Sunute paves the path forward for LGBTQ+

Southwest Rainbow Youth (SWRY) co-Founder Precious Collins explains the what the organization is and its mission to bring safe spaces into the community for LGBTQIA+ youth in the community at the SunUte Community Center on Tuesday, Nov. 12.
SWRY member Bobbi Rosa explains the importance of being an ally for the LGBT community.
Fabian Martinez | The Southern Ute Drum
Fabian Martinez | The Southern Ute Drum

Ignacio’s very own LGBTQ+ youth initiative, Southwest Rainbow Youth (SWRY) have been working in the community to create spaces of inclusivity. The first stop on their list is the SunUte Community Center, where a new safe space and a genderless bathroom are both being implemented.

Since their opening, the rainbow youth have made themselves known in the area as being a beacon of hope and teaching. Their mission states that they are dedicated to “support, empower, educate and advocate for the LGBTQ+ youth in the Southwest by providing a safe and inclusive environment.” Not only are they dedicated to the youth in the community, but to the parents and allies of the LGBTQ+ as well.

In partnership with SWRY, SunUte Community Center director, Robin Duffy-Wirth and the managers of the center attended a LGBTQ+ awareness training held by the rainbow youth to gain more knowledge of LGBTQ+ inclusion on Tuesday, Nov. 12. “We want to keep learning and create a safe space for all of the LGBTQ+ community,” SunUte Director Duffy-Wirth stated. “Being a human being is tough enough, so we want to operate this community building with love and acceptance for all.”

The training touched on topics such as pronouns, sexuality vs. gender and what being an ally means. Asking and correctly using someone’s preferred pronouns can often be the simplest way to show respect for their gender identity and is even a way to make them feel safe to exist in public spaces. When it comes to gender and sexuality, people have very different ways that they identify, meaning that there is no one set of orientation, identity, expression or dysphoria for LGBTQ+ to identify under.

By creating these opportunities of learning, SWRY is helping the local community to offer more inclusion, which can lead to better experiences for the LGBTQ+ members and has the potential to prevent suicide. Suicide attempts by LGBT youth and questioning youth are four to six times more likely to result in injury, poisoning, or overdose that requires treatment from a doctor or nurse, compared to their straight peers. In a national study, 40 percent of transgender adults reported having made a suicide attempt; 92 percent of these individuals reported having attempted suicide before the age of 25. Across the nation, LGBTQ youth suicide attempts were almost five times as likely to have attempted suicide compared to non-LGBTQ youth.

As an ally in the community and as a recreation provider, SunUte will now be meeting the health, environmental and social needs of the local LGBTQ community. Through the training, there are already planning efforts to convert two family locker rooms into “all gender restrooms,” work on changing registration forms to be all inclusive and even creating a space for LGBTQ to meet with SWRY. This will increase the number of opportunities for physical activity, social connections and even healthy living for the LGBTQ+ who utilize the community center. “I think SunUte is really good at setting culture changes, this is a positive that we are doing for the community,” SWRY co-founder Precious Collins stated. “We are protecting our youth and accepting who they want to be with SunUte’s help.”

SWRY is excited to collaborate, not only with the community center but with schools, parents and tribal entities. They plan to sponsor educational presentations for the area, by hosting events, and giving the youth opportunities to discuss the concerns or questions they may have.

“This is going to be a process, I’m going to make mistakes, but we are committed to being an ally,” Duffy-Wirth stated. “The times have changed — by having more education and awareness, this will keep us relevant and is an opportunity for empowerment.”

If you or someone you know is interested in volunteering, setting up a training or have general questions contact the Southwest Rainbow Youth through their Facebook platform or visit their website at



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