NewsLocal News

Actions

Strong faith, finance and love: How these 'people of Pride' are making LGBTQ life better in Colorado

Posted: 11:21 PM, Jun 15, 2019
Updated: 2019-06-16 01:21:09-04
peopleofpridethumb.jpg

Denver7, a proud sponsor of PrideFest 2019 , is featuring leaders in the LGBTQ community in Colorado who are helping to make life better and more meaningful. From building stronger faith, family and finances to giving a voice to the marginalized, these 'People of Pride' are sharing how they inspire others in the community to live their true, authentic self.

REV. DAVID BAHR
Park Hill Congregational UCC in Denver
As pastor of Denver’s Park Hill Congregational UCC, Rev. Bahr has led this diverse congregation since November 2007. Rev. Bahr earned a B.A. from Dakota Wesleyan University and M.Div. from United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities. Bahr also holds a Doctor of Ministry from Wesley Theological Seminary, according to his church biography and met his husband, Art, while both were living in Cleveland.

davidbahrphoto.jpg
Rev. David Bahr, Park Hill Congregational UCC in Denver

Q: WHAT DO YOU TELL A BELIEVER WHO IS STRUGGLING TO COME TO TERMS WITH THEIR FAITH, BELIEF IN GOD AND THEIR SEXUALITY.

A: I understand because I went through the same angst. I believed with equal assurance that God loved me and that I am gay. At first I thought, well, maybe God will love me anyway. Then I came to believe that God created me gay. And that is a good thing!

Q: THERE ARE CERTAIN BIBLE VERSES, LIKE LEVITICUS 20:13 AND ROMANS 1:26-27 THAT SOME PEOPLE OF FAITH SAY IS PROOF THAT HOMOSEXUALITY IS INCOMPATIBLE WITH A GODLY, CHRISTIAN LIFE. WHAT ARE THEY GETTING WRONG ABOUT THESE PASSAGES? WHAT SHOULD THE LGBTQ PERSON OF FAITH BELIEVE ABOUT THESE VERSES?

A: First of all, there was no modern conception of same gender loving relationships. Any Bible translation that uses the word homosexuality reveals its own bias. I wish the same passion was expressed for the issue the Bible speaks of constantly: welcoming the stranger, not mistreating immigrants in your land, sharing your bounty with anyone in need. Christians should pay more attention to the words of Jesus than anything else. All the law and prophets are contained in two commandments – to love God and to love your neighbor as yourself.

Q: TALK ABOUT YOUR FAITH JOURNEY. DID YOU GROW UP BELIEVING? WHAT WAS THE PROCESS LIKE MERGING YOUR BELIEFS AND YOUR SEXUALITY?

A: Our family life in rural North Dakota totally revolved around the church, much of which included actual extended family. I committed my life to following Jesus when I was 7 years old. Once I understood God’s love for me, I could do nothing else, as a follower of Jesus, but to love everyone else as they are. My understanding of that has deepened over the years and is embodied in acts of compassion and justice.

Q: IN THE COMMUNITY, WHO INSPIRES YOU? WHAT GIVES YOU HOPE?

A: Folks like my parents are my inspiration. Raised with a very traditional understanding of Christianity, later in life they became very vocal in their support of LGBTQ people. My dad was a Gideon – among other things, they are the folks who put Bibles in hotels. He stood up in a meeting in very “red” Miles City, Montana, and told them to knock off the anti-gay stuff. He demanded they practice what Jesus preached. Love one another.

Q: WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE BIGGEST ISSUE OR CHALLENGE FACING THE LGBTQ COMMUNITY TODAY?

A: There are many things, but I call us to remember our history. The pace of change since Stonewall is staggering and cannot be taken for granted. We can never forget those who paid such a heavy price for our liberation. I was ordained as an openly gay man 26 years ago. Many lifetimes ago in gay years.

davidbahrphoto2.jpg
Rev. David Bahr, Park Hill Congregational UCC in Denver

Q: LOOKING BACK AT YOUR YOUNGER SELF AND KNOWING WHAT YOU KNOW TODAY, WHAT WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE YOURSELF?

A: You will face obstacles, but continue to persist. It’s worth it!

Q: JUNE IS A BIG MONTH AS THE COMMUNITY CELEBRATES PRIDE ALL AROUND THE COUNTRY. THINKING ABOUT THE WORD PRIDE, WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO YOU?

A: Pride is a funny word to consider within a Christian context – one of the 7 deadly sins. Yes, I have pride. We should have pride, but it should not come with pridefulness or arrogance. At its depth, not speaking for everyone but in my Christian context, I hope pride grows out of confidence that God made us as we are – and that is very good.

