Jennifer Stucka and Sarah St. John were working as a mental health provider and guidance counselor, respectively, at Durango High School in the 2014-2015 school year when they were approached by LGBTQ students. The young people brought to their attention that there were no resources for them, so the two joined forces to do something about that.
On September 15, 2015, they officially opened the doors of the Four Corners Rainbow Youth Center. It is the only organization in Durango serving the LGBTQ youth community, Stucka said.
“We provide programming that addresses any ... challenges or barriers that LGBTQ+ youth may face,” she said. “We help them navigate the different challenges that they may face in a world that sometimes is unaccepting. And we build coping skills, self-care skills, self-advocacy skills, support systems, and get them linked to services that are also necessary. And we partner with other organizations in town and other nonprofits, to ensure that we’re filling any gaps where we may be needed.”
During a normal year, LGBTQ youth already feel isolated, unaccepted, and like they don’t belong, Stucka said, to the point where 50% of transgender youth attempt suicide before their 24th birthday, and the COVID-19 pandemic has only made the situation worse.
That’s one reason that the center is putting together three events for Durango’s Pride weekend – the last weekend in June.
• On June 26, the center will host a digital movie night featuring “Love, Simon,” “Alex Strangelove,” and potentially another film or so, Stucka said. The center is specifically interested in showing films that are (*spoiler alert*) uplifting and end well for the LGBTQ protagonists. The event will begin at 6 p.m.
• On June 27, Durango Pride will have a series of digital events, hosted by drag queen Scarlett Ultra. An hour of them, starting at 7 p.m. will be dedicated to the center. The event will give local LGBTQ youth an opportunity to talk about their experiences and also show off some of their talents.
• Finally, from 12:30 to 2 p.m. on June 28, trans and queer multimedia artist and author Lexie Bean will read from her latest book, “The Ship We Built,” followed by a Q&A. According to her Penguin Random House author blurb, Bean’s work revolves around themes of bodies, homes, cyclical violence, and LGBTQ identity.
Stucka emphasizes that the center’s events, much like the center and its programming, aren’t exclusively for local LGBTQ youth. Allies and other members of the community are invited too.
“With stronger allyship comes stronger communities, right?” she said.
In addition to the Four Corners Rainbow Youth Center components, Durango Pride will also host a digital dance party on Zoom featuring DJ Swerve, starting at 8 p.m. on June 26. On the 27th, the Rainbow Youth segment is couched between an hour-long block of speakers including Stucka, Trennie and Precious Collins, and Edward Box III, beginning at 6 p.m., and a drag show that starts at 8 p.m. All of the Saturday events will be hosted on Scarlett Ultra’s YouTube channel, youtube.com/scarlettultra.