Recently, I reached out to History Colorado with a proposition: Let’s put together the city’s first ever LGBT history. While I wait for the proposal to rise through the ranks, I’ve already started writing an introduction. You have to begin somewhere, right? Here’s where it starts:
Lately, we’ve spent a lot of time looking forward—to civil unions, to marriage, to true and present equal rights. And there’s nothing wrong with looking forward, but forward wouldn’t be possible without what lies behind.
There is a past we loosely remember: the election of Harvey Milk, the eruption of the Stonewall Riots, the first state to legalize gay marriage (Massachusetts), the creation of the Human Rights Campaign. But it seems altogether too scattered to create a firm foundation. What’s more, we seem to lack the native histories that propel the greater march toward equality. Where the nation moves forward, steps are taken by states, cities, and neighborhoods that push our country into a new realm of understanding and inclusivity. Unfortunately, these are the histories few have bothered to chronicle.
Until now, that is. Here in Denver, we have our own storied past to recall and cherish. It is undeniably speckled—riddled with as much pain as celebration—but it is ours. It is time we give that past a voice.
Please don’t misunderstand me: recognizing gay rights as an integral part of human rights is absolutely imperative. But just as civil rights were furthered first by individuals, then communities, then states, then a nation, so we, too, acknowledge our singular role in helping to bring equality to Denver, to Colorado, to the United States of America, and to the world.
Let us proudly remember the days of yesteryear, then, and come to know the history of which we are all so vitally a part: the history of our own LGBT community in Denver, Colorado.