I traveled in three different countries this year. In Dubai, homosexuality is illegal and potentially dangerous. In Sri Lanka, where homosexuality is technically illegal but not strictly enforced. And yet, the cultural expectation to get married and have children is so strong, there is virtually no gay community. And Thailand, where lots of foreign LGBTQ people travel, and yet it’s still not easy for Thai members of the LGBTQ community themselves due to cultural pressure to conform. I am proud that our country, with all its faults, is still a beacon of hope.

Q: WHAT ADVICE CAN YOU GIVE THE PARENT OF A CHILD WHO HAS JUST COME OUT - ESPECIALLY IF THAT PARENT IS A CHRISTIAN (WITH MORE TRADITIONAL BELIEFS) AND IS TRYING TO WORK THROUGH THEIR PERSONAL FAITH BELIEFS AND BEING SUPPORTIVE FOR THEIR CHILD?

A: Good Lord, get over it and love your child. It may involve grief over the loss of something you held on to with certainty and sincerity. Honor that grief. But then, Good Lord, get over it and love your child. Period

State Representative Brianna Titone
27th House District of Colorado
In November 2018, Titone made history when she was elected as Colorado’s first openly transgender lawmaker. Titone, who earned a BA in Physics and BS in Geology in New York and served as a volunteer firefighter before moving to Colorado to work as a geologist, mining consultant and substitute teacher, according to her biography.

briannatitone1.jpg
State Representative Brianna Titone , 27th House District of Colorado

Q: IN ONE OF YOUR CAMPAIGN VIDEOS YOU TALKED ABOUT THE DANGERS OF RUNNING FOR OFFICE AS A TRANS PERSON - THAT SOME PEOPLE MIGHT NOT LIKE YOU FOR WHO YOU ARE. HOW HAVE YOU DEALT WITH THAT CHALLENGE IN LIFE AND WHAT’S YOUR ADVICE FOR OTHERS WHO HAVE THE SAME CHALLENGES?

A: There is always a contingent of people, generally on social media, that are there to put rude, insulting, and inappropriate comments on my posts. There are usually people that come to my defense against Internet trolls. Generally though, I feel that many people have enough decency, at least, not be rude in public. For me, I like to be observant about my surroundings in public. I think that trans people out in public need to be extra observant and vigilant about their surroundings more than others.

Q: WHAT’S THE BIGGEST ISSUE FACING THE LGBTQ COMMUNITY TODAY?

A: I think one of the biggest issues facing LGBTQ people is workplace discrimination. Although LGBTQ people are becoming more accepted in society in general, the workplace environment is still a big problem for many. I've heard from many people saying they are being, or have been discriminated against or outed. A study recently revealed that more than 5 of 10 LGBTQ people said they had experienced or witnessed anti-LGBTQ comments from co-workers. For transgender people, underemployment or unemployment is high. Just because Colorado has anti-discrimination laws in place, that doesn't mean that it doesn't happen under the guise of other reasons.

Q: YOU’VE TALKED ABOUT WANTING TO REPRESENT PEOPLE WHO FEEL VOICELESS. IN YOUR OWN LIFE, WHO HAS BEEN A VOICE FOR YOU?

A: There have been many people that have stood out to me that have put themselves on the line to break barriers. I'd have to say that Virginia Delegate Danica Roem has been the voice for me. She gave me hope that I could win my election because she broke the barrier first. Because of her, I get to be the voice for others that are desperately in need of a voice. Any marginalized group of people that have been deeply oppressed understand the need for strong allies. There are many who have fought for me and strengthened my fight for many more.

briannatitone2.jpg
State Representative Brianna Titone , 27th House District of Colorado

Q: IN THE COMMUNITY, WHO INSPIRES YOU? WHAT GIVES YOU HOPE?

A: My constituents! When we talked to them during the campaign, they told us their stories, their ideas, and their thoughts. They gave me the opportunity and privilege to serve them at the Capitol. As a Representative, I am their voice at the Capitol and learning about them through canvasing and events allows me to make the best decisions to represent them. When I ran for office, I had my constituents in mind, and I am so thankful to them for helping me do the best work I can. With their support, I'm confident there's nothing we can't accomplish over the long run.

Q: WHAT WOULD YOU TELL SOMEONE WHO IS STRUGGLING OR TRYING TO COME TO TERMS WITH WHO THEY ARE?

