DENVER | Debbie Scheer considers herself one of the fortunate ones. At 54 years old, she identifies as a queer, fem lesbian. When Scheer came out to her family in her mid-20s, she said their response couldn’t have been more positive.
“They were loving, supportive and amazing, and they’ve been that way every second of every day since then; so I consider myself rather lucky because not everyone has that story to tell,” she said.
Scheer has also been sober from alcohol for four years and is heading up the effort with The Center on Colfax, LGBTQ Colorado to create an alcohol-free space for people 18 and older to celebrate during Denver PrideFest this year.
“We have such diversity within our community, and there are so many people who choose not to drink or who identify as sober and need that space to connect with other people who are also not drinking, and who identify as part of our [LGBTQ+] community,” she explained.
Around 100,000 people are expected to converge in Denver June 25-26 for the annual festival celebrating the history and culture of the LGBTQ+ community in Colorado. This is the first time since Denver’s first Pride celebration in 1975 that there will be a designated sober space. Scheer said there is no judgement toward those who drink, but spaces are needed for those who don’t.
“Festivals in general, celebrations in general, have alcohol there. There’s a lot of alcohol — and not that that’s right, wrong, good or bad, that’s not what I’m saying — but I think for young people who are coming out and maybe they might veer a little bit to use alcohol or any type of substance to help that process; I think it’s really important role modeling for young people to see other people in their community who are out who are confident who are comfortable and not needing alcohol to facilitate that process,” Scheer added.
The alcohol-free space will be located in Denver’s Civic Center Park during both days of PrideFest.
“We will have an alcohol-free bar, and sponsors, and yard games and seating,” Scheer told Rocky Mountain PBS. “Hopefully they’ll find their way to the sober space if they’re 18 and older and hopefully they’ll feel welcome and comfortable and see that you can have fun without alcohol and you can feel accepted without alcohol.”
Scheer wants to send the message that even though there is alcohol at most celebrations, there are ways to have fun, connect and celebrate Pride without it.
“Creating spaces where people can be their most true authentic self is important,” she added. “The beautiful thing is that The Center [On Colfax] is so committed to send the message that says our community is diverse and if you really want to have a truly inclusive experience – which Pride should be an inclusive experience – then you have to provide a space for people who are choosing not to drink.”