The tragic shooting in Orlando is one of those events forever seared in our memory banks. We have vivid images of where we were, how we heard and the heartbreaking stories of those we lost.

Some 3,000 miles away, many LGBTQ Oregonians remain deeply connected to the events of June 12, in part because so many, particularly outside Portland, still rely on bars like Pulse as sanctuaries—safe spaces where we can be out. 

“I recall that night very clearly,” said Michael Smira. “I was at Stag having drinks with my friend when my phone buzzed with a BBC notification of the shooting. The gravity of the event didn’t set in until the next morning. The sadness and unity was overwhelming. With so many events like this happening daily around the world we sometimes become numb to it until it happens at home. That day left a mark on us all. It still saddens me when I think about it.”

Within a few weeks, Smira made the bold decision to support Basic Rights Oregon as the presenting sponsor of Ignite

 “I guess it was one of those events where I felt like I needed to do something significant,” he said. “I’ve supported many organizations. I know there are many movements, but it reminded me that we can’t forget about the LGBTQ youth in Newberg or Roseburg or Pendleton.”

Like many realtors, Smira is benefitting from a wicked hot market as thousands of people move to Oregon and home prices skyrocket.

Smira, who at 35 will celebrate three years in real estate this December, doesn’t take his recent success lightly—he knows too well the painful memories of being gay and not ready to accept himself.  

 “I was afraid to be true to myself,” he said. “In the 1990s in inner Portland it still wasn’t necessarily okay to be gay. I felt like I couldn’t be myself. I was afraid of how people would react to me and this played out through my late twenties. This was underlying all the things I did that were not healthy in my past.”

Smira heard and saw what felt like endless negative images of LGBTQ people in the media, at school and in his community and he, in turn, internalized his homophobia. To mask this shame and fear, he turned to drugs, leading to addiction. Through recovery programs, he found help and overcame his addiction.

“It was painful, which is why today I feel so incredibly grateful to be in a position to support and be a part of that change,” he said. “I believe in the work Basic Rights Oregon is doing because I know what it feels like to be afraid inside.  All of us need a safe place and positive voice in the community saying you are perfect just the way you are.”

Smira Group | John L. Scott Real Estate is the presenting sponsor to Ignite, Basic Rights Oregon’s annual gala. This year’s event will culminate 20 years on the forefront of LGBTQ equality

Don’t miss our 20th anniversary gala—Ignite—to be held Friday, October 28 at The Loft.