The perfect season for gay Denver to reflect on family values
September 21, 2011 | 7:01 am
(Updated: February 22, 2013 | 5:23 pm)
As summer quickly turns to fall, something extraordinary happens. Our world seems to slow down. As days grow shorter, time becomes more precious, and while we try our damndest to make the most of our sunlight, we somehow take a moment to pause, reflect and wonder how our calendar has already reached September.
It wasn’t that long ago that we were celebrating PrideFest at Civic Center. It wasn’t that long ago we were ringing in the New Year. It wasn’t that long ago that Barack Obama was elected to the highest office of the land. It wasn’t that long ago that our nation was attacked on 9/11.
So much has happened in such a short amount of time. In the last decade – hell, in the last five years – our lives have become so inundated with Facebook status, emails, text messages and tweets, so consumed with “the now” and “30 seconds from now,” I’m shocked we remember anything anymore.
Then out of nowhere, Facebook started to remind us what we posted a year ago. I don’t know why Facebook decided to start including this feature on its margins. I emailed them, but no response. Maybe we’ll never know why Facebook, the website bent on controlling our lives – not that we’re putting up a fight – decided to go past tense, but I like it.
I’m a firm believer in the old mantra: you can’t know where you’re going if you don’t know where you’ve been.
This month, The GLBT Community Center of Colorado celebrates 35 years of existence. Its only fitting their celebration will take place during this collective time of reflection.
According to our reporter, Noelle Leavitt, The Center is very happy with its new home that opened last year. As they should be. The new building is gorgeous, albeit clinical.
I remember the excitement surrounding the grand opening: a building much more than a place just to do business, but a symbol that we, as a community, are here and queer – for good.
But is the house on Colfax really a home? I’m not sure yet.
Leavitt reports, The Center has seen an increase in visitors to the tune of 37 percent. And while the increase is promising, we learned through more than a dozen interviews there is a huge disconnect between The Center and those between the ages of 21 and 40.
(That’s a lot of gays.)
The fact of the matter is, unless you’re a queer teen, an elder, or someone in recovery, there is little to do at 1301 Colfax Ave.
The good news is, those in charge at The Center are aware of this fact and are hoping to change that when they roll out their three-year strategic plan.
“We’re struggling with that piece,” Executive Director Carlos Martinez told me. “And I won’t say it’s easy to solve. Our community is so diverse within that segment. Some people say they want ‘this’ and some people say they want ‘that.’”
Then, unless there’s a party – like The Center’s rooftop happy hour – no one shows, Martinez said.
During our conversation I threw out a couple of ideas of how to get people in the door: life enrichment classes (who doesn’t need help budgeting), job fairs, networking groups.
All good ideas, Martinez said, and The Center is looking at all options. Additionally, while nothing is set in stone, other programs that may be on the way include family services and more support groups for those coming out and transitioning.
The truth is, you have to work very hard in this community to have, well, community.
Trust me, we ask ourselves at Out Front Colorado every day, “are we creating a product online and in print that will make people stop what they’re doing and participate in our community conversations? Are we helping to connect one another?”
Our culture teaches us – perhaps more so then our straight counterparts – to be fiercely independent. We have been kicked out of homes. Been told we don’t matter. That we are not equal. At best, even in the most accepting of homes, we still know we’re different.
We must stand on our own, we infer.
But it wasn’t always this way.
I remember the first time someone asked me if someone was “family.” I was caught off guard. My family was in Pueblo.
But as I’ve spent seven years in the Denver LGBT community, I’ve come to recognize and appreciate the enduring, but dated, term.
Perhaps we could all – from The Center, to you – take a moment this fall to reflect on our LGBT family values and how we’re making our house a home for all.
I’m notorious for eating breakfast and lunch at my desk. But when I have a little extra time in the morning, or the occasional – very occasional – morning off, I love to get breakfast in my Congress Park neighborhood coffee shop Under the Umbrella, 3504 East 12th Ave. The LGBT-friendly cafe has the best (and maybe biggest) breakfast burrito in Denver. Plus, the vegetarian green chili is a nice alternative to my grandmother’s. If you’re on the go, grab one of their fresh baked pastries.
Gay History 101
A legend remembered
I never knew Auntie M. But I heard she was a hoot. She died Sept. 21, 1996. According to reliable sources, she loved writing, editing – with a lit cigarette – great food and great cocktails. She was always the life of the party. Sound like someone you know? Madeleine Ingraham was not only Out Front Colorado’s managing editor from 1990 to 1993, she was the community at large’s fag hag. Well-known in the gay, theater, business and dinning communities, Ingraham helped usher OFC into a new decade. According to her obituary in OFC, “Madeleine will be remembered for her biting wit, ready smile and enthusiastic personality.”
A tale of two cities
In September of 1996, LGBT rights were up for debate Denver and Washington D.C. Denver’s City Council passed a bill extending domestic partnership benefits to its employees. Then Mayor Wellington Webb signed the bill into law. Meanwhile, in the nations capital, Republican Colorado Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell “caved in” and voted “no” on an early version of federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act, a bill still being debated today.
Off the record
I’ll never forget the first time I asked my primary care doctor to order me an HIV test. I was 19. When the results came in, he went over all my other tests (thyroid, cholesterol) and then he whispered “the other test came back negative.” I never saw that doctor again. If he couldn’t utter that acronym, how could I trust him with anything else? One Colorado’s health survey results are to be released in the coming weeks and I’m excited to get a sense of what the at large community has to say about health care in this state.