Colorado woman sees her own story reflected in LGBTQ+ history exhibit
DENVER, Colo. (Rocky Mountain PBS) — Linda Scherrer holds nothing back as she walks into History Colorado wearing a t-shirt that reads, “I can’t even march straight.”
“I’m very proud of who I am today, very proud. I wouldn’t change anything, except maybe I’d be four inches taller,” laughed Scherrer, 78.
Scherrer came out as a lesbian more than 40 years ago.
“Literally overnight I came out as a lesbian and a feminist. Then I discovered politics and feminism and thought, ‘Where have I been all this time?’ And so, as a result I became active in some of the local events,” she explained.
Pictures of many of the events Scherrer is talking about now line the walls of History Colorado’s new exhibit, titled “Rainbows and Revolutions,” which focuses on the state’s LGBTQIA+ history. The exhibit is sponsored by the Denver-based Gill Foundation.
“I think it’s fabulous and it’s a long time coming, it’s about time,” Scherrer said, walking through the exhibit. “I don’t know how it’s being received by the general populous, but I know that it’s a topic of conversation among my friends and people at work — gay or straight, they’re aware of it. I think it’s wonderful because a lot of work went into this.”
The exhibit’s curator, Aaron Marcus, collected artifacts documenting the struggles and triumphs of Colorado’s LGBTQIA+ community over the last fifty years. He believes the word “Pride” only scratches the surface of what he hopes this exhibit will show the public.
“For us in the LGBTQ community, it’s our lives it’s not just an exhibit. It isn’t Pride month or October, which is LGBTQ history month. It’s waking up every day,” 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 then they know that people have been fighting for their rights for decades.”
The exhibit starts 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 during this time. But when officers raided the Stonewall Inn in June of 1969 over several days, the LGBTQIA+ community, led by trans women of color Marsha P. Johnson, Miss Major, and Sylvia Rivera, led the resistance against police.
Following that starting point, the exhibit at History Colorado then covers the decades of activism that followed in the centennial state.
“This being in a state institution is huge for LGBTQ history,” Marcus added. “So, for me to have something that I put together in a state institution, honestly now that it has opened, it’s hit me more how important this is.”
Marcus came out as gay 30 years ago and believes that this exhibit can not only educate the general public, but it can also help others in the LGBTQIA+ community.
“This history of LGBTQ people in Colorado is important because we do have a history here,” he said. “People don’t know this history and honestly a lot of people in this community don’t know their own history.”
Marcus feels that as informative as the “Rainbows and Revolutions” exhibit is meant to be, 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 came before the Stonewall Uprising, but it was the Stonewall Uprising that was such huge national and worldwide news event, and that’s what really started the gay rights movement.”
Linda Scherrer wants “Rainbows and Revolutions” to set an example for other states around the country. “In looking at this it serves as a measurement to how far we’ve come, and it ends over here with how far we’ve yet to go,” Scherrer said. “This isn’t on the down low; I think this can help where it needs it. But of course, there are places like Florida and Texas. I don’t know what’s going on down there, but I have a hunch they don’t have this.”
Scherrer also feels that even with all the progress made over the years, with every step forward, there’s still a step back. “We are [might] overturning Roe v. Wade, I have great concerns that we’re going to do the same to gay marriage,” she said.
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