A new website and online archive featuring 200-plus news stories, artifacts and images from Northern Colorado’s LGBTQ+ past was launched earlier this month to educate the public about the region’s LGBTQ+ history.
The Queer Memory Project of Northern Colorado was released to coincide with the start of LGBTQ+ History Month, which is celebrated every October in the United States. Among the items on display are artifacts that tell stories about Fort Collins’ reception of Oscar Wilde, 19th century lesbian leaders and business owners, and gender impersonation and cross-dressing in Loveland, Estes Park, and Evans. Both the website and archive can be accessed online at qmpnoco.org.
The Queer Memory Project is the result of a year-long research project by Tom Dunn, an associate professor of Communication Studies and Monfort Professor at Colorado State University. Dunn has spent 15 years studying how LGBTQ+ communities use stories of their past to advocate for social, cultural, and political changes in the present.
Dunn says similar projects in Colorado have taken a statewide view or focused on cities like Denver and Boulder, but that the booming population centers of Northern Colorado have never before received this level of sustained attention.
“It’s important that people know that LGBTQ+ individuals have always been here in Northern Colorado,” Dunn said. “We believe if we can tell these stories, both about LGBTQ+ people’s struggles and achievements in the region, we can continue to help make this part of the state a more safe, just, and welcoming place.”
“It’s important that people know that LGBTQ+ individuals have always been here in Northern Colorado. We believe if we can tell these stories, both about LGBTQ+ people’s struggles and achievements in the region, we can continue to help make this part of the state a more safe, just, and welcoming place.”
— Tom Dunn, an associate professor of Communication Studies and Monfort Professor
Northern Colorado’s LGBTQ+ past
A photo from a Pride march in Fort Collins in 1983.
The Queer Memory Project is hopeful that greater visibility of the region’s LGBTQ+ past will be particularly meaningful to Northern Colorado’s LGBTQ+ youth, who, like their peers nationwide, continue to face elevated risks of bullying, violence, and negative mental health impacts. Indeed, the Trevor Project notes that LGBTQ+ youth are “four times more likely to seriously consider suicide, to make a plan for suicide, and to attempt suicide versus their peers.” Many of QMP’s resources are online specifically to be widely accessible to LGBTQ+ people who have found their safe spaces and support networks constrained by COVID-19 restrictions.
Dunn plans to expand the project significantly over the next two years with online exhibits, public events, a class for CSU students—SCM380.A5: Communicating the Queer Past, a seminar for K-12 teachers, and a digital timeline of Northern Colorado’s LGBTQ+ past. Dunn will also speak on the subject at this year’s Diversity Symposium at CSU.
Meanwhile, the online archive will continue to grow as materials are discovered or donated. Current or past residents of Northern Colorado who are interested in contributing documents, artifacts, or stories to QMP can find out more about how to do so on the QMP website at qmpnoco.org.
The project is supported by funds from a Monfort Professorship at CSU, a program to support excellence in mid-career faculty teaching and research underwritten by the Monfort Excellence Fund.