In the fall of 1998, I took my then four-year old sister to the steps of the State Capitol for a memorial gathering for Matthew Shepard, not long after his death in Wyoming. Nothing makes a vicious hate crime seem more horrific and pointless than trying to explain to a child why someone would want to brutally murder someone else simply because of sexual orientation.
Sometimes, 1998 feels like it was yesterday -- and sometimes it seems like it was forever ago. (Though the '90s pop-culture revival of the last few years is trying hard, it still looks nothing like it actually did in the '90s.) And it seems even longer ago when I look at how far we've come as a state (and a country) in terms of the rights and visibility of the LGBTQ community. There's even a move under way to create a National LGBT Museum in Washington, D.C. The organizers recently put out a call asking states to contribute artifacts to their growing collection, as they look for a permanent home for the more than 5,000 items already gathered. From my own limited scope and experience as a Colorado ally, I've compiled a short list of things I think would be good additions to this museum.
A piece of Tracks 2000 Before there was Tracks -- the compound of a nightclub that hosts some of Denver's best drag shows, club nights and large-scale entertainment events -- there was Tracks 2000, itself a second coming of the original Tracks that had opened in 1980. Located at 20th and Fox streets in an area of lower-lower downtown that, long before condos, was home to warehouse parties, Tracks 2000 was an all-ages space where everyone was welcome.
A sixteen-year-old me first learned about Pride Fest by eavesdropping on the older, cooler folks who hung out at -- and seemed to own -- the club. Though I was hardly a regular (my parents didn't allow me to hang out at Paris on the Platte or Muddy's because of the parts of town they were in, let alone the even shadier area park Tracks called home), I remember the all-ages LGBTQ-friendly bar feeling truly inviting each time I went there.
I'd love to see a piece of Tracks 200's club's amazing light-up dance floor, or a bar from the elevated dancing cage, or a piece of its signage contributed to the national LGBT museum. Or even just a flier for one of the club's many nights. (More than just handbills, club and rave fliers in the '90s were often super elaborate, neon-colored fold-out thingies.)
P.S.: Check out the Tracks 2000 Thursdays 1997-2001 Facebook page for a true taste of the not-so-distant past.
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A yard sign from Amendment 2 Back in 1992, Colorado voters were asked to decide if we as a state should have the ability to repeal anti-discrimination ordinances protecting the rights of the LGBTQ community specifically, and prohibit the passing of such ordinances in future elections. Let me say that again: We were asked to vote on whether or not we should have the power to take away the civil rights of people based on sexual orientation.
Sounds insane, right? Well, Colorado voters voted 54 percent in favor of Amendment 2, and it passed. Fortunately, sane Coloradans sued the state, and the law never took effect. Though a "No on Amendment 2" yard sign would rule, a "Yes on Amendment 2" sign might make more of statement in the Museum -- but I have a feeling that the owners of a pro-discrimination yard sign may not want to show their faces in 2013. Photographs of Colorado civil unions ceremonies Sure, we're not the only state to have passed civil unions legislation in the last few years, but when we did it, we went big. Coloradans came out in droves to make legal notice of their love: When the law took effect in May, 255 civil union licenses were issued -- compared to 245 marriage licenses that same month. What a better contribution to a museum focusing on the fight for rights for all than photos of happy humans celebrating love and life?
A menu from Racines Though by no means an "official" gay hot spot, Racines has been one of Denver's out-and-about staple restaurants for decades (the restaurant and bar turns thirty this December.) As far as credentials, Racines has been a longtime participant in the Dining Out for Life program, working with Project Angel Heart since its inception. The spacious gathering spot also celebrated civil unions this year by offering free champagne for same-sex couples throughout the month of May.
But more than all of its official community-inclusive work, Racines has always been known for being the go-to place where you can to take your family -- no matter what size, shape or kind of family you have. The waitstaff is exceptional, the management is visible and the food is comforting, just like the big room's comfy booths and roll-around arm chairs. Racines is a great representation of Denver's friendly atmosphere, making a piece of it important enough to be commemorated in a national LGBT museum.
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Anything Nina Flowers By no means Denver's first queen or even a native to Colorado, Nina Flowers still helped bring our state's drag scene to the world's stage. The drag queen and expert DJ was a contestant and first runner-up on the first season of RuPaul's Drag Race. But that was just the jumping-off point for Flowers, who travels the world as a DJ and multi-faceted performer and is the person responsible for elevating Denver's drag scene with the massive music- and art-inspired Drama Drag events at Tracks (now known as Drag Nation). We love Nina, and who better to represent our state at the LGBT museum in the nation's capital than the queen of Colorado queens herself?