‘It’s always our fault’: LGBTQ activists express concern over monkeypox

Colorado has two cases of the virus, sparking hateful conversations online and leaving advocates worried for the community

By: - June 2, 2022 4:30 am

A Colorado pride flag hangs on the west side of the Colorado Capitol on June 15, 2021. (Quentin Young/Colorado Newsline)

Colorado now has two cases of monkeypox. The World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have said that patients infected worldwide are primarily people who identify as men who have sex with men. While the CDC and WHO have also noted that sexuality does not correlate with disease, homophobic responses have blown up online. 

With Pride Month underway, activists and advocates in Colorado have expressed concern for the LGBTQ community. 

“We’re targeted for all kinds of things. It’s always our fault when something goes wrong. It’s always our fault. And, the reality is, it’s not,” said Mardi Moore, executive director of Out Boulder County, an advocacy organization that supports LGBTQ+ communities.

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There are 18 cases of monkeypox in the U.S., and according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, risk to the public continues to be low. In a statement, CDPHE said anyone can become infected with the virus, and it does not “discriminate against any group.” 

Moore recalled what it was like to live through the AIDS pandemic as an advocate. She remembers the stigmatization and criminalization people who were infected faced at the time. 

She is glad to see public health officials giving out information on monkeypox compared to how little information was shared about AIDS decades ago. 

Though Moore doesn’t believe the monkeypox outbreak will evolve into a pandemic, she said Out Boulder County has tools to communicate with the community if needed, similar to how the organization did with COVID-19. 

“One of the lessons (from the AIDS pandemic) was our community doesn’t listen to public health messages really, or have a trusted doctor, and there are a lot of barriers to us,” she said. 

Out Boulder County pushed for legislation this year that will require health care providers who report to CDPHE to collect specific data such as sexual orientation, disability status, race and ethnicity. According to Moore, it can be challenging to understand the impact of public health crises on the LGBTQ community due to the lack of records. 

One Colorado, also an LGBTQ advocacy organization, stressed the lack of correlation between monkeypox and sexual orientation. 

“Any leaders, media, or health officials who insinuate correlation with causation amongst the LGBTQ community, or a particular part of our community, are creating a further stigmatizing environment in which the virus can more readily spread,” said One Colorado in a statement. “We encourage all LGBTQ Coloradans to stay informed and speak directly to their primary healthcare providers if concerned.”

Online comments

Some anti-LGBTQ commentators have gone online to discuss the virus. Far-right radio host Stew Peters addressed the topic on one of his recent shows

“The real pandemic here is promiscuous sex among gay men at sex orgies and participating in satanic depravity. So stop that,” Peters said. “As a matter of fact, we should make a law against homosexual sex.” 

Moore said she tries not to read online comments. She believes when people are in the comfort of their own homes, they can be more hateful. In response to what Peters said, Moore had no comment but did raise her middle fingers. 

LGBTQ pride celebrations will pop up across the state in the coming weeks. Moore has no concern about monkeypox potentially affecting the events through infections or hateful actions and protests. She is, however, concerned that a rise in COVID infections could lead to further spread of the virus. 

“(People) politicize my sexual orientation, they politicize gender identities and write hateful things when the bottom line is we just want a healthier community,” said Moore.

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Zoe Schacht
Zoe Schacht

Zoe Schacht is a reporter for Colorado Newsline. In December 2022, she will graduate from the University of Colorado Boulder with a degree in journalism and a minor in communication. At CU, Zoe was Editor-in-Chief for the CU Independent where she gained a passion for journalism and storytelling.

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