A: It's easy to think that it's going to be hard to come out or be yourself, and often times it really is. The most important thing is to surround yourself with people that accept you. Find a mentor if you can. Whether that’s someone in your family, a running group, or a improv troupe, an LGBTQ support group, or a bridge club. Be sure they have your back before coming out. It takes courage which you need to find in yourself in whatever way you know how. Once you have your courage and support group, do your research and plan ahead. Coming out should be easy, but you can do it smartly to avoid some pitfalls. Be prepared to lose some people in your life along to way. This part may not be easy, but your true friends and family will always be there for you.

briannatitone3.jpg
State Representative Brianna Titone, 27th House District of Colorado

Q: LOOKING BACK AT YOUR YOUNGER SELF AND KNOWING WHAT YOU KNOW TODAY, WHAT WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE YOURSELF?

A: Listen to yourself and trust yourself. Your instincts are usually right. I was told by several people in the course of my life that I wasn't trans including a therapist which delayed my decision to come out. Only you know what makes you happy and happiness is a goal we should always strive for.

Q: JUNE IS A BIG MONTH AS THE COMMUNITY CELEBRATES PRIDE ALL AROUND THE COUNTRY. THINKING ABOUT THE WORD PRIDE, WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO YOU?

A: To me, Pride Month is about visibility and promoting acceptance of LGBTQ people. This year, in particular, we should remind ourselves of the origins of the Pride Parade and the significance of the month. It all goes back to Stonewall and the uprising against harsh discrimination against LGBTQ people. This month is a celebration of breaking down a huge barrier that prevented many people from being themselves. When people see others like them visible and proud in public, it gives others courage to join them. That solidarity was key 50 years ago, and is all the more important today.

briannatitone4.jpg
State Representative Brianna Titone, 27th House District of Colorado

Q: IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE YOU’D LIKE TO TALK ABOUT?

A: One of the greatest things that I get to do as a legislator is inspire others. I’ve been told that I have saved the lives of people that have lost hope but found inspiration in me. This is the most profound thing I get to do every day as a legislator and it's a wonderful feeling to help others live up to their full potential as human beings.

DEBRA POLLOCK
CEO, The Center on Colfax
Debra currently serves as CEO of The Center on Colfax, the largest LGBTQ community center in the Rocky Mountain Region.

IMG_0189-1.jpg
DEBRA POLLOCK, CEO, THE CENTER

Q: IT’S THE 50TH ANNIVERSARY OF STONEWALL THIS YEAR, HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE PROGRESS THE LGBTQ COMMUNITY HAS MADE SINCE THEN?

A: It’s amazing to take in all the change that has happened in the last 50 years around the world. Check out Pride Radar to see for yourself. Stonewall has had a huge ripple effect around the world. Fighting for LGBTQ rights and equality takes constant effort and I think it always will. Colorado has come a long way since 1992 when it was known as the Hate State – that has taken countless hours on the part of many people. However, there are still parts of the world where it’s not at all safe to come out.

Q: WHAT’S THE BIGGEST ISSUE FACING THE LGBTQ COMMUNITY TODAY?

A: Although we’ve made a lot of progress in the U.S. the current administration is attempting to roll back the civil rights protections of our most vulnerable community members. We once again find ourselves fighting to maintain our hard earned rights.

Q: WHAT WOULD YOU TELL SOMEONE WHO IS STRUGGLING TO COME OUT BECAUSE THEY ARE AFRAID OR FEEL LIKE THEY DON’T HAVE FAMILY OR COMMUNITY SUPPORT?

A: I would encourage them not to isolate and to find support. There are lots of resources available to people today. Visit our website LGBTQColorado.org or come in and ask questions. Come to PrideFest next weekend and you will make lots of new friends and realize that you are not alone.

Q: TALK ABOUT YOUR WORK AND THE MISSION OF THE CENTER. WHAT’S THE MOST REWARDING ASPECT OF YOUR WORK?

A: The Center on Colfax has been around since 1976 and evolved with the needs of the community throughout the years. We serve five generations of people and produce Denver PrideFest – all of the money raised at Denver Pride goes directly back into providing services for our community members who utilize the services of The Center on Colfax I’d invite you to check out our annual report on LGBTQColorado.org and watch the videos from program participants themselves. For me, the most rewarding thing, is to listen to people sharing their stories and making new friends.

Q: IN THE COMMUNITY, WHO INSPIRES YOU? WHAT GIVES YOU HOPE?

A: My colleagues around the country inspire me. There are about 300 LGBTQ community centers around the US, Canada, Puerto Rico and now one in China.

