When Danielle del Prado moved to Portland, Oregon in 2006, she was looking to meet like-minded lesbians to explore her new city with. She’s a fit and active person and wanted to do activities in the beautiful Northwest and make new friends at the same time. She says it was selfish reasons that caused her to start PDX Lesbian Network. Now the network has 1200 lesbians who meet for various social and recreation activities in one of the most lesbian-friendly cities in America.
Danille, tell me why you started PDX Lesbian Network? What’s the idea behind it?
From the beginning, the intention was to create a friendly forum for lesbians to communicate, network, and connect, while participating in a wide variety of social and recreational events. I moved here from Suriname, South America which is a very lush and tropical place with many beautiful places to explore and lots of social activities to do. The idea behind it was strictly a selfish one. Being fairly new to Portland, I wanted to meet friends to explore hiking, learn about backpacking in OR and WA, meet for drinks for social events, but never for dating purposes.
You started PDX Lesbian Network in the days before Facebook. So how did you get the word out to women in Portland?
I actually put ads on Craigslist, Match.com and many other dating websites, made business cards and handed them out to every lesbian I met out and about. I placed ads in magazines and also created events in yahoo groups and had members bring friends along. It was a lot of work, getting the word out, and making “rules” as I went along, making many mistakes along the way.
It began as a Yahoo group in November 2006, but because of a stalker, I moved all the 600 members at the time to Facebook to better serve a growing membership and to also be to better monitor who comes in and joins us in our ventures .
In the beginning I felt like I really needed to be assertive and creating “rules” that would make it a safe place for women to attend events in Portland. Many women liked that idea but I also have been criticized harshly by many women for being so strict. I felt that that is what it takes to create a thriving, safe group with longevity and consistency. I have met many lifelong friends through this group and continue to make more as time goes by.
You’ve got more than 1,000 lesbians in your network. Who joins the group and what are they looking to get out of it?
Membership has grown to almost 1,200 women today ranging from age 20 to 70 something and I honestly feel women are trying to find that perfect woman to date. And of course couples are looking for more friends and things to do.
PDX Lesbian Network has morphed from being an all moderated group, where volunteer moderators provided all the events monthly, to only a few moderated events and members being able to post events that they are hosting on the wall of the group, or people looking for friends or dog sitters or whatever they need, as long as it is not too offensive for the general PDX Lesbian Network population or abusive, anything goes.
I am always looking for women to commit to hosting a monthly event as a PDX Lesbian Network Moderator, but women do not like to commit and or when they do, they do it for a very short period of time, until they have found friends of their own and then they close off their event to all the members. I would love it if women would commit to host a monthly event be all inclusive, invite people to join them in their ventures, since they are already doing the activities and not stopping the events because there are too many people in their clique. I abhor cliques. My attitude is make a commitment, follow through and be consistent.
What are some of the types of events PDX Lesbian Network hosts?
This is the list of events that have been hosted through the PDX Lesbian network over the last six years There are a variety of recurring and one-time events. Events include:
• art events
• back packing
• beer and wine tastings
• book clubs
• card games namely Euchre and Poker
• food events
• game night
• happy hours
• Mexican Train dominoes
• movies and movie night
• music events
• roller skating
• sharing meals
• single mingle
• women shooting guns
• spiritual events
• white water rafting
One of your most popular events is a yearly camping trip. What are a few things about that trip that make it such a popular event?
Currently the only monthly moderated events left are the book salon, Euchre, Texas Hold ‘em poker, Brew Haha and of course the annual camp out where I take over about 22 camp sites and we go for a 4-day weekend.
What is so cool about this event is that we have done it for three consecutive years now, it is growing every year and it is becoming more fun every year now that I have figured out how to do it right. How this works is I create the event and only 1 person RSVP’s “yes” so I know how many campsites to reserve 9 months in advance and I am able to communicate directly to the site initiators about what they need to do next. I pay for the whole thing and the women who RSVPed “yes” are responsible to pay me back the $100 fee (for the whole weekend) and find up to 7 other women to join them on their campsite. It is a popular event because every campsite is required to host a two hour event during the 4-day weekend, so old friends meet every year, new friendships are made and most of all it is a lot of fun. The last night we have a huge potluck and bonfire where everyone congregates at my campsite, brings wood and we laugh and talk and play music, while enjoying each other’s company. 2013′s event will be from July 25th to July 28th and I expect over 150 women to attend.
Is Portland a good place for lesbian dating? Why or why not?
Dating in Portland, is very hard for me, since I know many women, I know who they have dated, when they have dated them, how they broke up… That’s just a bit too incestuous for me. I prefer to date women from out of town.
What’s your idea of a perfect date night in Portland?
A date for me is an adventure. I only date women who lead an active lifestyle, take care of themselves, eat well and thrive to be successful. My perfect date would be an active one. Something we do together, whether it’s a hike or bicycle trip, something spontaneous, creating a whole day of activities based on whether we click or not. Date nights for me come later in a relationship, usually after we have decided to start dating. I want to make sure that this woman can keep up with me.