Rub the sleep out of your eyes, pick up the phone, watch the news. A well-known shock: 5 killed and 18 injured in the shooting at Club Q in Colorado Springs, an LGBTQ nightclub. The club praised “brave” patrons who fought to subdue the gunman, later named Anderson Lee Aldrich, who is now in custody. As always, LGBTQ people, and/or their allies, must defend themselves, and here two individuals, through sheer courage, helped prevent an even greater loss of life.
At the time of writing, we do not know the motive of the alleged shooter. There may be a hate crime component to the investigation, prosecutors say, but whether it will ultimately count as an indictment remains to be seen and investigated.
But here too: another Sunday morning, six years after the Pulse shooting, with familiar feelings following the headlines. Heart plummets. Upset. Fury. Grief for those you don’t know personally and also that deeper sense of knowing, because LGBTQ people know hatred, the ubiquitous threat of violence – we just never know where it will flare up and hit us directly.
The worry is always there, like an inner tripwire, embedded early in our souls like strange children. The name-calling (if we’re lucky), the much worse (if we’re not). Life pushes us towards maturity, and more confidence, coming out, the energy of work and play and friends and lovers. Yet we see it, we hear it, we experience the daily hatred for the news and right-wing politicians and media mudsliders. Even then, there have always been the bars and clubs – the supposedly safe places we can go to relax, like Pulse and Club Q.
In a statement, President Biden said: “While there is not yet a clear motive for this attack, we know that the LGBTQI+ community has been subject to horrific hate violence in recent years. Gun violence continues to have a devastating and particular impact on LGBTQI+ communities across our country and the threat of violence is on the rise. We saw it six years ago in Orlando, when our country was hit by the deadliest attack in US history to affect the LGBTQI+ community. We continue to see it in the epidemic of violence and murder against transgender women, especially transgender women of color. And tragically, we saw it last night in this devastating attack by a gunman wielding a long gun at a Colorado Springs LGBTQI+ nightclub.
“Places that are supposed to be safe spaces of acceptance and celebration should never turn into places of terror and violence. Yet it happens far too often. We must eliminate the inequalities that contribute to violence against LGBTQI+ people. We cannot and must not tolerate hate.”
Lately, however, LGBTQ venues have literally come under siege from anti-LGBTQ activists who have lost their minds over drag queens reading to children. “Groomers” has entered the bigoted lexicon, yelling and running around recklessly.
It’s obviously closed for now, but Club Q was supposed to be holding a Transgender Day of Remembrance event today; it includes drag brunches. Look at their calendar; they were planning a friend giving event. As Joshua Thurman, who was there last night, said in an eloquent and excruciatingly moving TV interview this morning, this was the only location for LGBTQ+ people in the area. That safe space has been shattered.
We don’t yet know what caused the shooter to do what he did. But what LGBTQ people know very well is how anti-LGBTQ biases have become more extreme and uglier in recent times, and that this has been encouraged by Republican politicians and their supporting media. They mock and legislate against us. We can only hope, looking at their nonsense in the service of ugly prejudices, that all the animus they gleefully peddle, which they pump into TV and social media, won’t kill or injure us.
When we are killed or injured, as on a Sunday morning, the media is suddenly interested and concerned, like any rubberneck in a car accident. But no wider responsibility is considered for tampering with the brakes, no greater self-examination is undertaken. The shooter is inevitably called a lone wolf. Mental health, sanitybecomes the Republican cry — not because they care about mental health, or even fund it well, but because they need something to deflect from taking on any responsibility for fomenting anti-LGBTQ hatred.
Oh, and their thoughts and prayers; Lauren Boebert has already shamelessly delivered hers, despite years of anti-LGBTQ speeches. There will also be candles and memorials. The media will find grief-stricken loved ones and survivors, some of whom will appear on TV. Their tears will be provoked by pancake-styled deer-eyed heterosexual anchors. Everything will be securely packaged according to the strict rules of mourning porn – again, anything to deviate from talking about anti-LGBTQ bias, the laws being introduced in its name and its effects on queer people.
There will be access to weapons. Perhaps for a moment the homophobia and transphobia of those who have fomented hatred against us, both rhetorically and in law – Ron DeSantis, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Donald Trump, Greg Abbott and Boebert leading the charge, and steam-powered by right-wing groups such as the Alliance Defending Freedom and a right-leaning Supreme Court – will temporarily diminish. It will not be long. They will soon be eager to attack and gaslight once, for votes and money.