Q: JUNE IS A BIG MONTH AS THE COMMUNITY CELEBRATES PRIDE ALL AROUND THE COUNTRY. THINKING ABOUT THE WORD PRIDE, WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO YOU?

A: It used to be the only time of the year when you could let your guard down and feel validated for who you are. Now many employers are interested in attracting and retaining LGBTQ talent. We know people are more productive when they can bring their whole self to work. It means broader awareness and acceptance of people.

Q: LOOKING BACK AT YOUR YOUNGER SELF AND KNOWING WHAT YOU KNOW TODAY, WHAT WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE HER?

A: Don’t be so hard on yourself.

DAVID AUTEN & JOHN SCHNEIDER
The Debt Free Guys
This Colorado married couple helps LGBTQ people take on the financial challenges unique to the LGBTQ community through tips on their blog or Queer Money Podcast.

DSC_5138_DxO.jpg
David Auten & John Schneider, The Debt Free Guys

Q: CAN YOU TALK ABOUT FINANCIAL ASPECTS AND CHALLENGES THAT ARE UNIQUE TO THE LGBTQ COMMUNITY? WHAT ARE THE COMMON MISTAKES? WHAT ARE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE PERSONAL FINANCES BETWEEN STRAIGHT AND LGBTQ PEOPLE?

A: The fundamentals ( say 80%) of money apply to everyone regardless of our race, creed, country of origin, gender, sexual orientation and gender identity, about 20% is different based on our unique concerns and experiences. Like The Pareto Principle, that 20% has a great effect on the whole 100%. Still today, in 30 states, LGBTQ can be denied housing, employment and services without recourse based on our LGBTQ-status. Does that mean we need more than the traditionally advised three to six-month’s worth of living expenses in an emergency savings account? Does that mean we must all move to expensive cities in states with LGBTQ protections? Should we start earlier and save more for retirement to avoid the risk of going into an LGBTQ-abusive nursing home?

For generations, LGBTQ people have been left out of the money conversation. We rarely if ever see ourselves in financial services advertising and marketing. The picture of an “ideal retirement” is a straight, white couple walking down the beach with their golden retriever. Many of us don’t aspire to that. So, are financial security and comfortable retirements available to us? Will anyone help us get there or must we do it alone? As most of us didn’t learn about personal finance in high school or college, going it alone is scary.

MassMutual found in 2018 that same-sex couples with at least one child under 18 have about 20% more credit card debt than their straight peers. Student Loan Hero in 2018 found that LGBTQ college graduates assume 17% more student loan debt. Between Prudential’s 2012 and 2016 LGBTQ Financial Experience Surveys, it’s estimated that the majority of LGBTQ people struggle to earn more than $50,000 annually. NBC recently reported that over the last 20 years, same-sex couples were 73% more likely than their straight peers to be denied a mortgage. That’s keeping us from the American dream and holding a pillar of financial security outside of arms reach.

All this is to say that there is a difference with money for queer and straight people and why queer people should take personal finance more seriously.

Hugging.jpg
David Auten & John Schneider, The Debt Free Guys

Q: ON YOUR WEBSITE, DEBTFREEGUYS.COM , YOU TALK ABOUT A TIME IN YOUR LIFE WHEN YOU WERE SADDLED WITH TENS OF THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS IN CREDIT CARD DEBT. YOU EXPLAIN THAT SPENDING BEYOND YOUR MEANS WAS A WAY TO MAKE YOURSELF FEEL BETTER, IN PART, AS A RESULT OF BULLYING YOU WENT THROUGH WHEN YOU WERE YOUNGER FOR BEING GAY. DO YOU FEEL LIKE THIS IS COMMON IN THE COMMUNITY? TALK ABOUT HOW YOU REALIZED THIS?

A: From the people we meet on social media, during our current Queer Money Live Tour, the members of our Queer Money Facebook group and the students in our Credit Card Pay Off Course, we know that many of us still carry our experiences from childhood into adulthood. Likewise, because of our childhood experiences, many as adults are still seeking validation through outward appearances. This is a challenge for the general population, too, but has a unique place in the queer community. We were once the gay cliché of living fabulously but being fabulously broke, and ours isn’t an isolated experience. We only realized this personal contradiction when we learned that between the two of us we had $51,000 in credit card debt despite both being in financial services and helping other people with their money. That ‘rock bottom’ inspired us to ask questions and get to the root of our problem. It took us years to get to the root cause, which ultimately was because we had low self-esteems about who we were and what we were worth. Ours, and many in our communities, addiction is spending. Many also struggle with sex, drug and alcohol addiction for similar reasons. But money isn’t a sexy topic and often carries with it shame, so we ignore it to our own detriment.

