New Pride event planned in Greeley after High Plains Library canceled event

Editor’s note: This is Part 2 of a two-part series about the High Plains Library District’s cancellation of its LGBTQIA+ Pride celebration, how community members are reacting and the wider context of the event’s cancellation. Part 1 is available here.

A new event celebrating the LGBTQIA+ community will take place this summer following the High Plains Library District’s decision to cancel its Popup Pride Celebration.

The new event is set for noon to 6 p.m. Saturday, July 29 at Aims Community College. Community partners and High Plains Library staff members are in the process of finalizations but more information will come when available. Despite district staff’s involvement in planning the event, the new event is not associated with High Plains.

High Plains Library District announced in late April the cancellation of its annual Greeley Popup Pride Celebration despite nearly six months of planning by staff and others community members. The district has only said input from a “key and valued” partner led to the decision, without identifying the partner or the nature of the input.

Simone Perry, an educator at Northridge High School and the producer of Greeley Does Drag, is one of many planning the new event after experiencing several disappointments involving the High Plains Library District as a member of the LBBTQIA+ community. Perry is nonbinary, identifying as neither male nor female, and uses they/them pronouns.

Perry said the district’s cancellation follows a national trend of backlash against the LGBTQIA+ community, such as drag bans, legislation targeting the community and attempts to challenge the presence of LGBTQIA+ resources and books in the wider community.

Kimberly Chambers, the founder of NoCoSafeSpace and executive director of SPLASH Youth — both organizations supporting LGBTQIA+ people  — was disappointed to hear that the Pride event is no longer sponsored by High Plains, especially given its past support for the community.

“Their support in the past has been a genuine action in allyship to the LGBTQIA+ community throughout Weld County, where many queer and trans folks struggle to find safer spaces who offer programming that is welcoming to us,” Chambers said.

In February, the Colorado Civil Rights Division ordered the High Plains Library District to undergo mediation after finding probable cause in discrimination claims by a former teen librarian who was fired after challenging the district’s cancellation of her programming for LGBTQIA+ youth, as well as programming for youth of color.

Prior to the cancellation, the district also had plans to enforce a drag ban at the Greeley Popup Pride Celebration, according to Perry.

“The library isn’t opposed to a private organization or another entity having a drag performance, but that’s not what this event is intended to be,” Melena wrote in an April 20 email, when the district was still planning the Pride event.

The Popup Pride Celebration, coordinated by High Plains’ outreach team and community partners, planned for Perry to perform as an “all-ages” performer at the family-friendly event. But Executive Director Matthew Hortt denied Perry from participating in any drag-related activities at the event due to a “board directive,” Perry said.

The district did not respond to the Tribune’s inquiries about whether the board directive exists.

As the district moves forward without a Pride event this year, Perry said it’s evident such an event is needed now more than ever as some try to limit or ban queer and trans art, culture and history.

Anti-LGBTQIA+ legislation on the rise

The American Civil Liberties Union reports states have advanced a record number of bill attacking the rights of LGBTQIA+ people, especially transgender youth. The ACLU reports there have been 491 bills targeting the community this year.

In Colorado, lawmakers introduced a bill in January that would have banned trans athletes from participating in sports unless they participated on teams or in events based on the sex of the participating students as identified at birth. The bill’s prime sponsors included Reps. Lisa Frizell and Brandi Bradley as well as Sen. Byron Pelton, all Republicans.

The bill was defeated in February on a party-line vote of 8-3 in the House State, Veterans, & Military Affairs Committee.

In Tennesse, lawmakers passed a bill in March that restricts “adult cabaret performances” in public or in the presence of children. The performances restricted include “topless dancers, go-go dancers, exotic dancers, strippers, male or female impersonators who provide entertainment that appeals to a prurient interest or similar entertainers.”

Lawmakers banned these performances from occurring within 1,000 feet of schools, public parks or places of worship.

For the first violation of the anti-drag law, people face misdemeanor charges, punishable by a fine of as much as $2,500 or up to a year in jail. Those found for subsequent violations face a felony charge with a sentence of up to six years in jail.

