Even before authorities confirmed that the man who reportedly killed at least five people and left 25 injured at an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs, Colo., faces multiple murder and bias-motivated charges, a motive already seemed self-evident — the mass shooting at Club Q on Saturday was an act of hate.
No one should be surprised.
Republican legislators nationwide have spent years vilifying the LGBTQ community with insidious lies and false accusations about grooming children. In ongoing efforts to rewrite American history and erase the presence of certain groups, conservative school boards have banned books with LGBTQ characters and story lines.
Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida made this despicable crusade a cornerstone of his recent reelection campaign. He won in a landslide and is considered a probable 2024 Republican presidential candidate.
According to its website, Club Q features a “Drag Diva Drag Show” on Saturdays. Drag shows, and performers in particular, have been targeted by far-right extremists — including in Boston where a menacing neo-Nazi group forced cancellations of recent drag queen story hours for families.
In Tennessee this month, the Republican-led state Legislature introduced bills that would ban gender-affirming care for children — and public drag performances. If passed, anyone engaging “in an adult cabaret performance on public property or in a location where the adult cabaret performance could be viewed by a person who is not an adult” could be charged with a felony that carries up to a six-year prison sentence.
In 2022 Republicans want to criminalize drag, which has existed as a legitimate art form for decades, to satisfy their white Christian evangelical base.
Of course, it’s not the drag queens or young people who just want to live as their true selves who threaten America. It’s the hate churned by phony, self-appointed moralists who want to decide who gets to thrive and exist in this nation. It’s media outlets that undersell inciting rhetoric against the LGBTQ community as just another symbol of the nation’s “culture wars,” even as lives are put at risk and lost.
When any group is dehumanized and falsely painted as a threat, divisive words are weaponized and brutality is the result. Antisemitic rhetoric leads to antisemitic violence. Anti-Asian hate leads to anti-Asian violence. Racist comments lead to anti-Black violence.
All those bills and laws designed to demonize LGBTQ people have again come with a body count. But in a nation seared by gun violence — including the 2016 mass shooting at Pulse where a gunman killed 49 and left dozens injured at an LGBTQ nightclub in Orlando — Club Q patrons knew what to do.
“Club Q is devastated by the senseless attack on our community,” the club posted on Facebook. “We thank the quick reactions of heroic customers that subdued the gunman and ended this hate attack.” Before police could arrive, queer people saved themselves and each other.
So here we sit in horror again as another sanctuary for the LGBTQ community is now a site of death. This is an act of terrorism to ensure that those targeted won’t feel comfortable anywhere, even in their own spaces.
In the coming days more will be learned about what compelled a gunman to bring a night of fun in Colorado Springs to a bloody end. Perhaps hate speech from far-right extremists and Republican legislators didn’t directly spur this latest attack. But that still won’t quell fears where an climate of codified hate makes it harder each day to feel safe as a queer person in America.