Q: DATING IS FUN, BUT IT CAN BE EXPENSIVE. CAN YOU GIVE US SOME IDEAS ON HOW TO DATE WITHOUT SPENDING A LOT OF CASH?

A: Denver’s one of the best cities to date someone. Groupon, Eventbrite and the Coupon Book are great ways to find free and cheap things to do. But sites like Mile High on the Cheap offer numerous fun and exciting things to do for free or close to free. All of these take a little bit of research and can yield great savings for you and your date. Many outdoor activities, from sharing a bottle of wine in Cheesman Park to walking Garden of the Gods to hiking St. Mary’s Glacier require very little money, get you outdoor and let you have quality time with your most favorite person. Denver’s great foodie scene and exciting night life can be appealing but also expensive. So, saving those for special occasions and overweighting on our previous suggestions will keep you both entertained.

SalidaWedding_81.jpg
David Auten & John Schneider, The Debt Free Guys

Q: WHEN YOU TALK TO A SAME-SEX COUPLE LOOKING TO START A FAMILY BY ADOPTING A CHILD, WHAT ADVICE DO YOU GIVE IN TERMS OF FINANCES?

A: For LGBTQ people, having children is rarely a surprise. That said, the options available to us are usually very expensive. So, start saving money early, pay off as much debt as possible and research all the options available. About 440,000 kids are in the foster care system in the United states. About 123,000 of them are waiting to be adopted. Some of this kids are considered high-needs and are harder to place because they identify as LGBTQ. Organizations, such as Adoption Options in Denver, are doing great work helping these kids find families easily and at lower costs that other family planning options. Organizations such as Help Us Adopt based out of New York City offer sizable grants to help families adopting children. Whichever path you choose, it’s great to talk with a financial planner.

Q: CAN YOU TALK ABOUT YOUR PERSONAL COMING OUT JOURNEY? WHAT WAS YOUR EXPERIENCE LIKE? WHO WAS YOUR SUPPORT DURING THAT TIME?

A: For David: I was raised as a Jehovah’s Witness from the age of 5, so telling anyone that I was different, that I was attracted to men, was unthinkable. For that reason, I buried the feelings deep inside. I didn’t want to face them. I never acted on them. Then, when I was in my early 20s, my sister was getting married and everyone was saying I was next, but I knew I couldn’t marry the girl I was dating.

So, I basically ran away. I moved to South Dakota. There I had some time alone to think about who I really was and what I wanted. I knew that if I came out I would lose everyone around me; friends, family, church, everyone. Everyone around me was from the church. I eventually realized that I would either have to come out or kill myself. I couldn’t live the lie I had been living for all those years and although, at times, I wanted to end it all, I didn’t want to die.

After moving back to Denver, I found a job. I made a couple of friends who were gay, and I came out to them. A few weeks later, I came out to my family. Since then, I have been shunned by my immediate biological family, but I have gained a logical family that has made my life worth so much more. Today, I get to help people just like me come out in another way. I help them come out about their financial situations and relieve the stress that money has on our lives. It’s my way of giving back to the community that loves and accepts me.

For John: I came out of the closet after I moved away from home to Denver. I was out to most of my Denver friends almost immediately. I came out to most of my friends in PA usually when they met David for the first time. Overtime, I told my family that David was my partner. It was a positive experience overall, even though there were times I was afraid to have the conversation. The responses were mostly positive to non-existent, which was fine. I had several close friends who were there for support. But, overall, my biggest challenge was accepting myself. Once I did that, everything else was relatively easier.

P1060204.JPG
David Auten & John Schneider, The Debt Free Guys

Q: WHAT GOT YOU INTERESTED IN HELPING THE LGBTQ COMMUNITY WITH FINANCES? HOW DID YOU START ‘DEBT FREE GUYS’ AND ‘QUEER MONEY PODCAST’?

A: Toward the end of our experience with paying off our credit card debt, we wanted to use our personal and professional experiences with money to help other people. That started in 2012 with Debt Free Guys. Even though we didn’t hide that we were a gay couple then, we weren’t so focused on the LGBTQ community. It was in 2015 that we went to FinCon, a personal finance blogger and media conference, where we realized that there were all sorts of bloggers, podcasters, speakers and authors talking to various niches – their communities. There were people who specialized in personal finance for Millennials, Christian, Veterans, mommies, etc. There was no one representing or talking to the queer community. So, we thought, “We’re queer, and we know our community needs as much help with its money was any other.” That’s when we decided to “go gay,” and we did. And, that’s when the Queer Money podcast was born.

