Delve into these digital recordings, firsthand stories about the lives of LGBTQ people in Colorado.
Brandi Robert served as Empress, mother, grandmother, and activist. In this oral history she talks about her growing up in New York, having a family, and becoming a hairdresser. She talks about her being outed and about how her life changed. She speaks about the history of drag in Dallas and Denver from about 1980 on. Most importantly she talks about her family and what they mean to her.
Tracy Phariss is a science teacher, long time activist, and was born and raised in Colorado. He talks about his childhood, attending Colorado School of Mines, and experiencing discrimination as a student. He talks about his coming out, going into education, work with the Colorado chapter of the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network.
Judith grew up in Ohio. She felt different as a kid but found guidance from other people. She eventually moved to California and talks about the bars and her social life revolving around sports like baseball. She talks about her experiences with hippies and counter-cultural life, as well as her first loves and experiences in Colorado. She talks about work with Olivia Records, the Women’s Music Movement, and her band Sweet Honey. She also talks about her life of activism and eventually the loss of her partner and her survival through the loss of a loved one. Judith continues her activism with Queer* and her company Brain at Work.
Lonnie Hanzon was born and raised in Colorado. He talks about growing up, being a magician as a young adult, and going into entertainment and art. Lonnie established his business, found his husband, and set a course for life right at the beginning of the HIV/AIDS crisis in the early 1980s. By the 1990s he had travelled the world and done installation art in Denver, New York, and in faraway locations like China. He has been called “Father of Christmas” and worked with the Center on Colfax for many years. He talks at length about the major works in his life, coming out, and being an out artist in Colorado. He lives and works near Denver.
Don grew up in West Denver in a Catholic household. He became an elementary school teacher. He helped create and run the first men's coming out group at the First Unitarian Society of Denver and the Gay Community Center of Colorado. He is a life long member of the Denver Gay Men's Chorus.
Inga Larson is an activist and works in mental health. She was involved in the Amendment 2 Campaign in Durango, Colorado.
Carol was born in Louisiana. She has a dual master's degree in divinity and music. She moved to Colorado in the 1970s. She founded the Denver Women's Chorus, Harmony: A Colorado Chorale, and is a mover and shaker among the music movement in Colorado. She is a mother to the music of Colorado.
Gillian Edwards was born near Sheffield, England. As a young girl she remembered the end of the second world war, and traveling around the world as a high school student. She realized she fell in love, realized she was a lesbian after college, and emigrated to the US. Though she married a man thinking it would be a fix, she later divorced, came out and felt free. Gillian worked for IBM for many years, and engaged in sports and outdoor activities with other lesbians. She later met her wife Betsy McConnell, fell in love, and was interviewed by Betsy for this oral history.
Scotti moved to Denver at the age of 18. He immediately got involved in drag and female impersonation. He was a member of the Turn About Revue and the was part of the founding of the Guilded Cage bar in 1964. He is one of the first Empresses of the Imperial Court of the Rocky Mountain Empire and has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for different causes all over Colorado.
Pat Gourley grew up in the midwest on a farm. As a young adult he traveled to the south and saw racial discrimination first hand. He moved to Boulder, Colorado and attended nursing school. He was later a leader in HIV at both Denver Health and for the community at large. He continues his philanthropic work today.
Donaciano was born and raised in Colorado Springs. His family lived in an area which would later be torn down for "urban renewal" to make America the Beautiful Park. He grew up seeing signs which said things like "No dogs or Mexicans allowed." He also grew up when gay men had few spaces to find each other and had only the "bars and the bushes." Donaciano grew up, went to college, and was a member of the Gay Liberation Front at Colorado College, later founded La Gente Unida, led efforts to pass Denver's first anti-discrimination ordinances, and is a life long Chicano activist.
Mary Celeste was the first out and proud lesbian to be elected in Denver County. She is also a founding, long time member of the Colorado GLBT Bar Association, LGBTQ Chamber of Commerce, and was a leader with the Colorado Legal Initiatives Project (CLIP) in their work against Amendment 2.
Sue Anne Michaels
Alice Cookie Barron
Bearing Witness Project
HIV/AIDS hit Colorado in 1982 and by 2015, more than 5,000 people had died from the disease, while 11,000 currently live with it. This project aims to gather their stories. In partnership with the Colorado AIDS Project (CAP), we gather oral histories, help with document collections, and provide educational outreach.
If your life has been impacted by HIV/AIDS, we want to hear your story. Please email David Duffield at email@example.com.