Mardi Moore is a political activist, educator, community leader, and the proud and influential executive director of Out Boulder County.
Out is an organization that works to promote equality, advocates for social justice, and provides support to the queer community. The organization began in 1994 in collaboration with Gay Pride events. The organization had been better known as Boulder Pride because of its tradition of block parties, bright-colored hair and tiara-wearing commodifications of the gay rights movement. As the non-profit grew, however, its purpose expanded beyond pride into a full-blown social justice operation known as Out Boulder, and as of April 2016 as Out Boulder County.
Out is located in both Boulder and, as of April, Longmont, expanding accessibility and community involvement throughout one of Colorado’s most popular counties. Now spearheaded by the distinguished Mardi Moore, Out continues to grow with a wide range of queer identities, ages, and more than 150 regular volunteers.
Popularly known for its transgender support services, Out’s goal is to serve Boulder County by offering queer programming, including support groups and community activities. The organization broadens its mission by being one of the only LGBT centers North of Denver, which forces them to reach outside of the county to provide resources beyond Boulder.
Out has become the predominant resource for Colorado’s queer community at large. The organization is a great source of support and camaraderie and additionally pursues advocacy work with businesses, queer-oriented and otherwise. Staff and volunteers partner with companies to teach inclusion and work to ensure that healthcare and non-discrimination policies are up to date with respect to trans inclusion.
Sara Connell, the organization’s Trans* and Youth Film Program Coordinator, has trained a Boulder ad agency, Terrapin Station’s care staff, and a Colorado reproductive medical staff on how to be conscience toward the trans community and unique challenges that trans men might experience, such as pregnancy.
Within the Boulder bubble, it is easy to believe in the blanket safety of a liberal community. But safety is always a major concern and a challenging one to account for. Six queer resource centers across the country have recently experienced hate crimes, from vandalism to bullets shot through windows. While Boulder is unlike many towns that are constantly under attack, it does not go unscathed by any means, and Out’s advocacy is essential.
As many community members find relief and comfort from sources like Out, looming threats pose persisting worry.
“After Orlando last year we had to start paying more attention and better our safety plans,” Moore said solemnly. “We have always been a relatively proactive movement, but right now, with the uncertainty and lack of stability of our leader, I feel like I’m in a very reactive mode waiting for the next terrible thing to happen. It’s really unsettling not to know when it’s going to come.”
The demand for Out’s services and involvement has increased following the change in government. Moore shared the overwhelming reaction of community members outside both office locations following the election results. “We were really ground zero for the queer community,” she said.
Jennifer Molde co-founded the Trans Steering Committee in partnership with Out. This sector of the organization advises on how to confront transgender issues and organizes trans events.
“Many LGBT organizations emphasize an LGB agenda; this branch makes sure to see that the T is fully recognized and confronted,” Molde said.
After being a community member of Out for six years, Molde is now a facilitator for trans support groups as well. Molde shared Moore’s sentiments that, while the level of fear has risen, so too has the spirit to join together.
“There are a lot of trans people who are now very motivated to be visible,” she said, reflecting on her own experience. She recalled feeling outside of the norm until finding other trans people to connect with through Out’s support services. With the human rights of trans people now directly under attack, the moment of desperation has encouraged many to confront their own suppressed identities and come together as allies.
Support groups like Molde’s offer those who have felt uncomfortable with their identities the opportunity to feel validated and accepted with others who struggle alongside them. While any identity is welcomed at these meetings, many binary-abiding people tend not to feel so inclined. When asked what people can do in their daily lives on behalf of the trans community, Molde’s answer was simple: Learn and speak out. Be compassionate towards the challenges a trans person might face throughout their life. Do not be idle to injustices, including trans slurs and bathroom stares.
“We need people to speak up and talk. Do not let ignorance pass,” Molde encouraged.
Despite a trembling political situation, those who feel passionately about social justice have taken this time to truly come together, as Out has more allies and volunteers than ever before. Out has received a stream of love notes and flowers at the office doors, and even a few who stop in to give their thanks. “It’s really been nothing but support, and we’re very grateful for that,” Moore reminds optimistically.
Although the queer community has had several uneasy experiences, it is organizations like Out that continue to incite moments to celebrate for the queer community as well.
Each year, Out funds a special project. In 2016 the organization ran an employment project, in which two individuals from Boulder were aided throughout their transition with assistance in their workplace. “We worked with employers and made sure the policies were in place at the corporate level and worked alongside coworkers to make the transition seamless,” Moore shared with pride.
Out recently received funding for this year’s project, two summer camp programs for trans youth — one for sailing and another for horseback riding. TYES, Trans Youth Education Support, holds a summer camp for young trans kids, but there has yet to be a trans teen specific camp offered in Colorado.
A Boulder Valley school district survey for bullying, self harm, and suicide rates amongst queer individuals reveals little shift from 2013 to 2015. State numbers reveal that the bullying rates for trans youth are at nearly 50 percent meaning that one in two trans-identified kids has been bullied, which can lead to self-inflicted harm and attempted suicide. Out currently offers four youth groups as well as a film project to provide support for Boulder and surrounding areas, and the summer program will provide the next step in creating a more positive environment for trans people.
“We need to take two steps forward to be the organization that the community requires and deserves,” said Moore, looking to the future. Funding is always key to the life of nonprofits like Out, and although growth has ensued in the last few years, more aid is always needed.
Regardless, Out will continue to educate business people and organizers on inclusivity in the workplace and will absolutely continue hosting support groups to all, including undocumented queers. “Sanctuary is always on our mind,” Moore said.
Out’s doors are committed to staying open and providing what the community demands — unconditional support from moments of self-doubt to celebrations and pride of the whole self.