Q: LOOKING BACK AT YOUR YOUNGER SELF AND KNOWING WHAT YOU KNOW TODAY ABOUT FINANCIAL HEALTH? WHAT MONEY ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE HIM?

A: Overcome limiting money beliefs – Money is not evil, nor are all rich people bad. In fact, many of the advocacy organizations and clinics that our community has relied upon over the last 50 years have been funded by rich people who care about us. Money is just a tool. If you’re good, you’ll use it wisely. If you’re bad, you won’t. If you believe you’re good, you should want to be rich so you can do more good. When we believe this, then we’ll make small changes and adopt habits to improve our finances rather than sabotage ourselves or ignore opportunities that can help us flourish financially. We all deserve an awesome life, you just have to believe it first for it to happen.

Avoid credit cards – (if you can’t pay them off right away) – the simple fact is that when we buy on credit we’re anchoring our future earnings to the past. We’re saying, “I’d rather not have money in the future or the things I want or need in the future. I’d rather have it now.” Then, we sink ourselves into a whole that takes years from which to dig out.

Live below your means – No one gets rich spending more money than they make. It’s impossible. Living below your means lets you set aside money for emergencies. It lets you save for the things you want or need. It lets you invest and, most importantly, have the time, energy and money to give back to your community.

Track your spending – Most of us think if we earned more we’d be okay. The truth is that when we do, we often experience lifestyle or budget creep. We know this because we did it. Year after year after year, we’d get a raise and then increase our spending. It wasn’t until we took a good look at our spending that we realized that, for us and the vast majority of people, we had a spending problem, not an income problem. By tracking your spending, you see when money comes in and where it goes. This is the foundation of a better financial future and how some people who earn way below average can have amazing lives. They spend on what makes them happy.

Invest for the long-term – Whether it’s your company retirement plan, a Roth IRA or a regular investing account, grow your money. Money should be working for you as you work for it. The only way to do that is to invest. Especially for the LGBTQ community in which only about 20% of us will have children, we need enough money in the future to take care of ourselves. Otherwise, we’ll end up relying on the government to take care of us. That prospects doesn’t look good right now – especially for LGBTQ people. We must invest early and do it monthly. In the end, starting early will yield big rewards.

MARDI MOORE
Executive Director, Out Boulder County
Working to help LGBTQ people through support groups, services and other programs, Out Colorado of Boulder County reaches over 9,000 people a year, according to its website. As Executive Director, Mardi Moore oversees staff, fundraising and planning.

IMG_0236.JPG
Mardi Moore, Executive Director of Out Boulder County

Q: IN THE COMMUNITY, WHO INSPIRES YOU? WHAT GIVES YOU HOPE?

A: The youth! they are so sharp and eloquent in their ability to see what is going on, what is wrong, and how things should be to be better for all. see the transformation of people who first come to us insecure and desperate and to see them blossom into strong leaders in the community. they inspire me and give me hope for the future.

Q: IT’S THE 50TH ANNIVERSARY OF STONEWALL THIS YEAR, HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE PROGRESS THE LGBT COMMUNITY HAS MADE SINCE THEN?

A: We've come a long way - consensual sodomy no longer carries the death penalty or time in jail in the US. people are no longer outed by name and picture in the paper after police raids, causing a loss of family, job, and well being. and we still have a long way to go: 8 trans women, all black, have been murdered so far this year. there has been a lot of movement on mainstream acceptance of more mainstream LGBTQ people who can blend in, but we are still fighting for acceptance of LGBTQ folks who don't blend into the mainstream as readily. we have won gay marriage but are still fighting for parental rights for international couples. trans people have some right and protections in some states and localities, but not others. Discrimination is still a serious issue in medical care, housing, employment, and public accommodations. The longer arc of LGBTQ history is moving in a positive directions, even though we are having set backs, and the only way that arc has move in the right direction is because people have fought hard for that progress, putting their life and well being on the line to raise up an entire community of people. that continues today.

Q: TALK ABOUT YOUR WORK AND THE MISSION OF OUT BOULDER? WHAT’S THE MOST REWARDING ASPECT OF YOUR WORK?

A: I get to meet the best people. Each day I meet a new person who wants to connect with the LGBTQ community. Hearing, knowing, and seeing that Out Boulder County saves lives. Seeing people find their strength and become empowered, and using that new voice to make that space accessible to others to do the same. community resiliency in action.

