Safe spaces in Denver’s social scenes

Shanna Katz, M.Ed, ACS
October 16, 2012 | 4:53 pm
(Updated: February 25, 2013 | 12:48 pm)

It’s Friday night, and the moon is out, gonna head on over to…well, where does one head to when they want to be in a space that is welcoming to all aspects of the LGBTQ community? In fact, is there even a space that can combine the needs of all of the different facets? When queer folks and LGBT folk want to go out on the town, what spaces are right for what groups?

While there is always conversation about whether certain bars are welcoming of people who don’t conform to the gender binary, Deidre Saddoris, a 37-year-old Bi poly queer marketing manager said. “The community has improved over the last 15 years, and I feel welcome at the Wrangler.” Sometimes that sense of acceptance is linked to age; Kyle Inselman, a 23-year-old FTM trans person points out that when you’re under 21, one of the only spaces to go to is Tracks, so obviously it’s pretty diverse and integrated. Above 21, sometimes it’s harder to find spaces that aren’t sub-community specific.”

As we get into the concept of sub-communities, Denver has evolved in many ways beyond the binary of gay men and lesbian women, and sometimes that creates a difficulty all of its own. When we look at “queer spaces” as compared to “gay and lesbian spaces,” sometimes the atmosphere and what a safe space looks like will change. For Jennifer Eyl, a 45-year-old lesbian and attorney, “There are ‘integrated’ places where many of my younger friends feel comfortable, [but] my friends and I feel unwelcome. For those of us over 40 (and maybe even younger), there are fewer and fewer welcoming places for lesbians. Our expectations regarding a ‘safe’ space might be very different than our younger counterparts, so we don’t show up anymore.”

Elisabeth Long, a queer cis femme agrees, stating that “I think there’s a fair amount of integration, but gay, lesbian and queer norms of aesthetics and behavior make those specific spaces less welcoming for some.”

According to Mari Christie a Denver business writer and author, “The LGBTQ community on the whole is more welcoming of diversity then other communities; however, they may be more subject to self-categorization, internal marginalization and judgment of their own subcultures. The response to bisexuals is much the same in the straight and gay communities, which is telling.” Sometimes, our laser-sharp focus on our own identities can lead to the exclusion of other identities.

This conversation leads us to ask what a welcoming safe space in Denver might look like and whether that is even possible. Finding a space that accepts and even celebrates all identities, doesn’t police bathrooms, and offers an atmosphere that appeals to a large variety of people may seem like a pipedream, but perhaps if enough of us put our minds to it, we could create such an LGBTQ utopia. And if not, maybe we can think of ways to better connect the separate spaces in our community to support more connection and acceptance of one another. ]


Shanna Katz, M.Ed, ACS is a Colorado native, fierce femme and board certified

sexologist. She believes strongly in open source, accessible sexuality education,

and loves teaching adults how to optimize their sex lives.


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