I am finishing my first monthly column about LGBTQ life for Boulder Weekly on June 5, 2023, which is my 43rd birthday. It is also the first week of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) Pride Month. I am proud. I am proud of being a queer man who has built a life and a career dedicated to helping members of the LGBTQ community, my unique household, my family of origin and my chosen family, where I work (Out Boulder County) and where I live (Boulder), and to have the opportunity to write this column. I have known since I was 16 that I would not change my identity and my attractions if I could. My life is better because I am queer.
The LGBTQ community in Boulder and beyond also has a lot to be proud of this year. It is easy to point toward our civic, economic, political and creative accomplishments. However, the truth is that we always deserve to be proud of who we are and who we love. The ability to be proud of ourselves and our community is a radical act of resistance in a world that has felt particularly dangerous for us over the past year. As Mardi Moore, executive director of Out Boulder County, has been saying, “This pride feels different.” It feels more urgent than at any point I can remember. When I last saw an official count, there had been 630 pieces of anti-LGBTQ legislation, many targeting trans people, introduced in legislatures across the country. Many of these bills are becoming laws. Hate crimes and discrimination are on the rise again. Our community is being used as a political tool by conservative candidates across the country.
I recently visited Shepherdstown, West Virginia, with my partner. During the week we spent there, I had the opportunity to meet some of the LGBTQ folks who were important to him and see a small part of the lives they had built in their community. I felt welcomed and embraced. Late night conversations, laughter and meals prepared to celebrate my visit proved once again that LGBTQ people recognize each other. Our shared identities and experiences bring us together. We are unique individuals, with our own expressions of gender and sexuality, and we are a part of a supportive, dynamic and resilient community.
In the weeks since we flew back to Boulder, I keep thinking about one of those nights in particular when a trans man shared the obstacles he faced to receiving gender-affirming medical care. He shared that those obstacles had multiplied as a result of legislation passed in West Virginia targeting trans people. He shared the difficulties of affording care and how that is exacerbated by needing to travel two hours out of state to get safe, quality care. After spending a few minutes brainstorming possible solutions, the group turned to reminiscing and I watched as these vibrant and creative LGBTQ individuals found joy in each other’s company. I kept thinking that just because we are resilient doesn’t mean we should have to be.
West Virginia is not an outlier. Similar legislation has been introduced across the country, including in Colorado. After 20 years of working in LGBTQ support and advocacy, I know it is never strategic to sound the alarm unless the threat is real. Right now the threat to the lives and freedom of LGBTQ people across our country is real. Just because we live in Colorado doesn’t make us safe from the impacts of hate and bigotry. We are one bad election away from seeing these trends take hold here. Even if we are able to defeat anti-LGBTQ legislation, the rhetoric erodes our confidence and threatens our mental health. Don’t be confused: LGBTQ people are under attack. One of the more insidious realities of our current political climate is that our most vulnerable community members are the primary targets of the attacks — youth, trans people, and the intersection of these identities in people of color.
We need each other and we need our allies. The only way to successfully resist organized efforts to erase us lies in community. If you have ever told yourself that you would never sit by and watch the lives of an entire group of people be threatened because of who they are and who they love, now is the moment to get involved. Volunteer, donate, attend events, have difficult conversations with family and friends about LGBTQ issues, check on your LGBTQ loved ones and support pro-equality candidates.
LGBTQ people are proud. If we have survived to see this Pride Month, we have done so in the face of overwhelming odds against us. We deserve to celebrate ourselves, our identities and our histories. I hope you will join me and the rest of the Out Boulder County team in celebrating Pride Month by attending some (or all) of our many community events this month, including Boulder Pride on Sunday, June 11 and Longmont Pride on Friday, June 30. Allies are welcome.
This opinion does not necessarily reflect the views of Boulder Weekly.