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River Porter: Creative manager at Northwest Youth Services

CDN's weekly community profile

River Porter is creative manager for Northwest Youth Services in Bellingham. Porter said most people don't know he's very athletic. In high school
River Porter is creative manager for Northwest Youth Services in Bellingham. Porter said most people don't know he's very athletic. In high school
By Audra Anderson Assistant Editor

River Porter

Age: 25

City: Bellingham

Lived here for: 5 years

Originally from: West Seattle

Notable: Cat dad, dependable friend, positive individual

What have you been up to since graduating from Western Washington University?

Right after I graduated, maybe a month later, I started working at FurHaven Pet Products, and I was their graphic designer, photographer, videographer. I worked there for about two years, and then around that time, I got married to my wife Schantell. I got two cats, and we bought a house. 

Me and Schantell, during the pandemic, started a business called Essence Creative, and we worked for that for about a year. We worked with Babygreens and Rumors and a few other local companies as a photography and social media marketing company, so that was pretty fun to try to get through the pandemic without being too depressed. 

What attracted you to your role as creative manager for Northwest Youth Services?

On the professional end, I have a huge passion for design and photography and videography. On top of that, I agree with the mission, our values and our goal here. I wanted to be part of something that was trying and continuing to make change. 

You’re fairly vocal about being a queer and trans man. Can you tell me a bit about your journey?

I’ve always known I was trans — even when I was a little kid — I just didn’t know what that meant, or I didn’t have any representation, so I just continued life as is. During the pandemic, since I had a lot of time to reflect and sit by myself, I was able to actually take time to figure out who I am. As corny as it is, TikTok actually helped a lot because I saw representation. I was able to see people like me and be like, ‘Oh, wow, it is actually possible for me to just be who I want to be.’ 

Did you feel supported during your transition, and was there someone who was particularly impactful?

During the pandemic, it was pretty isolating, but Schantell, my wife, was definitely my biggest supporter and helped me feel confident in who I am and helped me find resources to get the help financially and find the resources I need to medically transition. My family and friends have helped me a lot as well to feel confident. 

How does activism play a role in your life in Bellingham? In your job?

Personally, for activism, I don’t do as much as I like to. But since I recently transitioned, there’s been a lot to process still, and I haven’t even had the chance to uplift myself. I need time to actually process and help myself before I can try to help others, at least individually, in my personal life. 

For work, though, we’re constantly trying to help the community, and actually helping the community. I don’t do that alone. It takes a whole community to do that, so as an organization, we always are working toward helping this community be anti-racist, help the queer community. 

How do you feel supported within the Bellingham community?

I would say for the most part, as a trans man, I feel supported within where I work, for sure, constantly feel affirmed and supported. I would say our community has a lot of growing to do. Like something as simple as you can have a Pride flag up in the window, but then you go in and there’s no gender-neutral bathrooms or the staff is being transphobic. I feel like there’s still a lot of work our community needs in educating and learning. There’s always room for growth, and I think we still are a ways out from that. 

“Faces in the Crowd” is published weekly in print on Wednesdays and online Fridays. Have a suggestion for a “Faces in the Crowd” subject? Email us at

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