Opinion Advocates for ideas and draws conclusions based on the author/producer’s interpretation of facts and data.
Anyone paying attention cannot feign shock at what happened late Saturday night at Club Q in Colorado Springs. It was a logical—and deadly—result of escalating violent rhetoric and legislation targeting trans people, queer people, drag queens, and any space deemed marginally safer for LGBTQ people.
Even as we continue to learn details about the attack—the shooter’s motive, the acts of heroism and sacrifice made by people who only wanted to gather in love, safety, and community—it’s important to be honest about what we know. Club Q was not simply “a nightclub.” It was one of the only safe places for LGBTQ people to gather in Colorado Springs. The politically conservative city of less than 500,000 on the western slope of the Rocky Mountains is circled by five military bases (including the Air Force Academy) and several prominent, well-funded right-wing organizations that have been drumming up anti-LGBTQ sentiment for decades.
The gunman opened fire moments before the clock struck midnight, signaling the beginning of Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR), an annual observance of the ever-growing list of transgender people killed by hate violence. At least one of the five people killed at Club Q was an out transgender man; his name was no doubt added to the ceremonial reading of names in somber gatherings around the country on Sunday.
Club Q was hosting a weekend of events to commemorate TDOR, including a drag show on Saturday night, and an all-ages drag brunch scheduled for Sunday morning. Events like these have been the site of numerous intimidating protests by far-right, anti-LGBTQ groups, including the Proud Boys—who have showed up to harass families at drag queen story hours in California, Maryland, Nevada, and other states this year.
On a local scale, the member of Congress representing Colorado Springs—Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert, who just secured re-election by a razor-thin margin—has spent much of her time in Washington stoking animus against LGBTQ people, including introducing legislation that would criminalize gender-affirming medical care for transgender youth. On Sunday, she offered “thoughts and prayers” to the victims and their families, adding, “This lawless violence needs to end and end quickly.” Out lawmakers, including Brianna Titone, the first out trans woman elected to Colorado’s state legislature, were quick to call out Boebert’s hypocrisy, noting that Boebert not only opposes common-sense gun control, but also has promoted the anti-LGBTQ myth that gay, transgender, and queer people target children for sexual abuse.
The death, devastation, and despair in Colorado today is the tragic but predictable outcome of relentless fearmongering, of hate speech allowed to go unchecked on major broadcast and social networks, and of legislation that attempts to control and punish people deemed “different” simply by the nature of their existence. All of this, in a country that refuses to implement even basic gun control measures that might have kept weapons like the AR-15 used at Club Q (and most other mass shootings in recent years) out of the hands of people who use them to commit mass murder.
Many of us have seen the writing on the wall. Queer people have been bracing for another attack like this, and many have been sounding the alarm for years. Sunnivie covered the Pulse massacre in Orlando in 2016, and it’s impossible to ignore the parallels with the attack on Club Q—and what members of our community have learned about how to protect each other since then. In Orlando, police waited hours to enter Pulse, likely resulting in additional fatalities. In Colorado Springs, reports indicate that a transgender woman and an Army veteran, who was attending the show with his wife and daughter, actively fought, disarmed, and detained the gunman before police arrived. They undoubtedly saved countless lives. We have always been the ones to keep each other safe—but this rises to a new level, where LGBTQ people and our loved ones now carry active combat training and knowledge of emergency medical care to a night out with our community.
It doesn’t have to be like this.
There’s little doubt that the mass shooting at Club Q is the horrific result of rising anti-LGBTQ sentiment. There’s also little doubt that it will happen again unless we, as a collective community—straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, nonbinary, and cisgender—make a serious commitment to act. We must commit to stopping queerphobic and transphobic legislation, to publicly and privately challenging anti-LGBTQ rhetoric spewed by politicians and people we’re in community with, and to protecting LGBTQ people at all costs.
That’s what YES! is about: bringing people together to explore solutions that transform our world for the better. The mass shooting at Club Q might not change gun laws, but it should be a rallying cry for all those committed to a world where LGBTQ people are free—free to exist as we are, free to thrive, and free from hatred. We deserve that—and so do each and every one of you.
Sunnivie Brydum is the editorial director at YES! An award-winning investigative journalist with a background covering LGBTQ equality, Sunnivie previously led digital coverage at The Advocate, Free Speech TV, and Out Front Colorado. Her writing has appeared in Vox, Religion Dispatches, them., and elsewhere. She has a degree in magazine journalism from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, and is a co-founder of Historias No Contadas, an annual symposium in Medellín, Colombia that amplifies the stories of LGBTQ people in Latin America. She is based in Seattle, speaks English and Spanish, and is a member of NLGJA, SPJ, and ONA.
Evette Dionne is the executive editor at YES! Media, where she leads YES! Magazine. She is the former editor-in-chief at Bitch Media, and an award-winning journalist, pop culture critic, and magazine editor who covers culture and politics through the lenses of race, gender, class, and size. Her newest book, Weightless: Making Space for My Resilient Body and Soul, will be published in December 2022 by Ecco. She’s also the author of Lifting As We Climb, which was longlisted for a National Book Award and won a Coretta Scott King author honor. Evette is based in Denver, and speaks English.