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Colorado woman sees her own story reflected in LGBTQ+ history exhibit

Exhibit curator Aaron Marcus has collected artifacts documenting the struggles and triumphs of Colorado’s LGBTQIA+ community over the past fifty years. He thinks the word “Pride” only scratches the surface of what he hopes this exhibit will show audiences.

“For us in the LGBTQ community, it’s our lives, it’s not just an exhibition. It’s not Pride month or October, which is LGBTQ history month. It wakes up every days,” Marcus explained. “For me personally it’s a constant coming out, it’s a constant fear of rejection and so if people can come in and see this exhibit they know people have been fighting for their rights for decades.”

The exhibit begins at the end of the Stonewall Uprising in 1969. At that time, the Stonewall Inn was a haven for the city’s gay, lesbian, and transgender community. As such, police raids were common in this era. But when officers raided the Stonewall Inn in June 1969 for several days, the LGBTQIA+ community, led by trans women of color Marsha P. Johnson, Miss Major and Sylvia Rivera, led the resistance against the police.

After that starting point, the exhibit at History Colorado then covers the ensuing decades of activism in the centennial state.

“Being in a state institution is huge for LGBTQ history,” Marcus added. “So for me to have something that I put in place in a state institution, honestly, now that it’s opened, it strikes me more how important it is.”

Marcus came out as gay 30 years ago and believes this exhibit can not only educate the general public, but also help others in the LGBTQIA+ community.

“This story of LGBTQ people in Colorado is important because we have a story here,” he said. “People don’t know that story and honestly a lot of people in this community don’t know their own story.”

Marcus feels that, as informative as the “Rainbows and Revolutions” exhibit is, it only scratches the surface of LGBTQIA+ activism, not just in Colorado, but across the country. “I don’t want to ignore the pioneers that preceded the Stonewall Uprising, but it was the Stonewall Uprising that was such a major national and global news event, and that’s what really started the movement of gay rights.”

Linda Scherrer wants “Rainbows and Revolutions” to set an example for other states in the country. “Looking at this serves to measure how far we’ve come, and it ends here with how far we still have to go,” Scherrer said. “It’s not about the low low; I think it can help where needed. But of course there are places like Florida and Texas. I don’t know what’s going on there, but I feel like they don’t have that.

[Related: ‘Don’t Say Gay’ causes unexpected showdown between Florida, Disney corporation]

Scherrer also believes that even with all the progress made over the years, with every step forward there is still a step back. “We are [might] overthrowing Roe c. Wade, I have great concerns that we’re going to do the same for gay marriage,” she said.

Dana Knowles is a media reporter at Rocky Mountain PBS and can be reached at [email protected].

Brian Willie is head of content production at Rocky Mountain PBS. You can contact him at [email protected].