Late on November 19, a man wearing body armor entered Club Q – considered a safe haven for LGBTQIA+ folks – in Colorado Springs, Colorado and immediately began shooting. He killed five people, and injured 18 others. His apparent intent was to keep going until two people at the club approached and tackled him, taking away his gun. All of this occurred only minutes before midnight, and the official start of this year’s Trans Day of Remembrance. Although facts are still emerging about the man responsible for the shooting, most assume the motivation was anti-LGBTQ hate.
The Trans Day of Remembrance was founded in 1999 to memorialize the death of a woman named Rita Hester, a black, transgender woman who was murdered in Allston, Massachusetts on November, 28, 1998. Anti-trans violence disproportionately affects black and brown people, particularly black and brown trans women.
Every time such tragedy strikes it is a reminder of how much hate and bias remains in this world, and how people with multiple marginalized identities are under particular threat. In a period of time when all of us have been living under the fear of a deadly pandemic, it makes it all that much harder to imagine just going about our lives as if everything is somehow okay.
The Wildflower Alliance is a community with many LGBTQIA+ members. More than half of our leadership team identifies as LGBTQIA+, including black, brown, and indigenous team members. Our heart aches for this loss, and for the reality that so many people’s lives have been impacted by this violence, as well as the violence that has come before it, and the violence that will come after.
We urge everyone to use this time as one to reflect on where such hatred and capacity for violence comes from, and who benefits from it. Power thrives and protects itself by giving people who are struggling a group of “others” to blame for their perceived problems, instead of the systems that actually control and limit their lives. Lately, homophobic and anti-trans rhetoric from influencers and politicians is surging. This is an intentional tool to distract and incite people who are angry about their lot in life, often for good reason. It is important to look at and talk with our communities about the valid reasons we have to feel isolated and powerless: Poverty, economic injustice, endless war, corruption, climate change, abuse, racism, and other forms of oppression give us a lot to be angry about.
Rapidly changing culture and norms can be especially difficult for people raised to think that their ways are always right and good. It can be challenging, but essential, to work with people and ourselves to learn to respect and appreciate our differences, even when we do not understand them. It is so important to talk about all this, to accurately identify and work to alleviate the sources of peoples’ pain, and to push back against hateful messages meant to divide and destroy our communities while the rich and powerful thrive.
In writing this, we must also ask ourselves how to decide when to write a statement, and when to not. At least one article (tinyurl.com/ClubQCBS) on the Colorado Springs killing reported that this was the 6th mass killing in the United States this month. A New York Times article (tinyurl.com/ClubQNYT) reported that it marked the 601st mass shooting this year, 20 of which involved the death of at least five people. There have also been 1,022 fatal police shootings so far this year. Nearly 150 who were killed by police were experiencing some sort of emotional crisis at the time, and more than 110 shootings occurred after 911 was called for a wellness check. There’s no clear record of how many were black and brown because – for the vast majority – their race was not documented (tinyurl.com/Police22). However, even with all the unknowns, it is clear that black people are still being killed by police at a much higher rate than any other group.
It is important to speak out about what happened in Colorado Springs. But it is also important to recognize all the deaths we aren’t speaking out about, and that remain largely invisible to the public eye. Who is the media missing? Why? How are our perceptions being shaped by what we are and are not told? Who is deciding? These are essential questions in determining how we move forward.
In this moment, however, we hold space for the grief of all those touched directly or indirectly by the shooting at Club Q. Know that this tragedy impacts every LGBTQIA+ person you know. All your friends, family, acquaintances, fellow students, and/or co-workers. Yes, even those who have never set foot in Colorado or met any of the people involved. And, this includes those who are too afraid to share that they are LGBTQIA+ for how unaccepting and harmful this world can be to people deemed “different”. Please bear all this in mind as you move through your day. We hope you will consider treating one another with extra compassion and care.