The YMCA of Boulder, Colorado issued a statement this week defending its gay-friendly version of high school prom.
On Friday, Chris Coker — CEO and President of the YMCA’s Boulder Valley chapter — responded on the organization’s website to criticisms regarding its support for teenagers who identify as LGBTQ.
“You closed the YMCA gym for a LGBT party?” a local YMCA member wrote to Coker. “I would appreciate having my dues refunded for the day — and an apology. At least give heads up that it would take place — members know what is going on.”
Coker says the local YMCA organized “basically a dance for LGBTQ teens who might not have felt comfortable at their high school proms or who just wanted to dance one more time before school was done for the year.” The festivities took place on May 8 in Lafayette, Colorado.
“Life is hard enough for teens,” Coker writes. “But then LGBTQ high schoolers must also navigate sexual orientation and gender identity complexities. Hells bells, in high school, I struggled over trying to figure out if I should try to hold Kathy Wyandt’s hand at the movies. How many of us say, ‘Gee, I sure would love to relive my teenage angst years!’?”
“Sure, hosting a dance won’t win us the Nobel Prize,” Coker qualifies. “But it is one of the many things we do in this community to make it a more united, respectful and accessible place to call home. For us, this little dance is much bigger than a little dance. It’s a part of a massive tradition of acceptance and support.”
Coker notes that the Boulder YMCA’s mission statement “does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion (creed), gender, age, national origin (ancestry), disability, marital status, military status, sexual orientation, gender expression, or any protected class in any of its activities or operations.”
“I can tell you my goal is not to offend,” Coker says in closing. “I am working to operate a non-judgmental and safe YMCA, and my bet is that you have someone in your life, who you love, who is gay or bisexual or transgender. I also bet you would want us to treat them with the same love and respect that you do. I promise you, we will always try to do just that.”
Elsewhere in Colorado this week, a different YMCA chapter struggled to uphold the stated values of its Boulder Valley counterpart when it attempted to prohibit a woman from feeding her hungry baby. She was using her breasts to deliver milk; the YMCA would have evidently preferred that she employ a bottle. Or just go somewhere where staff didn’t have to look at her anymore.
KRDO reported on Wednesday that the YMCA in Colorado Springs asked Stevie Hartmann-Romero to stop breastfeeding her child, conceal her breastfeeding more effectively, or go to the locker room. When the woman refused, a supervisor ordered the woman to “cover up” — or leave.
“Nursing babies cover up a lot more than swimsuits do,” Hartmann-Romero points out to KRDO.
Carrie Bair-Norwood, vice president of marketing and development for YMCA region that includes Colorado Springs, tells KRDO that media attention to the organization’s expulsion of a breastfeeding mom has “shed light on the fact that employees were not well-versed in the rights of breastfeeding mothers.”
“Now the staff has been brought up to speed,” Bair-Norwood says.