Beyond the Hype

A Black Queer Trans Portlander Reveals A Side Of The City You Won’t See On Portlandia


26-year-old illustrator/designer/writer Ebin Lee is a self-described Black queer trans person, and just one of the profilees of a gorgeous Zine created by Portland photographer Intisar Abioto called Black Portlands, showcasing unique voices from a side of Portland culture that’s fallen under the mainstream radar. (Travel Portland has also created an amazing guide to the city’s LGBTQ diversity that will make you fall in love with the city all over again.)

We asked Ebin, a Chicago native and seven-year Portlander, to share a few thoughts about the city. 

What’s your favorite thing (or things) about Portland?
Living here is like an episode of Cheers or something. It’s tiny and comfortable. You can walk into a bar and see the past seven years of your life. So I guess that’s my favorite and least favorite thing about Portland.


In the zine you talk about Local Lounge and its drag night Queens of the Night. What are some of your other favorite places to hang out in Portland?
I hate hiking, biking and being outdoors generally. So I spend a lot of time at dive bars and drag shows. Some of my favorite other places are:
Willamette Bluffs. They’re just as scenic as the Skidmore Bluffs, but less populated and quiet. It’s a beautiful spot to sit and see a different part of the city in peace.
SCRAP. This is an art supplies store that recycles donations for cheap. I’ve gotten probably half of all my art supplies there and every time I walk into SCRAP I’m inspired to do and make something. Townshend’s Tea on Alberta. Hands down the best place to get work done, eavesdrop on bad first dates and have delicious drinks all day long.

What’s Portland’s Black queer scene like?
It’s very small yet vast. There are so many different types of Black queers I know here in Portland and so many things that they’re all part of. It can be hard to find each other in this vastly white city though, I can’t pretend it’s not.

A sample of Ebin’s work

Are there places that you’d say Black travelers to Portland should be sure to visit?
Powells? Food carts? Beer? Overall I say do all the touristy things everyone would do anyway, because even in the Blackest part of the city, Portland is still very white. But please do visit Northeast Portland, I feel more comfortable living day to day in Northeast because there’s just more Black people up and around.

What do you think would surprise people the most about Portland’s Black culture?
Maybe if they’ve watched Portlandia before coming here, they will be surprised to see that Black people are here. (That show can go to hell.). Honestly it’s that Black culture is here, has always been, and has and will thrive amongst attempted erasure and some white-washed image of what “Portland” is.

Don’t miss the beautiful photography and other strong and important perspectives in Black Portlands, just one of 29 wildly divergent zines that reveal the vast spectrum of bold, cool and creative culture on tap in today’s Portland.

And check out Travel Portland’s guide to LGBT life.

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