Attard: Working to build cohesion amid diversity

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Eric Austin Attard has been the executive director of the Pikes Peak Gay & Lesbian Community Center since May. He’s also busy working on a master’s in marriage and family counseling.

The Springs has a reputation for being intolerant. What’s your take?

I think where you immerse yourself is vital to that question. A lot of members of the queer community don’t feel that they’ve been discriminated against. But the position I’m in — I see a lot of that. So we have a conservative community, but we also have a liberal community. From my observation — and these are just my observations — probably 25 percent of our community is fairly conservative — and they have a very loud voice. And then we have maybe 75 percent of our community is more liberal.

As a whole, I’ve observed Colorado as a whole to be a live-and-let-live state. However, again, with the loud conservative voice I think that’s what gives us that reputation. The rest of the country and the rest of the state hears that conservative voice. But there’s definitely liberals here and a lot of people fighting for LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) and queer rights.

Tell us about goals for the Pikes Peak Gay & Lesbian Community Center.

One of the biggest goals that I have is to have the queer community have a larger presence within the mainstream community. Everybody is fringe — lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, whether you’re Christian, conservative, pagan, you’re fringe, and you’re also a part of the larger community.

I’d like to see the Pikes Peak Gay & Lesbian Community Center providing volunteers to non-queer issues, such as Juvenile Diabetes or American Cancer Society.

The more we get involved in the rest of the community, the more the community wants to support us.

What are the challenges in running this organization in a conservative environment?

Money. Finding financial support. One of the difficult things in any organization is continuously going to the same funders, the same donors and taking the most you can from them and not diversifying. It’s difficult to diversify your funding in a community that’s so conservative.

In addition, I would say the lack of presence. That 25 percent, it’s hard to be heard over that and get our presence out there.

How will you measure your success as head of this organization?

Twofold. From the financial perspective, having enough money to do what I want.

And from the community perspective, having other organizations recognizing the work that we’ve offered to them.

The Gay & Lesbian Fund is a prime example. When you walk into the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, the giraffe exhibit, you see a beautiful sign that says it’s supported by the Gay & Lesbian Fund.

I would love PPGLCC to have that kind of presence. I’d like to see on JDF’s (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation) wall a thank-you to the Pikes Peak Gay & Lesbian Community Center for your hard work.

Or if I were to walk into Peak Vista (Community Health Centers) and see that, it would show me we’re really in the mainstream community.

Look in your crystal ball for a minute. How will perceptions of this area look five or 10 years from now?

Diverse.

I would love to see big businesses more excited to come to Colorado Springs because it’s a supportive environment. I see bigger business. I see a stronger sense of community.

One of the issues within the queer community that I’d love to address is the fragmentation within the community, and that extends then to the mainstream community as well.

For example, within the queer community we have queer community members who are very left, more fiscally conservative, activist communities, and I see the same within the mainstream community.

There’s the laidback Westside; there’s downtown which is more upbeat, classic. While I’d love to see the diversity, I also want to see the cohesiveness of those diverse areas working together.

Audio excerpt of the interview with Eric Attard.