The Colorado Springs massacre is what happens when vilifying gay people goes mainstream

Thomas Peipert/Associated Press

The news that broke last Sunday evening of yet another shooting at a gay dance club was tragic — but not surprising.

The queer community has always been under attack. Even in places that are supposed to be safe for us, we have always had to fight to keep them that way. The famous Stonewall riots were state-sponsored violence, and in a way, so was what happened at Club Q in Colorado Springs, Colo. last Sunday and at Orlando, Florida’s Pulse Nightclub in 2018.

Hatred against the queer community has been buoyed and encouraged by officials including Colorado’s 3rd Congressional Representative, Lauren Boebert. She has, many times over, accused the gay community of “depravity” and of “grooming” children.

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This dangerous rhetoric, championed by former President Donald Trump, dehumanizes gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and otherwise queer people.

The hate speech America tolerates from its leaders — and in turn, from our families and even from our friends — makes it easier for an angry and radicalized young man to walk into a pulsing dance club with an AR-15-style rifle and a handgun to kill 5 strangers and injure 18 more.

Colorado Spring’s Club Q was more than a gay bar. It was a community center, a place where families gathered for brunch on Sundays and where young, queer people felt safe to be who they are. It’s the kind of gathering spot that offers kindness to people who are shunned.

That the shooting took place during Transgender Awareness Week — which Club Q planned to celebrate the next morning — is simply a reminder that however many steps we’ve taken toward equality, the gay community is still viewed as a threat to be destroyed.

Colorado Springs is also the same city that hosts the fundamentalist political organization Focus on the Family, which financially supports and encourages the political inequality of the LGBTQ+ community. The group has referred to the children of same-sex couples as “human guinea pigs,” claimed that marriage equality will bring the destruction of civilization, and are the financial supporters of Love Won Out, a national preaching tour that claimed same-sex attraction is “preventable and treatable.”

But queer humans are humans, first; and we deserve to live our lives freely and openly, without fear of death or retaliation for loving who we choose to love. We are not depraved — we are beautiful and we are strong, and above all: We are resilient.

Tragedy has scarred our community many times before and will many times again, but it is that kind of bravery that defines us. It takes bravery to come out of the closet and live our lives openly, to love openly, and to create whole, new families out of that love.

So our community will mourn the senseless deaths of Daniel Aston, Raymond Green Vance, Kelly Loving, Ashley Paugh and Derrick Rump, as we will celebrate the bravery of the patrons who saved dozens more lives by tackling the shooter and taking away his weapons.

And I invite you, whether you are homosexual or heterosexual — or any of the myriad sexualities that creates a whole and vibrant community — to join in mourning these deaths. Perhaps in doing so, we will help close the emotional distance and violence that the normalization of hateful rhetoric seeks to impose.

Thoughts and prayers won’t stop hate, but love always does.