In honor of Pride Month, we’re celebrating artists from the Portland LGBTQ+ community and their stories of self-expression. Photos by Ben Sellon.
Melding sound and rhythm, pop musician Frankie Simone (they/them) and Che Che Luna (they/them), a dancer and educator who helps guide people in reclaiming their bodies and sexualities, are a beautiful synthesis of loving out loud.
On stage and online, Frankie is shaking up the Portland music scene with their catchy sonic landscapes that surface raw, tender and authentic emotion amplified with Che Che’s expressive choreography and movement. We caught up with this inspiring duo to hear what it’s like to create and perform together and their journeys of radical self-acceptance.
Che Che wears the Flatform Universal in Rainbow Pride.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your projects that you want the world to know about!
FRANKIE: I’m a queer Puerto Rican non-binary pop musician. I make music to heal, inspire and empower folx to be their most authentic selves. I’m about to release my debut full-length record this summer, starting with the first single dropping June 5th! I’ve spent the past two years writing, producing and recording this full-length concept album with my collaborators B. Jones and Graham Barton. It is my most personal work to date. I started writing the record as my spouse, Che Che Luna, and I began to open our relationship, navigating non-monogamy, and the self-discovery that comes along with that. It’s a raw and powerful journey that I’m so excited to bring folx on. People can keep an eye out for new releases and follow along via my Instagram @iamfrankiesimone, Twitter @frankiesimonebb, and can listen on Spotify, Apple Music, and all streaming platforms.
CHE CHE: I am a queer, non-binary Mexican-American. My work as a sex and pleasure educator guides people to reclaim their bodies and sexualities. I am also a dancer and movement teacher that facilitates sensual dance workshops for LGBTQIA and BIPOC [Black, Indigenous and People of Color] folx. I am currently working virtually with 1 on 1 clients, as well as building some exciting online courses centering in pleasure, self-care and sensuality. You can connect with me via Instagram at @che.che.luna or my website.
What does Pride mean to you?
FRANKIE: Pride to me means remembering and honoring the LGBTQIA+ ancestors who’ve paved the path for me and my community. Those who fought to make it possible for me to safely walk down the street holding my partner’s hand. It’s a time to show gratitude for my privilege in being able to love loud. It is a time for remembering, celebrating, and taking action. It’s the foundation for why I’m so open about my identity throughout my music and platform. I want to use my privilege to be loud about LGBTQIA+ rights, so I can make the world a more tolerant and accepting place in hopes of making the lives of my queer family—especially those more marginalized than me—a little easier.
CHE CHE: To me, pride means celebrating and honoring the LGBTQ+ community that came before me. It means uplifting those more marginalized than me—especially black trans folx. It means being fiercely and unapologetically myself so that others can do the same. It means rewriting outdated cishet [cisgender hereronormative] colonial patriarchal scripts through my actions and voice. It means inclusion and love for all of our differences. It means being proud to fall outside of what is considered “normative.” It means existing every single day in a world that tells me over and over again that I don’t belong but tenaciously taking up space anyways.
In what ways are you active in the Portland LGBTQ+ community? What inspired you to do this?
FRANKIE: I’ve cultivated an incredible community of queer family and allied supporters. We gather at my shows as a space for collective healing and radical self-acceptance. Portland was pretty notorious for having a homogenous music history, and so I’ve gotten to be a part of a group of artists—predominantly queer black and brown artists—releasing work in the last few years that is creating a necessary shift in the music scene here. I’ve also really enjoyed going to middle school and high school GSA’s to connect with queer and allied youth. It’s really important for me to show youth that anything is possible; that you can be whatever and whoever you want in the world.
CHE CHE: In addition to supporting the Portland LGBTQ+ community via my sex education work, I also have the pleasure of supporting my partner, Frankie Simone, on stage as one of their dancers and choreographers. It has been so special to co-create a live show with Frankie that creates queer visibility. We are so deeply in love and I really feel like that shines through in all of our collaborations. Performing together is such a gift—it feels like we get to be the queer, brown, femme leaders we wish we had growing up.
In what ways has the community impacted you?
FRANKIE: It’s completely changed my life. When I stumbled upon my first queer community, my first chosen family, I felt like I belonged for the first time in my life. I grew up in a pretty conservative, heteronormative town and never quite fit in. I always felt like an outsider. Finding this queer community taught me that I wasn’t alone.
What is something you wish others could learn from the community?
FRANKIE: That being queer is completely normal. I’d love to live in a world where more straight identifying people are having more conversations with their loved ones, around their dinner tables and with their communities to normalize queerness. It’s so deeply ingrained in our society as something that is different or othered, or something to be ashamed of, when in actuality it’s something to be celebrated.
CHE CHE: There is no “normal.” Gender is a construct. Sexuality is a spectrum. Only love is real. Self-compassion is the greatest contribution you can make to the world.
Che Che wears the Flatform Universal in Rainbow Pride.
Teva is celebrating Pride with a contribution to It Gets Better Project, an organization that connects LGBTQ+ youth with older mentors. If you could tell one thing to your younger self, what would it be?
FRANKIE: That you’re innately perfect, just as you are. That life is going to be more beautiful, liberating, and filled with love than you could have ever imagined. That there is a gorgeous, vibrant, passionate, positive, loving family of people that are here for you and already accept you just as you are. That you deserve to live your truth, to be your most empowered and full self. That you deserve to be seen, heard and celebrated for who you most authentically are.
CHE CHE: Your queerness is your superpower, sweet one.