Anti-drag legislative proposals were introduced in 14 states this year, according to GLAAD, the world’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer media advocacy organization. Since early 2022, GLAAD also found 166 incidents of anti-LGBTQIA+ protests and threats targeting drag events with 25 attacks this year as of April 25.

Chambers said people in decision-making positions have opportunities to show their support by choosing “kindness over fear.”

Banning a queer art form like drag divides the community and goes against everything the board claims to stand for — community building and inclusivity, Perry said.

Drag is an expansive art form where performers transform into characters or heightened versions of themselves through fashion, makeup and theatrics, according to local nonbinary drag queen Soña Rita, who uses she/they pronouns. She said drag is a “joyous celebration of self-expression, embracing uniqueness and spreading love and acceptance through performance.”

“The only glaring difference between drag and other performance art is that it’s rooted queer culture and queer history,” Perry said. “It is the art form through which I found joy and I found myself.”

Rita said right-wing activists and politicians have spurred on anti-drag legislation across the U.S. by accusing drag performers of being too “sexual” for children to witness or accusing performers of engaging in “grooming” children.

Grooming is the use of manipulative tactics to exploit younger victims. Rita argued that casual and unwarranted usage of the term “grooming” solely because a person doesn’t agree with the clothes someone is wearing is not only disheartening but dangerous.

“Encouraging children to embrace their authentic selves and foster love and acceptance among one another should not be misconstructed as grooming,” Rita said.

It’s crucial the public knows not all drag shows are “all-ages,” Rita said. Many drag performers or performances are not intended for young audiences, such as those that happen in bars or clubs. Drag, similar to other entertainment — TV, movies, books or online videos — is curated to suit specific age groups.

Perry, who has participated in adult and all-ages drag shows, is well-versed in adolescent development due to their experience as an educator from early childhood up to high school.

Perry believes all-ages drag, such as drag story hours in libraries, is developmentally appropriate. Rita said drag story hours are an example of appropriate drag for children because it simply involves people reading age-appropriate books to children while in drag.

“The spreading of misinformation regarding drag performers and the broader LGBT+ community perpetuates harmful stereotypes and undermines the positive impact they have on society and our communities,” Rita said. “It is important that we distinguish between factual information and fiction, while actively promoting understanding, respect and support for one another.”

Perry is also a parent who would never subject their kids to something unsafe or dangerous. They advise anyone, especially parents, who have never seen a drag performance to attend an all-ages drag show.

“It breaks my heart so much, that there are people in my own community who throw out outrageous accusations like this is child abuse,” Perry said. “If I was a straight person reading stories, the same exact stories, singing the same silly songs, doing the same activities, no one would bat an eye.”

The district’s alleged drag ban goes against the district’s equity policy, according to Perry, because the district is not allowed to engage in discrimination of any kind, including that based on race, class, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity.

It’s possible when some local residents started expressing concerns about drag, High Plains began removing related programming. The district also began limiting or getting rid of other programs — which led to a discrimination lawsuit.

Brooky Parks, a former librarian who worked in teen services at the Erie Community Library accused the district of discrimination for firing her from the position in December 2021 based on her association with youth of color and LGBTQIA+ youth. She said she pushed back against High Plains’ requests to cancel two teen programs — one centered on anti-racism and the other focused on LGBTQIA+ history.

The Colorado Civil Rights Division found the district fired Parks for “pretextual/unsubstantiated reasons and/or for advocating on behalf of youth of color, LGBTQIA+ youth, and her programs which serve and/or target marginalized youth.”

Hortt was one of three High Plains Library District staff members found responsible for aiding and abetting discrimination.

Perry wonders why the High Plains Library District would take a no-drag path and then cancel a celebration of LGBTQIA+ lives following this discrimination lawsuit. The cancellation further shows the board has not learned any lessons following Parks’ termination, according to Perry.

“They’re already making big headlines for themselves for the wrong reason,” Perry said.

