20 Under 20

Kota Babcock is Queering the Story

It’s rare for a queer person to have a voice outside of queer-focused and led media spaces. We’re often asked to share our opinions during Pride Month, but when it comes to our insight on environmental policy? Elections? World politics? Radio silence.

For trailblazing teen Kota Babcock, this isn’t good enough. As a youth activist, Babcock witnessed the media negatively narrate stories about queer people one too many times. Now, they’re seeking to change the record. For years, Babcock has taken on the challenge of providing much-needed reporting from a queer lens on pop culture, local and world events taking place both in and outside the queer community.

Babcock’s activism roots started like many others: from a position of need. Needing community as a trans kid, they stumbled upon Rainbow Alley, the youth sector of The Center on Colfax, a queer community center located in Denver, Colorado, where Babcock grew up. Here, Babcock found not only community, but also a cause that he was passionate about within the broader LGBTQ+ community.

Once Kota aged out of the center, they took their activism to the streets by forming All the TEA. 

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Kota Babcock (@kotababcock)

All The TEA (“TEA” standing for Teach, Empower, and Advocate) is a youth-based collective focused on advocating “for youth affected by and living with HIV”. The group creates safe spaces for discussions surrounding PLWH and gets the word out to the queer community about HIV testing in queer spaces like Denver Pride. Using social media, Babcock and All the Tea spread the word out about much-needed services through a collaboration of community organizers living with HIV. 

“While working with [All The TEA], I found a very distinct interest…in reshaping how journalists discuss people living with HIV,” Babcock told Queercafe.com, recalling his experience seeing PLWH treated poorly and stigmatized even by media that was meant to be sensitive. Through their work with All The TEA, Babcock was honored as a recipient of the Pedro Zamora Young Leaders Scholarship, presented by the National AIDS Memorial-Grove located in San Francisco, CA, recognizing their work in 2019.

Babcock’s activism roots started like many others: from a position of need.

After forming a social organization, Babcock didn’t slow down. He soon turned his attention towards his new goal of making the journalism world more queer-friendly and inclusive. Changing the narrative of queer people as presented in the media became a driving force for Babcock. “I noticed an entire chapter of American history had been entirely hidden from me as a young, closeted LGBTQ+ person,” they recalled about growing up in a conservative town. Their journalism career began at KCSU 90.5 FM, where Babcock’s audio pieces covered a variety of current events, social issues and legislation updates both within and that affect the Fort Collins, CO and surrounding areas. In this role, Babcock rose through the ranks to become News Director at the station while still a teenager. With a listenership of over 350,000, Babcock’s news coverage segments on both local and global events were in the ears of many Coldoradians during his time with the station.

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Kota Babcock (@kotababcock)

Babcock did all this, we should mention, while also attending Colorado State University full time with a focus in journalism and media communications. Throughout their collegiate career, Babcock continued to advocate for thoughtful HIV-positive representation and also held a leadership position with CSU Hillel, the student-led support organization for Jewish students. In his final year in college, Babcock was the 2021-22 Arts and Culture Director for The Rocky Mount Collegian, a student-run publication based at CSU. 

Babcock’s journalistic talents also translate to his passion for photography. His work—featuring queer bodies and city landscapes— finalist in the Failure Art Awards presented by the Museum of Contemporary Arts in Denver in 2018. 

With work extending across social activism and journalism, Babcock’s experience has informed him on how he wants to present happenings that matter to people that matter. More importantly, Babcock’s work has the potential to get more news out to a world too focused on the flash.

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