MISSOULA - The Center in Missoula hosted a Queersgiving at Burn Street Bistro as a safe space for members of the LGBTQ+ community to gather for a meal.
The event comes at a shaky time for the community, as the grief is still fresh from last weekend's shooting in Colorado Springs.
Queersgiving was started by University of Montana students in partnership with The Center. This is the first Queersgiving event to happen in three years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Center Board Member David Herrera says he looks forward to the event but knows it will feel different in light of the violence in Colorado.
"I’m excited that we’re going to be able to come back to do it, after not having it done for three years during the pandemic, and yet to be very cognizant that it’s going to be overshadowed by the tragedy that just happened," he said.
“This is not a time for us to necessarily celebrate the way we would like to because it is a time that we need to recognize that we still live in a society where folks truly think that we should be killed, and folks truly hate us," Herrera added.
Board member Ryan Kellan Jean says despite the hatred, they hope to continue to see public support in the community.
“Continuing to have gatherings, you know, out in the community out in these public spaces, regardless, really shows that we aren’t afraid, that we are strong, and that we will carry on and keep existing."
The Center hosts Queersgiving because they want to provide a safe, holiday environment for LGBTQ+ people.
“A lot of queersfolk and trans folks, people that Identify as LGBT are estranged from their biological families," Kellan Jean said. "You know we want to make sure that they have places to go that are safe, that they can be with their chosen families, and you know, still get to experience the holidays and enjoy that time.”
The holidays can be hard for anyone, but Herrera says they can be especially harmful for LGBTQ+ people.
“For the LGBTQ, that do tend to have higher rates of depression, higher rates of suicide, the holidays become a very challenging time of year," he told MTN News. "So that’s when folks really need to make sure that they have a support system in place, that they have friends that they can talk to.”
Herrera says they plan to hold a moment of silence at Queersgiving for those lost in Colorado, and will look to Montana legislatures to help protect their community.
“We need to stop demonizing people that we don’t necessarily agree with," he says. “We will be looking towards our legislators to provide solutions... what can we be doing here in our own state to prevent these types of tragedies from happening in Montana?"