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Queer Lives promotes sense of community

CU Denver alumni performers known as Kirkland.
Photo: Erica Barillari · The Sentry

Event uses creativity to highlight serious issues

“It is Wednesday. Who’s wearing pink?” asked Queer Lives host R.C. Michaels.

The fourth annual Queer Lives suicide prevention and awareness event on Nov. 14, hosted by CU Denver’s Genders & Sexualities Alliance, coincided with this year’s Transgender Awareness Week.

Though the event was in part meant to provide entertainment to attendees, it also addressed serious issues that LGBTQ students often face.

“The core of the event is suicide awareness and prevention; suicide is an enormous issue in our community, and our main goal is to have this be a big celebration of life,” said event organizer and President of CU Denver’s Genders & Sexualities Alliance, Joe Gurr. “We’re working to provide our community with a space where queer life is actively valued and celebrated, where we can all come together and look toward the future with hope.”

To promote awareness, the event featured a resource fair prior to the performances with organizations such as Mental Health Colorado, the Colorado Mental Wellness Network, and Second Wind Fund, Inc. providing information and outreach.

According to the nonprofit Mental Health America, “Discrimination against LGBT persons has been associated with high rates of psychiatric disorders, substance abuse, and suicide.” LGBTQ persons may also have trouble affording health care or face further discrimination from health professionals.

Some organizations at the resource fair were aimed at providing resources for homeless youth, such as Sox Place, a day center founded in 2002.

Courtney McRae Crawford, a CU Denver anthropology student who volunteers at Sox Place, said it’s important to have resources for homeless youth within the LGBTQ community as “even in more progressive cities, such as Denver, you still have parents unaccepting of alternative lifestyles.” According to a study from the University of Chicago, LGBTQ youth are 120 percent more likely to experience homelessness.

Event volunteers accepted donations from audience members, which supported the White Rose Scholarship from the Imperial Court of the Rocky Mountain Empire, an event partner and the oldest LGBTQ organization in the state of Colorado. The White Rose Scholarship is awarded to Colorado residents to assist them in meeting costs of tuition and textbooks.

The performances were alternatively fun and lighthearted as well as serious and emotional. Michaels and fellow performers Lala Shearz and Star Kirkland performed in drag to upbeat tracks. Additionally, there was an impromptu audience member competition dancing and lip-syncing to Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way.”

There were also musical performances, slam poetry, short films, and visual art from Auraria campus students and alumni. In a more emotional and subdued act, a performer who went by the stage name Euphonitone read a poem about facing depression, demonstrating the event’s focus on mental health.

To further emphasize the theme of the Queer Lives event, attendees were encouraged to write on a wall display with paper butterflies entitled “Why I Choose to Live.” Some responses included: “To pet my dog and love my friends,” “To find out what I can be,” and “To help others.” Gurr said the display was meant to show “a celebration of life,” especially for those facing mental illness.

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