Annual LGBTQ+ Celebrations to Take Place Virtually and In-Person This Year
As Pride Month continues, Denver is preparing for its celebration of people of all gender identities and sexual orientations.
North Denver has a few of its own Pride representatives who spoke about the importance of the month and the centerpiece parade.
“This year’s Pride month and parade are especially important as many of us look forward to not only honoring the activists and allies who came before us, but also taking the opportunity to celebrate the diversity that makes the LGBTQ community unique,” said Lauren Cikara, the chair of the Denver LGBTQ Commission. “Amidst the isolation and call for social justice over the past year, our hope is that the 2021 Pride celebrations will inspire individuals to live authentically, reunite our community and re-engage our overall commitment to ensuring equity for all.”
Chuck Rozanski of Mile High Comics, a.k.a. Bettie Pages
Chuck Rozanski (he/she/they) is the founder of Mile High Comics who discovered they were genderfluid later in life. They said they have marched in various Pride parades throughout the nation and participated in the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in New York City.
“What really makes Denver Pride unique is the fact that we have this enormous party in Civic Center Park that lasts for two days,” Rozanski told The Denver North Star about Pride parades that weren’t in the middle of a pandemic.
Rozanski, who is a member of the LGBT Imperial Court System of the Rockies, said the continuation of the Pride Parade and the month are important to the community to reinforce their identities and celebrate camaraderie.
“I think Pride provides all of us with the opportunity to share perspectives,” he said. “Pride is for us to show children of our community that they don’t need to be afraid to be true to what’s in their heart.”
Rozanski performs in drag as Bettie Pages and has hosted the “Drag for All Ages” show for the last couple years, and in 2019 it drew protests from some people who were irked by having children invited to participate in drag.
Rozanski said there has been “a lot of hate preached” in recent years toward LGBTQ people, and when the pandemic hit it made it harder for younger people to discover who they truly are.
“Dealing with adolescents is hard enough, but being adolescent and transgender in any form, whether that’s someone who wants a full-on transition or someone like me who is dual-gender, … young people have to find ways to rationalize that in their own minds,” Rozanski said. “They need role models, and Pride provides that opportunity.”
The Drag for All Ages show is slated to return once the pandemic subsides, Rozanski said.
You Matter Zone
Puppets have long been a tool to teach children about the world, but only recently has the medium been used to discuss gender identity.
Rev. Brad Laurvick of the Highlands United Methodist Church started doing a “non-dogmatic” puppet show in his garage a few years ago, and recently he had one of his characters, Aspen the frog, identify as gender nonbinary.
“We knew we wanted a puppet who was nonbinary; we want the puppets to reflect the people of our community,” Laurvick said, adding that his puppets who are humanoid do not have fleshy skin tones, so that anyone can “see themselves” in the character.
On TikTok, the page @bradandthepuppets, which features characters from Laurvick’s creation the You Matter Zone, garnered a significant following. One of the videos posted received nearly 550,000 views.
“The puppets are not a church thing, but they live out the beliefs of the church,” he said. “The congregation when I arrived was already a very welcoming space. God doesn’t play favorites. The pride we’re celebrating is the opposite of shame, no one should be ashamed of who they are.”
Laurvick said he hopes the message Pride celebrations provide to people is “That every single person would hear clearly that who they are is a gift to the world and who they are matters.”
Highlands UMC will have members of the LGBTQ community lead sermons and songs throughout the month of June.
Former State Sen. Lucía Guzmán
As the first openly LGBTQ legislator to serve as Senate President Pro Tempore, Guzmán said Colorado has been at the forefront of gender and sexuality issues, as she and her colleagues worked to allow civil unions for all people. Guzmán, now retired, represented North and West Denver in the state senate and on the DPS school board.
“We need to take in this month and hopefully be a beacon to those families and parents who are struggling to love their children and support their children who are living diverse lives,” Guzmán said. “This month can be a beacon to those individuals who maybe feel like it’s not worth the battle and may not have been able to receive public support in some way, and they’re teetering on the edge, not feeling like they can be who they are.”
Guzmán said she is hopeful for the future of the LGBTQ community in North Denver, and she said “hope” is the main message she wants people to take from Pride celebrations.
“I think this is a great time in the North Denver area where we have an opportunity to be so proud of who we are,” she said. “I’m hoping that the North Denver people, those who are new and those who have been here a long time, (know) that this is the place where a lot of the changes and the struggles took place and continue to move forward with that hope.”
Eric Heinz is a freelance journalist based in Denver who most recently covered Los Angeles City Hall for City News Service.