COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Despite being Colorado’s second-largest city, relatively few resources exist for LGBTQ+ people in Colorado Springs, specifically for transgender and non-binary people needing gender-affirming care.
Several groups are working to change that.
“There are LGBTQ folks who’ve been living and working here for decades and decades who’ve been doing a lot of work in this area,” said Rachel Keener, LGBTQ+ health equity manager with the Community Health Partnership, a nonprofit that works to improve health needs in the Pikes Peak region. “Things have existed, but if you compare what we have in Colorado Springs to similarly sized areas, we don’t have as much infrastructure as other spaces and that’s what we’re trying to address.”
In 2022, the Community Health Partnership and Inside Out Youth Services — a nonprofit serving LGBTQ+ youth in Colorado Springs — received a grant from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to survey queer community members in the Pikes Peak area to determine where the biggest needs are.
After five were killed and more than a dozen people were injured when a shooter opened fire at Club Q, one of Colorado Springs’ only LGBTQ+ bars, in November 2022, Keener said the nonprofits pushed to get the survey out sooner, realizing queer people in the region were dealing with trauma and needed urgent resources.
“In the post-Club Q world, this information is really important for understanding how we can care for the larger LGBTQ community that is struggling and suffering right now,” Keener said. “We had a community that already had deficits in resources and now the need is even greater.”
The survey is open to all LGBTQ+ people across Colorado. While it aims to assess needs in El Paso and Teller Counties, researchers hope to use results from those living in other counties as baselines for comparison.
With four military bases, several megachurches and a history of voting Republican, Colorado Springs has earned a reputation as a conservative city, a unique characteristic for metropolitan areas of its size — about 484,000 people.
Because of its conservative status, advocates in Colorado Springs said the city lacks concentrated help for LGBTQ+ people. Most statewide LGBTQ+ nonprofits are based in Denver and many in Colorado Springs are spread out and struggle to reach all community members, advocates added.
“The ultimate goal is to figure out where the gaps are because what we find is there might be people duplicating resources in some areas, there might be people who serve a certain section and don’t serve others,” said Liss Smith, communications and advocacy director at Inside Out Youth Services. “We’re trying to figure out where are the gaps, where are the barriers and how can we all work together as an LGBTQ community to close those gaps.”
The survey focuses on discrimination at work, school and church, as well as access to physical and mental healthcare, specifically for transgender and non-binary people.
Keener said there are health care providers in the area who provide gender-affirming care, but most come to the practice on their own volition, and such practitioners are few and far between. Because of this, many who need gender-affirming care make the trek to Denver Health or the UCHealth Integrated Transgender Program — located at the Anschutz campus in Aurora, Colo. Driving an hour for essential care creates mass financial and mental strain, Keener said.
“When you have a conservative space, resources in the community are not necessarily in the forefront of folks’ minds,” Keener said. “Something we’ve seen since the tragedy is there are a lot of interested parties who want to show up and do this work and just haven’t been trained on how to do that.”
Those interested in taking the survey may do so by clicking this link.
Alison Berg is a multimedia journalist at Rocky Mountain PBS. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.