The Queer Memory Project of Northern Colorado — QMP for short — was founded in October 2021 to begin to restore our understanding of the historical LGBTQ+ experience in Northern Colorado. Our goal is to uses these rediscovered understandings to tell stories that advance a more welcoming, safe, and equitable community today.
This work takes on several features including:
- collecting and preserving stories of the queer past from the region in our online archive or with other collecting partner institutions
- educating a new generation of queer historical activists through college courses like SPCM 381.A2: Communicating the Queer Past, training for K-12 educators, and other community education projects
- sharing the queer past with local and regional audiences through a variety of communication-driven engagement projects
We primarily serve the people and communities of Northern Colorado, including the cities of Fort Collins, Greeley, Loveland, Windsor, Evans, and Estes Park, as well as both Larimer and Weld counties. We also plan to undertake projects in Steamboat Springs, Fort Morgan, and Sterling. In principle, however, our work extends to the entire State of Colorado and adjacent communities in Wyoming, Kansas, and Nebraska.
The Queer Memory Project of Northern Colorado falls under the auspices of Colorado State University, particularly the Department of Communication Studies. QMP was founded by Tom Dunn, a faculty member at Colorado State University, with the support of a Monfort Professorship for 2020-2023. However, while QMP is supported by CSU and driven by CSU student and faculty research, its aim is to serve the community as part of the university’s Land Grant Mission and commitment to public engagement. As such, QMP’s audience includes residents of and visitors to Northern Colorado, including K-12 students, teachers, community and business leaders, and others. QMP also draws participants and contributors from outside the university as collaborators, partners, and volunteers. Find out more about how you might Get Involved.
When the LGBTQ+ past has been preserved at all, it has often been done so on the fly and in the moment, largely by passionate volunteers working for free. Therefore, the nature of this work typically leaves little time or space for considering the values we seek to uphold when we do this work. By contrast, given both the institutional and time support afforded to QMP, we try to take an expressly value-driven approach as we make choices about preserving and sharing the region’s queer past. These values include:
- Putting Northern Colorado first. We greatly admire-and often work with!-other institutions and organizations preserving LGBTQ+ history in the state and nation. But, we know that Colorado’s LGBTQ+ history is not limited to major cities, organizations, or events to the south. There is, rather, a uniquely Northern Colorado LGBTQ+ past that has and continues to exist. QMP works to tell and advocate for our stories and to keep those stories close to home where they can do good in our community.
- Communication matters. We believe knowing the past is a powerful resource for social change, but only when the we tell stories about that past effectively as skilled communicators. We therefore prioritize good communication about the queer past at QMP, not just the safe-keeping of historical information. This commitment includes incorporating the best communication theories and practices into our work, attending to the various different audiences of this work, and emphasizing how we can build a better understanding of our shared past with the community through careful listening and question-asking.
- Equitable and intersectional undertakings. We aspire to build a queer past for Northern Colorado that is meaningful for all parts of our community-even as we know there are impediments to doing so. Some of these impediments are internal to us as people and researchers, while others are built into systems that seek to limit and erase some people from the past. Overcoming these challenges means explicitly exposing and rejecting cis-normativity, transphobia, and bi-invisibility in our work. It also means attending to intersectional issues of race, class, sex, sexuality, gender, gender-identity, nationality, ability, and other identities and experiences in all the stories we tell–and explicitly marking and narrating our limitations when we cannot. Finally, it requires taking active steps to build multiple coalitions and affiliations with other communities and organizations in the region.
- Fair, but not neutral. We believe that there is no such thing as a “neutral” or “objective” telling of the past. In fact, adherence to a so-called objective standard has often contributed to the erasure of LGBTQ+ people from more traditional historical work. Instead, even as we hold ourselves accountable to do quality research with clear communication, fair judgments, reasonable methods, and good evidence, we will also always reject the edicts of objectivity. Instead, we aim to tell our past with a clear mission: to advance understandings of queer people, places, and events from Northern Colorado and to make the region a more safe, welcoming, and just place.
- Avoiding the “pride” trap. There is great value in seeing ourselves represented as strong, wise, and important people in the history of our communities. This is particularly true of marginalized people like LGBTQ+ folx who continue to be demeaned and attacked in the present. But sometimes telling stories about the queer past requires us to acknowledge things about ourselves and others that make us feel less than proud. These facts can even be uncomfortable and traumatic, including stories of oppression, persecution, and violence. And yet, facing the shame and despair wrapped up in our shared past is essential, both for holding ourselves and our community accountable and for seeking a more just present.
