On Saturday, about 35 people gathered in the main room of Inside Out Youth Services, downtown, to talk about bringing something back and not bringing it back.
The Colorado Springs Pride Center closed in January after 37 years, its board citing "unretired debt from years past, as well as management issues." The center had provided support groups and services, acted as a chamber of commerce, put on the annual Pride Fest, and was available to provide information about other LGBTQ groups and to coordinate events and services.
Since its closing, Nic Grzecka, owner of Club Q and V Bar, has taken on organizing the Pride Fest, and other agencies have expanded their services. Now Elizabeth Clair, a 29-year-old musician, and Kory Phairchyld, a 28-year-old business owner, say they're ready to fill any gaps with a new organization, the Colorado Springs Queer Collective. But they don't want to simply start where Pride left off: "I'd rather build our own reputation from the ground up," Clair says.
The two, who are both transgender, want to throw off the financial and ideological baggage of the past. They hope to emphasize the challenges of trans people, and of young people who have aged out of services like Inside Out and Urban Peak, but may not feel comfortable at the galas and breakfasts that cater to more established, older adults.
"We're trying to steer away from this complete and utter leadership of older white gay men, and lean toward something that's younger and fresher," Phairchyld says.
Clair says she thinks part of the problem is the gap in the general experience of Millennials versus that of older generations. Younger people are dealing with a huge shift in the job market, for instance, and a center should be able to help them deal with that.
Clair and Phairchyld, along with perhaps 10 others, have already began putting together their vision. They have a website (csqueercollective.org) that includes a list of queer resources and organizations, and a calendar listing many of the organizations' events.
Eventually, the two — who say they've been putting in 60-hour weeks on the project for four months now — hope the Queer Collective will be a physical space offering services of its own, and serving as a resource for other agencies. They've already been meeting with community members to look for opportunities for everything from a medical clinic to apprenticeships.
For now, though, they're focused on the basics: conducting a needs assessment, assembling a business plan, seeking funders, and getting ready to apply for 501(c)3 nonprofit status. The meeting at Inside Out was another step, a way to understand what the community wants.
The group that gathered seemed friendly to the idea, thanking the organizers on many occasions. But they also brought questions. What's your business plan? Why haven't you named officers yet? Where, exactly, will the money come from? Why is it named Queer Collective? What's "queer" even mean?
Clair and Phairchyld welcomed the questions, and the offers for help — a meeting on the financial issues is scheduled for May 10. They also offered an explanation of their decision to use the word "queer."
"We're using the word 'queer' because when you look at other terms ... those terms cover a number of identities but still leave gaps for people to fall through," Phairchyld says. "We're using the term 'queer' as kind of an all-encompassing umbrella."