Published: December 15, 2022

We Can’t Talk About the Colorado Shooting Without Addressing Years of Anti-LGBTQ Rhetoric

“The hateful rhetoric we’ve heard from elected leaders is the direct cause of the horrific shooting at Club Q. We need elected leaders to demonstrate language that reflects love and understanding, not hate and fear.” —James Slaugh, a survivor of the shooting at Club Q.

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In 2016, the nation came to a stop as news of Orlando’s Pulse nightclub shooting, the deadliest mass shooting at the time, quickly circulated. Six years later, LGBTQ+ communities are still fighting for their lives in the wake of the deadly attack at Club Q in Colorado Springs, trailing behind years of anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric fueled by many GOP leaders. 

Last week, Colorado Springs police charged the suspect of the shooting, which left 5 people dead and injured many more, with over 300 criminal counts. Much is still unknown about the suspect, but we do know that they were previously arrested for bomb threats and may be connected to racist websites and altercations.

What is said (and what is not) right now matters. Not for the sake of political correctness, but for those whose very humanity has constantly and historically been under threat.

Although Colorado has been making a name for itself through progressive policy, its history is not immune to attacks on sexuality and gender identity. According to Southern Poverty Law Center, in the 1990’s, the fundamentalist movement helped pass Amendment 2, which banned municipalities from including LGBTQ+ people on their anti-discrimination policies. Although the amendment was struck down by the Supreme Court, evangelical groups continue to sway elections by pushing for fundamentalist candidates and existing alongside far-right extremist groups like the Proud Boys and Patriot Front.

Following a contentious election season wherein numerous GOP candidates spewed anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric — we know that this attack did not occur in a vacuum. Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO 3rd District) and former Colorado gubernatorial candidate Heidi Ganahl both received criticism for their remarks following Club Q. The two GOP leaders have a history of strong opposition to marriage equality and gender-affirming procedures, which were highlighted on social media. But it’s not just their hateful rhetoric that is worth calling out.

Both Boebert and Ganahl’s expressions of sympathy lack a common sense element: an acknowledgment that the shooting specifically targeted LGBTQ+ people. History repeats itself, and we can look back 6 years to conservatives’ responses in the aftermath of Pulse, which also lacked this key fact, for a refresher.  It is both the hypervisibility and invisibility of groups that allows for homophobia, transphobia, racism, and other forms of bigotry to persist and determine whose lives have worth. 

James Slaugh, a survivor of the shooting at Club Q was among those who testified in front of congress this week on the rise of anti-LGBTQ+ extremism. “The hateful rhetoric we’ve heard from elected leaders is the direct cause of the horrific shooting at Club Q. We need elected leaders to demonstrate language that reflects love and understanding, not hate and fear.”

Hundreds of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation swept the country in 2022, backed by disinformation and fear-mongering by conservatives. Advocates like MVP partner, One Colorado (One CO), have vocalized the real-life implications of dangerous policies, especially for youth. “If we have this national conversation around LGBTQ folks that’s harmful and detrimental using LGBTQ youth including Trans and Non-Binary youth as political props it’s going to continue to have devastating consequences,” said Garrett Royce on MSNBC.

One CO is the state’s leading advocacy organization dedicated to advancing equality for LGBTQ+ Coloradans and their families. Following news of the attack, MVP was the first funder to send rapid response support to One CO through our capacity building program providing crisis comms support, digital security, and a canvassing grant to help manage the negative impacts of harmful rhetoric.

The point in time where LGBTQ+ (especially in communities of color) lives and humanity are both fully recognized and free from threats of harm in the streets and in law still hasn’t arrived. No matter where we come from or who we love, not one person deserves to live in fear for existing authentically. We can and will continue to demand safety and care for ourselves, families, and loved ones until our freedom to be is realized. As Executive Director of One CO, Nadine Bridges, says, “this is not who we are, Colorado, we care about each other. We meet this hate with love, and we will win.”

 

We want to take the time and space here to honor the victims of the attack at Club Q. They all had families, loved ones, and dreams not yet realized. We mourn the loss of lives taken at the hands of hate and will continue to build a movement grounded in freedom, safety, and love. We remember their names: 

 

  • Raymond Green Vance (he/him)
  • Kelly Loving (she/her)
  • Daniel Aston (he/him)
  • Derrick Rump (he/him)
  • Ashley Paugh (she/ her)
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