- Always keep learning. As we understand more about our communities, in both the past and present, we commit ourselves to keep learning and growing ourselves. That means respecting the realities of our past and the choices of our LGBTQ+ elders while serving and responding to the needs of new generations and their vocabularies, values, and voices. In memory work, a past that no longer resonates with the present is of no use to anyone.
Acknowledgments + Funding
The Queer Memory Project of Northern Colorado was created with the generous support of the Colorado State University Monfort Professorship Program, an undertaking established with gifts from the Monfort Excellence Fund. A Monfort Professorship was awarded to Dr. Tom Dunn, Associate Professor of Communication Studies at Colorado State University, in March 2020 and supports the work of the project from 2020 to 2023.
QMP relies on a number of contributors to do our work, from our director and chief researcher to dozens of current and future students at Colorado State University who put their time and energy into keep the LGBTQ+ stories of our community alive. Meet some of our contributors below:
Tom is an Associate Professor of Communication Studies at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colorado. He has been researching and writing about LGBTQ+ history and the queer past since 2005. Tom is the Director of the Queer Memory Project of Northern Colorado and chief researcher for the online archive. He has resided in Fort Collins with his family for the last ten years.
Graduate Research and Teaching Assistants
While QMP is a collaborative undertaking, we try to identify individual contributions when appropriate and warranted. For example, in the online archive, the main contributor of a given item is listed in the Item Information. Elsewhere on the site, we try to include by-lines as appropriate on blog posts, exhibits, and publications. Interested in contributing to QMP? Find out more in the Get Involved section.
The work of QMP is supported by the advice and feedback of an extremely important group of volunteers: the QMP Advisory Board. The Advisory Board consist of the members of the Northern Colorado LGBTQ+ community from all walks of life. They meet with the QMP Director four times a year to share their wisdom and experiences and to help promote the project. The Advisory Board also serves as a key link between the wider NoCo and LGBTQ+ community and QMP. Thank you for your service!
Aaron Escobedo (pronouns: he, him, his) is originally from Colorado. He is the son of Mexican immigrants and is so excited to be a part of the Queer Memory Project. Aaron works at CSU where he coordinates a mentoring program. He earned his bachelor’s degree in music education from Ithaca College and his Master of Education in Counseling-Student Affairs from Northern Arizona University. He lives in Fort Collins with his fiancé and their dog, Walter.
Barb Kistler (she/her/hers). Barb is co-founder of Diversity Solutions Group. She currently provides consulting and training in the areas of diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice; cross-cultural communication competence; organizational effectiveness; and leadership and management development.
Clint Andrews (he/him). Clint is a Fort Collins native and a career technologist. While Clint is passionate about technology, he is also committed to serving his Northern Colorado Community. Clint supports several organizations and various initiatives statewide. He has worked for many years supporting the LGBTQIA community by building community support centers, fundraising, advocacy, and youth support. Clint was nationally recognized as a Future LGBT leader and represented Colorado during President Obama’s administration. Additionally, Clint was recognized in 2017 by the City of Fort Collins as an Innovator for his work on the City’s LGBTQIA Equity Committee. This committee developed the City’s HRC Equity Index, created the first Pride and Transgender Day Proclamations, and more. Clint is honored to be supporting the Queer Memory Project of Northern Colorado and working with both students and community members.
Eric Aoki (he/him/his) is a professor of intercultural, co-cultural, and interpersonal communication at Colorado State University. He has been a resident of the Fort Collins community for over 24 years and enjoys talking about cultural identities and life experiences, including his own avowed multi-ethnic/cultural and gay/queer identities. In addition to engaging in good conversation over dinner and traveling, Eric enjoys oil painting, reading, watching baseball, playing tennis, and spending quality time with his family and friends.
Jennifer Holz (she/her/hers). I am a retired Professor of Sociology who spent the majority of my career at The University of Akron, in Ohio. Once retired, my partner and I returned to Fort Collins where I spent my youth and early adulthood. We currently live in midtown with our two canine companions.
MJ Jorgensen (they/them). As a non-binary and trans public health professional, MJ is continuously looking to improve the health of marginalized communities. They found their original fire for health equity while working in HIV prevention, specifically in syringe access, LGBTQIA+ inclusion and sexual health programming. This work, in addition to experiences with mental health services, fuels their passion for changing systems to reduce harm and improve health outcomes for individuals and communities.
We believe that preserving and sharing the queer past is a community effort. That’s why we work with a number of partner organizations and institutions across the region and the State of Colorado to communicate the stories of Northern Colorado’s LGBTQ+ past. Our partners bring a number of different contributions to the table: ideas, expertise, shared resources, and financial support among them. While we do not work with every organization on every project, we’ll be sure to mention who we work with on any given project and/or in event materials.