced with the colorful glow of a disco ball. As skaters circle the surround the middle of the rink, perfect music for dancing surrounds them. A DJ dressed in a silver space dress plays songs ranging from Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” to a mystery bop reminiscent of the Mario Kart theme song — both of which contribute to the electrifying vibe. If you are lucky enough, a pro skater might zoom past you in their chaotic, but safe weaving.
On April 4, Campus Activities Board promoted the event and offered students a reduced price of $4. Ella Stiller ’25 attended the event and shared her impressions of the atmosphere.
“It’s been lovely, I mean it’s very inclusive,” Stiller said. “It’s very fun and empowering in general.”
It was Stiller’s first time at the event, but she shared the same sentiments as regulars. Alfie Padilla is a regular at Gay Skate, attending nearly every event. She described the event as offering a safe and empowering space for queer people.
“It’s a different vibe to just feel completely safe in a way,” Padilla said. “Portland has been generally chill, I haven’t had any problems, but I just feel like skating is such a fun thing that when you feel more safe and empowered, it doubles the fun. Everybody is really cute and you get to see a lot more queer people. It’s a whole building full of queer people. It just has a really great vibe.”
In the future, Oaks Park plans to not only continue Gay Skate, but add even more queer events into the skating community. They have plans to open up “Pride Rides” outside the rink by next year at the latest.
Gay Skate is an event meant for all ages, aimed specifically at offering a safe space for queer individuals
to come together and feel a sense of community. Skating is an activity for people of all skill levels, which is why it is perfect for an event aimed at inclusion. Do not hate, just skate!
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