Q: WHAT WOULD YOU TELL SOMEONE WHO IS STRUGGLING TO COME OUT BECAUSE THEY ARE AFRAID OR FEEL LIKE THEY DON’T HAVE FAMILY OR COMMUNITY SUPPORT?

A: I would say Be You! You can be LGBTQ and out and happy and healthy. Community and support are key. if you can't get that from your family, find it elsewhere. the LGBTQ community is skilled at creating chosen families. find a community center, find a support group - in person or online. if you want to come out but don't have a supportive environment, make a plan, get resources in place

Q: WHAT’S THE BIGGEST ISSUE FACING THE LGBT COMMUNITY TODAY?

A: Right now it's the pressure everyone is under due to the current federal administration, hateful legislation and the rolling back of Executive Orders. Daily the news is devastating to many in our community. This climate is having a tremendously negative effect on all good people's mental health. We have made so much progress and watching these rights be stripped away has impact.

Q: JUNE IS A BIG MONTH AS THE COMMUNITY CELEBRATES PRIDE ALL AROUND THE COUNTRY. THINKING ABOUT THE WORD PRIDE, WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO YOU?

A: The LGBTQ Community is diverse, and so our experiences and journeys. However, we all share a common journey in the discovery of how we are unique because of our sexual orientation or our gender identity. That journey is one of growth for many, however unfortunately because of the world we live in, for many it is not. That's why we have to do this work. Yes, Pride is work.

Q: LOOKING BACK AT YOUR YOUNGER SELF AND KNOWING WHAT YOU KNOW TODAY, WHAT WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE HER?

A: Be kind to yourself. You may be different than most people you know but there isn't anything wrong with that. Listen to your heart. Be Brave. Be Yourself.

Q: IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE YOU’D LIKE TO TALK ABOUT?

A: Stand up! Speak Out! Bring others along! Be Kind to yourself and to others.

SABLE SCHULTZ
Manager of Transgender Services, The Center on Colfax
For nearly four years, Sable has led transgender and gender diverse services and support at The Center on Colfax .

IMG_0626.JPG
Sable Schultz, Manager of Transgender Services, The Center on Colfax

Q: WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE BIGGEST ISSUE OR CHALLENGE FACING THE TRANS COMMUNITY RIGHT NOW?

A: The number one challenge facing the transgender community is living in a system which prioritizes productivity, profit and wealth generation over human dignity and human survival. That’s the biggest challenge. I think that’s a human-wide challenge. I would say one of the biggest ones is a lack of respect and acknowledgement of our identities especially on the federal level in the United States.

Q: DO YOU FEEL LIKE THAT IS GETTING BETTER OR WORSE?

A: It’s definitely getting worse. We’re seeing directed, dedicated attacks against the transgender community by the current administration. transgender people are kind of the canaries in the coal mine when it comes to laws or things targeting specific groups of people. What we see happen in the transgender community often spills out in to other marginalized, underrepresented communities.

We’re seen as easy scapegoats, easy villains against a society which is sort of trying to figure out the best way to address the needs of the population.

Q: DO YOU FEEL LIKE IN THAT RESPECT, THE VOICES THAT SHOULD MATTER AS PART OF THAT CONVERSATION, ARE THEY APPARENT ENOUGH? OR ARE DECISIONS BEING MADE WELL OUTSIDE INPUT FROM THE COMMUNITY?

A: I think decisions are being made outside the input, not only just the transgender community, but healthcare providers, healthcare workers, people who look at policy and programs long term, For example, the military ban on transgender active duty members, the military has come forward multiple times and said supporting transgender people within its ranks, does not hinder the military’s effectiveness. Yet, those statements are being repeatedly ignored. Statements by mental healthcare providers and mental healthcare workers on the best ways to support transgender people and our needs are repeatedly ignored on multiple levels. Healthcare providers who have been studying the long term healthcare of transgender and gender diverse people - again, their input is being ignored.

Q: IN YOUR EXPERIENCE AND IN WHAT YOU SEE - WHAT ARE SPECIFIC MENTAL HEALTH CHALLENGES OR ISSUES THE TRANSGENDER COMMUNITY FACE?

