Reflections on 50 Years of Denver Pride

Denise Whinnen, Director of Colorado Programs:

Pride celebrations emerged from a history of LGBTQ resilience and resistance, born from the protests against police raids at New York’s Stonewall Inn in June 1969. For six days, the community bravely fought back, igniting a movement that would shape the future. The following year, the first Pride celebrations took place in three cities, with Denver joining in 1974.

Today, as political, rhetorical, and physical attacks once again target the LGBTQ community – particularly transgender and gender-nonconforming people – Denver Pride stands as a beacon of hope and defiance. Pride is a jubilant and affirming celebration, yet the fight for true LGBTQ equality continues. Let’s embrace the joy of Pride month, but also commit to rolling up our sleeves and advancing the cause of equality. Together, we can create a future where every person is treated with the dignity and respect they deserve.

Brad Clark, President & CEO:

I’ll never forget my first Denver Pride. I had been to smaller Pride events before as an organizer in Iowa. But when I joined One Colorado, I worked my first Pride here in Denver in 2011. One image in particular sticks out in my mind: looking up as a massive wave of people – thousands and thousands – marched over the hill on Colfax and funneled into Civic Center. It was very moving. Growing up in small town Iowa, I had never imagined this many LGBTQ folks and allies together cheering and dancing and celebrating. It really expanded my idea of what it means for our community to come together.

Michael Dabbs, Senior Director of Impact:

To me, Pride is a time to reflect on the contributions of those who came before us and rededicate ourselves to continued progress for future generations – to foster communities of belonging, inclusiveness, and safety where all can live authentically. If only I could go back and tell the young gay kid growing up in rural Arkansas that one day he will be celebrating Denver’s 50th Pride with his husband and dog. I have the opportunity to share that marvel now with others. That is what it’s all about.

Nathan Kasai, Program Officer:

Pride always feels like a reminder of how far we’ve come. I remember going to my first, wondering if I would find a place in the world or if I could have the life I hoped for myself. And while huge challenges still loom, looking back each year during Pride makes me immensely grateful for this community and everything we’ve fought for.

Austin Montoya, Senior Communications Officer:

Marching in the Denver Pride Parade for the first time in 2012 with Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains was a profoundly meaningful experience for me, as it allowed me to support both my queer community and the broader fight for bodily autonomy. This was before Colorado had Civil Unions and years before we achieved the Freedom to Marry. Reflecting on this memory, Pride reminds me of how far we’ve come as a state and how much further we need to go to ensure everyone can thrive and love freely.

Cameron Hill, Senior Development Officer:

I moved to Denver 12 years ago and attended my first Pride. I remember how exciting it felt to be surrounded by friends and strangers celebrating our community. I always come back to that memory when it comes time to celebrate Denver Pride!

Kevin Gardner, Communications Manager:

I first attended Denver Pride in 2022 as a volunteer, and I was assigned to support the youth performance stage. What most impressed me about the young people I met was how confident and self-actualized they were – singers and musicians, dancers and drag performers, all eager to share themselves and their talents with the world.

This particular Pride came just a few months after the DeSantis administration gave us the country’s first “Don’t Say Gay or Trans” law. The difference between what those politicians told us about LGBTQ youth, and who these young people really were, couldn’t have been more vast. It was a good reminder of what Pride is all about: gathering as a community to celebrate who we are and, ultimately, create a better world for the next generation of LGBTQ youth.