New nonprofit aims to raise LGBTQ visibility in Castle Rock

Castle Rock Pride planning festival for August, asks town for proclamation

Posted 7/1/19

When Meghan Paul moved to Castle Rock six years ago from Texas, she thought she was the only member of the LGBTQ community in town. Then she met her now partner, Anya Zavadil, and felt as though …

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New nonprofit aims to raise LGBTQ visibility in Castle Rock

Castle Rock Pride planning festival for August, asks town for proclamation

Posted

When Meghan Paul moved to Castle Rock six years ago from Texas, she thought she was the only member of the LGBTQ community in town. Then she met her now partner, Anya Zavadil, and felt as though there were two.

Like Paul, Zavadil said she struggled finding other LGBTQ community members in Douglas County, first moving to Sedalia in 1994 and graduating from Douglas County High School.

They weren't the only local LGBTQ community members who felt alone.

After years of feeling like he was “the only gay man that lived” in town, Scott Blaeser finally turned to the website Nextdoor and made a sweeping plea to the community: “Are there any other LGBTQ people in Castle Rock,” he recalled writing.

“That's moving,” Zavadil said, “when you feel lonely enough that you get on a random social media thing and just see if there's anyone out there like you.”

That recurring theme in their lives — believing they were the only LGBTQ person in their hometown — led to the recent formation of the nonprofit Castle Rock Pride and is echoed by numerous members of the organization.

“There are so many parents that don't know other (LGBTQ) people, so they don't know where to go to get support,” said co-founder Jackie Alderete. “We are their support. That's what we do. We bring them in.”

The group banded together approximately a year and a half ago after finding each other on social media. The nonprofit aims to increase the visibility of the LGBTQ community in Castle Rock. They hope that will provide others with resources as they navigate coming out, supporting children who are coming out, search for community or strive to be an ally.

“We shouldn't be hiding in the shadows,” said Castle Rock Pride member Heather Gonzales, whose 11-year-old daughter came out as transgender at age 6.

Gonzales said she met numerous families, often in hush-hush meetings at Village Inn or Starbucks, after strangers contacted her by social media. Her daughter's transition garnered attention in her neighborhood, she said.

“I would literally get messages through Facebook at 10 at night,” she said. “'I'm scared, can you meet me?'”

The individuals asking to meet were often parents of children who'd recently come out as LGBTQ who didn't know where turn for resources, she said. They are part of her reason for joining Castle Rock Pride.

The organization has reached 75 members in its closed Facebook group to date. President Kris Trierweiler said she screens people before allowing them in, to ensure members won't be hassled by anti-LGBTQ individuals.

So far, the nonprofit has hosted happy hours, family outings to brunch and candidate listening session during elections, to name some activities. Last year they held a picnic in celebration of Pride before officially forming as a nonprofit. They expected roughly a dozen attendees, but more than 70 showed up.

This year they're planning a festival at the Douglas County Fairgrounds on Aug. 24.

There will be live music, children's activities, activities geared toward teens, keynote speakers and other LGBTQ groups present. As of June, they were expecting 500 attendees.

“This is a pretty family-friendly Pride,” Zavadil said.

Their efforts to increase the LGBTQ presence in town don't end with a festival.

In early June, members of the group spoke before the town council and urged a proclamation from the town. That would send a message, they said, that Castle Rock is a safe place for everyone.

The council did not decide on the matter that evening, but a spokeswoman confirmed that councilmembers plan to sign a proclamation at their Aug. 20 meeting a few days ahead of the group's Pride festival although details of the proclamation and what it will declare remain unclear. 

Castle Rock Mayor Jason Gray told Colorado Community Media that in the weeks after the meeting the group had met with Mayor Pro Tem Jason Bower, who's taken the lead on working with the nonprofit for town council, at Gray's coffee shop, Crowfoot Valley Coffee.

“They're great,” Gray said. “I think they're going to be good community partners and they want to work well with us.”

Bower could not be reached for comment, but Castle Rock Pride members commended the town for its speedy response to their request for a proclamation.

In the weeks ahead they're focused on planning the festival, recruiting volunteers and spreading the word about their organization. They haven't advertised much, they said, aside from their appearance at town council.

They've also emphasized Castle Rock Pride is open to anyone. Members are Democrats, Republicans, independents, LGBTQ community members and allies. Executive director Lisa Scott, an ally, said Castle Rock Pride is a chance for people to show their support rather than simply voice it.

“I think the role of an ally is being an active, engaged participant,” she said.

As they group steps out in a historically conservative area, members are braced for opposition to their mission.

“Anytime there's an event like this you have to anticipate it,” Pride member Jay Winn said of the festival.

The event has rules — any protesters will be asked to leave. The organization's website, castlerockpride.org, says attendees should not speak poorly of the LGBTQ community or try to recruit people away from it.

“The purpose of this event is to celebrate the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender and others (LGBT+) community,” the website reads.

Gonzales said opposition is OK, and “to be expected.” Winn said if any does arise it “just draws more reason to why we need to do this.”

Paul and Zavadil said one of the most important aspects of their group will be connecting LGBTQ community members with one another, and to show younger people what community members are like in the real world, not on television or in the media.

“It's not glamorized, it's not politicized, it's just human beings that accept you for who you are,” Zavadil said. “I think it's so important to see that normal piece.”

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