LGBTQ residents suggest pride celebration, adult-youth connection in Yampa Valley
In broad town hall conversation, residents express desire to build Northwest Colorado's LGBTQ community
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — LGBTQ residents of Steamboat Springs want to build a stronger community in the Yampa Valley.
In a town hall hosted by Colorado’s largest LGBTQ advocacy organization, One Colorado, at Colorado Mountain College Steamboat Springs, the 18 people in attendance discussed what the area is doing well and what could be improved in supporting their community.
One Colorado Deputy Director Sheena Kadi introduced her organization and the event. She explained that with most of One Colorado’s staff being based out of Denver, the organization is holding town halls around Colorado to make sure it’s “getting out and hearing from folks all across the state.”
As conversation kicked up, a theme of building the LGBTQ community in Northwest Colorado emerged, though Kadi’s presentation and conversation in the room addressed issues impacting LGBTQ health and safety, including recent legislation.
Chris Ruff, a teacher at Steamboat Springs High School who serves as the advisor to the school’s Gay-Straight Alliance, pointed out that the area doesn’t currently have an annual pride celebration or an organized LGBTQ community or advocacy organization outside of the School’s Gay-Straight Alliance. LGBTQ residents might connect over Facebook groups, but there are rarely organized LGBTQ pride events.
“I think that’s one of the things that we’re really lacking in our community in northwestern Colorado,” he said. “There are really vibrant pockets of LGBT support, but there’s not one community at this point. I mean personally, I would love to see Steamboat Springs have a pride.”
Another attendee chimed in that organizations and events that were here before dissolved as leadership moved away. A resident from Moffat County said she saw “a ton of gaps” in resources available for LGBTQ people there.
Both adults and the single high school student in the room expressed an interest in connecting LGBTQ youth to adults.
The student spoke up, saying that having LGBTQ adults present to the Gay-Straight Alliance was a bit of a revelation.
“It’s like, ‘Oh, my gosh, there’s queer adults in Steamboat!’” said the student.
Conversation at the town hall also focused on how the community could better support LGBTQ youth.
One of these mechanisms could be strengthening and expanding Gay-Straight Alliances in area high schools. While Steamboat Springs’s alliance has been in place for years, people in the town hall knew of no other area high schools with alliances. Soroco High School’s alliance was active for two years, but due to a lack of participation, it wasn’t available this year.
“It’s grown so much,” they said. “I joined freshman year, and some day,s it was just me and Mr. Ruff. Now, we have like 20 kids.”
But the student said they’d like to see more awareness from other students.
According to a 2017 survey from the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, 62% of the LGBTQ students surveyed said they were verbally harassed because of their real or perceived sexual orientation, and 30% said they physically assaulted as 56% of responding students said they were verbally harassed for their gender expression.
“I think there’s a lot of stigma still, and kids that I know who could benefit from it avoid it at all costs just because there’s a lot of fear and stigma,” the student said.
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The Routt County Board of Commissioners is back in the hearing room it vacated when the pandemic sent the world home in March 2020 — and the public is welcome to attend, too.