Local attempts to restrict books

Attempts to censor and restrict access to books and resources at libraries across the U.S. have over the past year made their way into Greeley-Evans District 6 when some district residents and parents began complaining about “inappropriate” books at board meetings.

In December, parents and residents dropped several paper complaint forms on the floor of the district board room. The district has since formed a book review committee, which has planned to review 15 books listed in the complaints

Since complaints emerged, the board has discussed how to deal with book challenges. Earlier this year, a 25-person District 6 Book Review Committee was formed in response to the complaints.

The committee has voted to keep “Beloved” by Toni Morrison in high school libraries while setting conditions on access to the book for students in sixth through eighth grades. The committee also approved “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” by Sherman Alexie and “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close” by Jonathan Safran Foer for middle and high school students.

Many books challenged by residents include themes focusing on people of color and LGBTQIA+ lives, such as “Beloved,” “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian,” “Gender Queer: A Memoir,” “Two Boys Kissing” by David Levithan and “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas.

Any parent or guardian in District 6 may request a school limit their student’s access to library material — a process that was available before the recent complaints. Parents and guardians may also request to receive notifications of books checked out by their students.

Perry said they’re out as queer and nonbinary because it’s important to them to provide an inclusive classroom for all, particularly in the face of homophobia and transphobia within the district.

“That is why I choose to be out at work despite the risk that I know it creates for myself because I need my students to know that there is at least one adult in the building that sees you for who you are and will embrace you and affirm you,” they said.

Still present, active in the community

Weld County’s queer, trans and cultural diversity is like no other, Chambers said.

While Chambers values the efforts of individual staff at the High Plains Library District to create an inclusive environment, she hopes that their decision-makers will choose inclusivity over fear or hate in the future.

“The constant pressure of politics and hateful rhetoric will not damper the feeling of pride that our LGBTQIA+ community experiences celebrating our history of resilience during Pride Month in June,” Chambers said. “LGBTQIA+ Pride is not a place or a weekend — it’s a sense of belonging and connection that all people deserve to be a part of.”

Perry, as a well-known figure in the northern Colorado LGBTQIA+ community, loves producing drag shows in Weld County due to the conversations they have with community members after shows.

A drag show usually sparks conversations with people, who often tell Perry, “I have lived in Greeley all of my life, and I have never felt welcome until now.” People also share how meaningful it is to see a nonbinary drag performer who is confident and happy in their body.

“That’s why this is important,” Perry said. “I want queer and trans people in Greeley to feel seen and to know that they are not alone. I’m not trying to convert anyone. I’m trying to keep queer and trans people alive.”

Additional Pride events

  • NoCoSafeSpace will host the fifth annual NoCo Pride March on June 1 at Old Town Square in Fort Collins. Sign prep begins at 4 p.m., and 5 p.m. is the step-off.
  • The Indie 102.3 Pride Kickoff Concert with VINCINT is June 2 at Meow Wolf in Denver. Attendees must be 16 or older to attend. Doors open at 7 p.m., and the show begins at 8 p.m.
  • Rockies Pride Night is from 6-9 p.m. June 9 at Coors Field in Denver.
  • Lakewood Public Library will host a “Teen After Hours” Craft Night for ages 12-18 from 6-8 p.m. June 10 and June 17.
  • Adams County Pride is from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. June 10 at Riverdale Regional Park in Brighton. The family-friendly festival will feature the art and roller-skating attraction Rainbow Dome. After the festival, Bebe Rexha will perform a concert.
  • Boulder PrideFest is 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. June 11 at Boulder Central Park. The event has vendors, artists, photo booths, giveaways and more.
  • Denver PrideFest is scheduled all day for June 25 and 26 at the Denver Civic Center Park. The event is open to all ages and has food, live music, exhibitors and vendors. The weekend also has a 5K and parade.
  • Longmont Pride Festival is 4-8 p.m. June 30 2023 at Roosevelt Park.
  • NoCo Pride 2023 is set from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. July 15 at Civic Center Park in Fort Collins.

For information on LGBTQIA+ resources in the community, go to or

Editors note: This story was updated with corrected information about the new pride event. 

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