In Boulder County and in Colorado, LGBTQ progress and a long road ahead

The 2018 election of Jared Polis, a gay man, as governor would appear to affirm the belief that Colorado is a friendly place for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people to live.

That impression is strong in Boulder County, where 76% of respondents to a Community Foundation survey said the county is open to lesbian and gay people. However, two surveys of the LGBTQ community, one covering the state of Colorado and the other covering Boulder County, paint a somewhat less rosy picture.

The statewide survey of 1,800 Coloradans, conducted by the Colorado Health Foundation in partnership with the Kaiser Family Foundation, shows that LGBTQ Coloradans experience greater economic hardships than do other state residents. For example, only 42% say the economy is getting better, in contrast with 60% of non-LGBTQ people. More LGBTQ people say it’s harder to afford their rent or mortgage, and they are twice as likely to worry they might lose their homes. In addition, more than a quarter of LGBTQ respondents reported poor mental health, three times as many as their non-LGBTQ counterparts.

The second survey, conducted by Out Boulder County, looked at 453 LGBTQ respondents. The two cannot be directly compared with the statewide survey, because it used different sampling methods and different questions. The Boulder County economic data showed less dire, but still concerning, responses.

The survey found unemployment among most LGBTQ people hovering at 3-4%. However, those who identify as genderqueer or as a trans man reported an 8% unemployment rate — more than twice as high as other LGBTQ Boulder County residents.

“For people breaking out of the boxes we were given, their chances of employment decrease,” said Mardi Moore, executive director of Out Boulder County.

Perhaps most alarmingly, almost a third of respondents said they lacked human connection in the prior month, with a quarter reporting feeling sad or hopeless. Thirteen percent had made a suicide plan, and 4% had attempted suicide.

“That’s why we do a lot of advocacy. Visibility matters,” Moore said. “As people become more visible in their identities, things begin to shift.”

by Cindy Sutter