And even then you think: even blood must be shed for America pause to consider the bigotry against LGBTQ people and its costs. Just a break. And for that pathetic pause, people had to die.
“Those who propagate bigotry have too much to do with it to stop it. And, in a sense, do they really care that LGBTQ people are killed and injured?”
Those who propagate bigotry have too much to do with it to stop it. And, in a sense, do they really care that LGBTQ people are killed and injured? They think we are sick and wrong. If they could, they would make sure we didn’t grow up to be who we are. They spend their legislative hours thinking of ways to make our lives worse — from stopping us loving who we love to stopping kids, queer and not, from accessing LGBTQ reading and discussion materials in schools, to promote hatred of drag queens who read to children, to not legislate against conversion therapy. To “guardians”.
There are hundreds of bills targeting trans and queer youth in Republican-led legislatures in schools, preventing them from playing sports and accessing medically accepted gender-affirming care that could help them live fulfilling, healthy lives.
This is rarely mentioned in the mainstream news. Instead, this concern has been misrepresented and practitioners — such as at Boston Children’s Hospital — have been targeted by extremist threats. All the while these grand bullies, including JK Rowling, claim that they are the victims. If someone defends trans children, they are also being targeted. Those in power ridiculously claim they have none, even when they exercise it. The bully has mastered the language and attitude of the victim.
The anti-LGBTQ rhetoric of Tucker Carlson, Ben Shapiro and the rest continues unabated. They will not take responsibility for their part in fueling a climate of anti-LGBTQ violence because – like the politicians and legislators engaged in drafting homophobic and transphobic legislation – the brutality and violence are front and center. They want an LGBTQ population, and their allies, intimidated and stripped of dignity and power. Our fear and terror is actually a perfect outcome for them.
What they don’t know, these bigots with guns, and those politicians on their podiums and the media bigmouths with their access to millions through their bully pulpits on TV and online, is that yes, LGBTQ people know fear and terror all too well, small-scale in our communities and large-scale when the media deigns to care about us when someone shoots several of us dead in a nightclub. And also, essential, with our friends and those we love, we know how to face it.
The most telling thing about the Colorado shooting so far is that, as the club itself pointed out, the patrons are fighting back. The patrons dealt with the shooter to make sure that person didn’t kill any more people. Not the police. At Club Q we have protected ourselves as we have done for centuries and as we will continue to do when society, and those elected to legislate and speak for us, willfully fail to do so. Here, in this shot, are two true heroes – it is hoped that they, and the strength, resistance and pride they displayed in that nightclub on Saturday night, becomes the story.
The real challenge, as this author has previously written, is that the rest of America cares enough to vote against and stop watching and supporting those involved in this sick campaign against us. If the Colorado Springs shooting upsets you, make the connection between the actions of anti-LGBTQ politicians and those in power, and acts of violence against LGBTQ people – and protest, vote and fight back accordingly. LGBTQ people can’t do this on their own, but they eventually find themselves doing it all the time.
“Those responsible for bigotry, those who literally count on it, will do everything they can to neutralize any accusations of responsibility.”
The media too, instead of treating politics like a horse race, should ask anti-LGBTQ politicians about their actions at every opportunity. Ask them about this tragedy; ask them about the connection between harboring hatred and these acts of hatred. Make them responsible. For LGBTQ lives to mean anything, the rest of society must value LGBTQ life and LGBTQ rights and equality.
This is all a likely utopia. The Colorado shooting may follow the way of Pulse and have the typical life cycle of any shooting tragedy. The state where Pulse took place, Florida, has a governor who has proudly turned it into a laboratory for anti-LGBTQ extremist legislation. He was victorious in his last election and can still run for president. Those responsible for bigotry, those who literally count on it, will of course do everything they can to neutralize any accusations of responsibility.
And the mere fact that it happened – that someone feels encouraged enough to enter an LGBTQ club and kill and mutilate people with a gun – also tells us something terrible. That they, like those anti-LGBTQ politicians and foghorns in the media, think they can do it.
For all these people LGBTQ lives and rights don’t matter, indeed they are involved in a systematic, ongoing campaign to diminish and eradicate the few rights we have, some with guns, some with words, some with the swipe of a fountain pen as they scribble their signature on another act of legislative bias. We’re not even safe in the spaces we go in search of a drink, a night out of fun, basic security. A terrible war has long been declared against LGBTQ people, and right now only LGBTQ people are defending themselves, just like Club Q. If you really care where this hatred is going, LGBTQ people could use some help .