Delve into these digital recordings, firsthand stories about the lives of LGBTQ people in Colorado.
Ken Morgan grew up on a dairy farm in Wisconsin and graduated from Wisconsin State University at Whitewater in 1971. After 7 years living in the Chicago area, Ken Morgan moved to Colorado in late 1978. In Chicago Ken managed a large electronics store in Waukegan, Il. So, using that experience, in 1979 Ken opened a retail store, Stereo Plus, at 320 Broadway, and for 7 years served central Denver, advertising to the gay community in particular, with a place to find good sound for a reasonable price. After a couple of years traveling the country in the late 1980s, Ken taught himself relational database programming and worked as a consultant to U S West until 2000. For the last 20 years Ken has traded the stock market for a living. Ken met his partner, Lenny, in 2003. Ken and Lenny live in southeast Denver and are active in several gay groups including the Rocky Mountain Rainbeaus square dance club and Front Runners, a gay walking/running group.
Shari was born and raised in Denver. In this oral history she talks about her life growing up in Park Hill. She didn’t hear about same-sex love growing up, and became a teacher. In this oral history she talks about her activism in the women’s, LGBTQ, and educational community. Shari went on to serve as a principal. Shari served with the Gay and Lesbian Center, now the Center on Colfax, in many different ways from leading groups and workshops on coming out, relationships, and social events. She reflects on her life growing up in Park Hill, how it integrated and became a more liberal and open community from 1970 - 2000. Shari came to work with the SAGE program at the Center, and speaks about developing this program, as well as her activism in applying for a marriage license. Her story teaches us many things, most importantly sharing a sense of community and compassion.
Bob was born in Washington D.C. in 1943. He grew up there and went to HS there, and went to college in West Virginia. University of Maryland (1964 - 1966) Once when he was struggling, he called Frank Kameny for advice. Frank said "don't fight it, enjoy it." He met many people through MCC and Dignity, and also eventually when he came to Denver. He went to his first gay bar "Mother's" around 1965-1966, noticed it was strange that "some men were dancing together." Later, a fellow named David asked him to slow dance, "it was a wonderful experience.” Bob came to Denver in the 1970s, and after studying divinity and music Bob eventually helped to found the Denver Gay Men’s Chorus. He became a leader in Denver’s LGBTQ Choir community, and up until his passing in Feb. 2021, worked with the SAGE Singers.
Corky was born in Denver in 1944. He grew up on the south side of Denver, near Colorado and Iliff Ave. As a young kid he listened to Elvis and Rock n’ Roll, and had a big crush on Tony Curtis. His older brother was gay as well, who was just accepted for who he was. He attended college in Durango. His family ran a childcare center, he loved working with kids, and later became a teacher and later an artist, he was married for 10 years. He lived in Fort Collins, Denver, and later San Francisco. He had a partner in San Francisco, worked in an import store on Fisherman’s wharf, a bath house, and marched with Harvey Milk. He came back to Denver in 1983 and ran his family’s day care business. He started to come out more, go dancing with his friends all over Colorado, and develop a group of friends that marked his life. Grace, love, kindness, and friendship followed Corky wherever he went. He became well known in the Colorado LGBTQ community. He volunteered, lent his voice, time, and words. “I wanted to do my part,” he said, “and wanted to have fun.” “Think positive and count your blessings. Just move right on down no matter what the obstacles are… it’ll all be there tomorrow morning.”
Don is a psychiatrist and former faculty member at CU Boulder. In this oral history he talks about his journey as a young man, coming to terms with his sexuality and his Mormon faith, and his coming out at CU Boulder.
Bob grew up in Pennsylvania in a working-class neighborhood. In this oral history he talks about working realizing he was gay and growing up with a want to figure himself out and help others. “Dr. Bob” moved to Colorado in the late 1970s after becoming a psychologist. He met his husband Joseph Moore-Vitaletti in the early 1980s. He helped create Rainbow Alley and pioneered studies in anxieties related HIV/AIDS. He is a lifelong Democrat and helped work on the Obama campaign in Colorado in 2008 and has consulted on television.
In this interview Laurie talks about growing up in Denver and coming out at 21. She describes the world of women loving women in Colorado during the 1970s. She talks about caretaking for her friends during the HIV/AIDS crisis and moving to Arizona in 2006, as well as working with youth who share LGBTQ stories and creating community.
Chris has long embodied Christy Layne. Christopher Sloan studied ballet growing up in a Mormon household in Utah. He came to Denver in the mid-1970s and almost immediately began to perform with the International Court of the Rocky Mountain Empire (ICRME), the local drag organization in Denver. He has toured the country as a performer for over 40 years. In 1976, he got the permit for the first Pride parade in Denver, was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention, and later became an HIV activist. He was trained at the Shanti Project in San Francisco, volunteered to care and support HIV patients there, and is a fundraiser for projects around the country.
Tim Gill is the founder and creator of the Gill Foundation, Quark, and has supported the LGBTQ people of Colorado for many years. In this oral history he talks about growing up in Denver, as well what it was like to go work the Gay Liberation Front at CU Boulder in the 1970s. He talks about the impact Amendment 2 had on our community as well as our response to it. The Gill Foundation continues to advocate for the LGBTQ people of Colorado to this day.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.