Gays and their grapes: Kaden’s Komments’ final sign off


Kaden Gass, Staff Writer

The hot humid air at the Dundee Loves Drag show felt like a Louisiana swamp families’ crawfish boil. Each brings an interesting group of people together, and each is equally as questionable with their morals.

I never realized when I moved out to McMinnville just how small the queer community was. I mean I did, but I was confined to “my Linfield bubble” and because of that, my wings were chopped off and my growth was limited. Year after year, I continued to make friends – lots of friends, but not one of them really understood what I was going through because they couldn’t relate.

I like to think of my time in the Willamette Valley as that of a grape. Sure, you can plant it. But you won’t harvest the fruits of your labor until about 3 or 4 years later. The same is especially true within my community when you come out. You will face hardships and criticisms; snowy days that stop your growth and freeze your buds, but over time, the end product will be an ageless prize with a shelf life of many years.

To be completely honest with you, I lost hope. Between losing friends and losing myself, I didn’t think I could make it out here. But I, very much like a grape, am resilient and hardy. I can withstand multiple rainy days and over time, my roots became stronger and more ingrained in my community.

And then I met Zach. The local 34-year-old flower farmer from New York. An absolute nerd with a big heart. I met him playing volleyball; my escape. If we’re being honest, I knew it wouldn’t work out. Don’t get me wrong we’re still best friends, but something about a 12 year age gap didn’t spark me as the right thing to do out of college.

It wasn’t until we became great friends that he invited me to a drag show in Dundee. Sounds fun right? I’m sure for most it would be, but for me, it was terrifying.  Because before that day, I had never directly submerged myself in gay culture and was intimidated. I mean I haven’t even been to a gay club, let alone a drag show!

The day of the Drag Show it was beautiful. Humid but beautiful. A perfect blue bird day broke the constant rain spell that plagued the Oregon landscape all winter long. The bees were buzzing around all the queen’s colorful hair mistaking her for what I thought they believed to be flowers. In fact, there were so many at one point surrounding the pompous red mound that it almost seemed like there was a new queen bee in town.

Any gay event wouldn’t be a gay event without copious amount of alcohol. The taste of Rose on a sunny day took me away. It also loosened me up so that I could finally enjoy what I’ve been deprived of my whole life. Zach, who put on this whole event and is so devoted to representation through politics asked me what I thought afterwards. 

“I’m speechless,” was all I could muster, and after some time I followed up with, “Why is a person with your potential and drive here of all places?” 

At first he smiled and laughed almost agreeing with me and then he replied, “In Yamhill county, the heart of wine country, where the politics and culture have not always been supportive of the queer community, many wineries have opened their doors as safe spaces. I feel like it is our duty to honor that and show others that there are people like us out here.”

It finally dawned on me at that moment, that I wasn’t brought out here to find a boyfriend or make gay friends, but to be a beacon of representation in an area of the world that needs it. Zach introduced me to a whole new world of possibilities within the Willamette Valley.

The LGBTQ community is the same but so different. Think of it as different varieties of grapes. There’s white grapes, red grapes, Pinots, Champagnes, you name it. They all taste drastically different but the truth is, they’re still grapes and even though they vary across the world, they’re interconnected by what they are and their root systems.

My time here in McMinnville and the Willamette Valley may have been a cluster of emotions, but I am extremely grateful for the lessoned I’ve learned, the people the met, and the opportunities that have arisen not only from Linfield, but from my second family in the queer community as well. I look forward to taking my knowledge from here and planting it somewhere new so that in 3 to 4 years, I can make a change and be someone’s vintage wine.