A: The number one thing that people need to recognize is that transgender and gender-diverse people - these are not identies of choice. We’re not choosing to be transgender and gender-diverse. These are experiences and identities embedded within us from our youngest ages. These are not just new things. This is not a new trend or new experience when we look at historically-speaking - we find representatives of gender diversity throughout history dating back to our earliest records of humanity. Trans people have a sense of their gender often at a very young age and it oftentimes gets very surppressed even within themselves. They wind up trying to adopt or fit themselves into a role and identity which is not who they are and it’s not healthy for them. When a trans-woman comes out or a trans man comes out, it’s not like suddenly they’re identifying as a man or a women, they’re actually just divesting themselves of years of ingrained social pressure - social pressure often with a level of intimidation or violence that most people don’t go through just trying to navigate their own gender identities.

Q: WHAT DO YOU TELL PEOPLE WHO WANT TO BE SUPPORTIVE OF A TRANSGENDER FRIEND OR FAMILY MEMBER - PARTICULARLY A PARENT?

A: I get calls from parents of kiddos as young as three, four, five and six - where their kiddos have come out as essentially transgender and the number one thing that I tell them is meet them where they are that day. If you check in every day, how do you want me to call you today? Where are you at today? That will make a huge difference in that child’s life. And remember that supporting transgender or gender-diverse kiddo substantially reduces the rates of depression and suicidal ideations. By making that effort to meet your kiddo where they are at right now, makes a huge impact long term. It helps with their long term happiness and success.

For parents who have adult transgender children coming out, it’s okay that you didn’t recognize it right away. Sometimes it took us a little bit of time too to figure that out. We ask that you do your best in honoring our names and our pronouns. That’s really important because if you can honor our names and our pronouns, everything else we can workout. Any struggles that we have in the family, anything like that - honoring us for who we are right here and right now and respecting that and making that effort to akcnowledge that we know ourselves goes a very long way.

Q: CAN YOU TALK ABOUT YOUR WORK AS MANAGER OF TRANSGENDER SERVICES AT THE CENTER ON COLFAX?

A: I oversee the support groups. So, we have support groups for transgender folks. We have a Thursday evening support group for trans women we have a Friday evening support group for trans men and we have a non-binary support group that meets on the first and third Tuesdays. We have a significant others - friends, family and allies support group that meets. I oversee those and encourage the facilitators to really make the support groups as supportive and inclusive as possible recognizing that there is no single one way to be transgender or gender diverse. There are many different paths. I provide resource referral information to our transgender and gender diverse community and other community members too.

Q: CAN YOU TALK ABOUT YOUR PERSONAL JOURNEY?

A: My experience was suprisingly easy compared to the experiences of some people. I was very fortunate that my partner was supportive and continues to be supportive of me around my gender identity. I had a series of very supportive friends.

I came out in the late 90s. I really didn’t have a sense of what it was to be transgender until I was able to find other experiences that were more similar to my own through the internet and other websites. I started living, presenting full-time as my authentic self in the mid-naughties (......) It was a time where there was a lot of space to do that. We were still pushing forward on getting gender identity and gender expression supportive in the state of Colorado. I lived in the Denver-metro area since the year 2000 and Denver has been an amazing city to transition at.

There was one point which I was walking to and from work. I lived off 16th and Pennsylvania. Worked about 5th and Broadway, a fantastic walk. So I was walking back from work one day and I realized for all intense and purposes I was presenting myself my full authentic self and I felt invisible. I felt like no one paid me any attention. I was just another person and nobody really cared. If anybody was staring I didn’t see it and it didn’t phase me at all.

It just became this thing. I actually had to question myself am I ready to be invisible? Am I ready to just blend in and disappear like everybody else. And in a way I wasn’t which is kind of how I ended up here. I’m transgender and I’m proud of this and I’m proud of my experiences and what I’ve gone through to manifest who I am. I want to encourage other people to have pride in their identities and uplift the idea that being transgender is nothing to be ashamed of. It gives us a unique insight into the experiences of the world. We kind of get a little bit of everything going on. We get to see everything in a way.

WHAT CAN YOU SHARE ABOUT YOUR EXPERIENCE THAT GIVES HOPE TO OTHERS?

A: For folks that are coming out, this is not going to be your entire life. It’s going to be like 3 to 5 years and then you’re going to be through and whether or not you’ve accomplished everything you desire to accomplish in terms of your transition, you may not have accomplished all the steps you want to accomplish in your transition, but there’s going to come a where point 3 to 5 years in and you’re just settled in and it just becomes another aspect of your life like everything else and you’ve got bills to concern yourself with and you’ve got loved ones and significant others and you’ve got friends and family that you’re navigating with and you’ve got your work or your education or your art, your pets and it’s just part of the day to day piece of what your life is

It does get better in that regard. Even if the world feels like its caving in, it will just become another aspect of who you are and it will be one you can be proud of.

Actions