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Club Q: LGBTQ+ club that gave queer folk a ‘family’ torn apart by Colorado Springs shooting

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A person gets comforted by a friend at a makeshift memorial near Club Q on November 20, 2022 in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The venue was the scene of a mass shooting

Club Q, torn apart by a horrific shooting, was a “family”, and for decades Colorado Spring’s only LGBTQ+ venue.

At least five people were killed and 25 people injured after a gunman opened fire at Club Q, a nightclub and space for the LGBTQ+ community in the city, shortly before midnight on Saturday (19 November). 

A suspect, Anderson Lee Aldrich,  is currently in custody. Police have not released a motive for the mass shooting, but they are looking into if the attack was a hate-motivated crime.

The tragedy has left a deep scar on the queer community, who viewed Club Q as a safe space. 

Club Q opened in 2002 and was, until recently, the only LGBTQ+ club in Colorado Springs, the second-most populous city in the state.

Owner Matthew Haynes told the Colorado Sun that there have been “so many happy stories” from the venue in the 21 years since its opening. He said the nightclub had become more of a “family of people” rather than a “place to have a drink and dance and leave”. 

“Twenty-one years ago, we didn’t have marriage,” Haynes said. “Twenty-one years ago you got kicked out of the military if they found out you were gay.”

Haynes continued: “You couldn’t go sit in a restaurant next to your partner. Club Q was that safe place for people to come and feel and understand that they are normal — that the way they feel is normal and there are people just like them.”

 Flowers, signs, balloons and more are left at a makeshift memorial near Club Q on November 20, 2022 in Colorado Springs, Colorado after the LGBTQ+ venue was the scene of a mass shooting

Colorado Springs resident Tiana Nicole Dykes said Club Q was her “second home” as it was “full of chosen family”. (Getty)

Lifelong Colorado Springs resident Tiana Nicole Dykes told CNN that she knows people who were killed and critically injured during the shooting. Dykes described Club Q as a “second home full of chosen family”. 

“Something like a mass shooting at an LGBT+ safe space is damaging beyond belief,” she said. “There’s feelings of disrespect, disbelief and just pure shock. Nobody ever thinks it’s gonna happen to them, and sometimes it does.”

Stoney Roberts, the southern Colorado field organiser for One Colorado, an LGBTQ nonprofit advocacy organisation, told the Colorado Sun that Club Q was a “pole in the storm, something to grab onto” for queer people amid rising threats to the community in the US. 

“Here in the Springs, there aren’t a lot of safe spaces for queer folks,” Roberts said. “Oftentimes, we have to make our own safe spaces.”

Roberts, who lives in Colorado Springs and used to perform drag at Club Q, said the shooting was “unimaginable but also very imaginable given the national landscape, given recent events”. 

People attend a vigil after the Colorado Springs shooting. (Getty)

The club was hosting a dance party with a drag performance on the evening of the mass shooting. It is currently closed until further notice, according to the venue’s website. 

There was an all-ages drag brunch planned for Sunday (20 November) as well as a celebration of Transgender Day of Remembrance later that evening.

Club Q wrote on Facebook that it was “devastated by the senseless attack” on its community. The venue also thanked the “quick reactions of heroic customers that subdued the gunman and ended this hate attack”. 

In a later statement, released by GLAAD on behalf of Club Q, the venue said it was in “shock” and “deep mourning”.

“Club Q has always provided a space for LGBTQ people and our ally friends to celebrate together,” the statement continued. “We will always speak up for and support everyone’s right to be themselves and be safe.”

Club Q demanded those spreading “disgusting rhetoric and encourage violence stop this behaviour immediately before more people get hurt”.

 

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Colorado governor Jared Polis, the nation’s first openly gay governor, said the attack was truly heart-wrenching for him as well as the queer community locally. 

Polis told the Colorado Sun that it was “just a shock” the mass shooting, which he described as being motivated by “pure evil”, occurred in Colorado.  

“We all remember the Orlando shooting at Pulse nightclub,” he said. “And, of course, here in Colorado we’re no stranger to mass shootings.”

He added: “In addition to those who are directly injured or killed, this really traumatises everybody there – the employees, the staff, the customers, but also everybody who really viewed just going out to have fun and be who you are as something that was safe. 

“This just really causes people to think twice and worry about that.”

People hold a vigil at a makeshift memorial near the Colorado Springs nightclub, Club Q, which was the scene of a mass shooting

Many people in Colorado Springs described Club Q as a “safe” place for LGBTQ+ people in the local area. (Getty)

President Joe Biden and other lawmakers have linked a broader conservative anti-LGBTQ+ campaign in the US with fuelling hatred towards the community, setting the stage for violence like the Colorado Springs shooting.

Representative Brianna Titone, who is Colorado’s first openly trans legislator, tweeted the rise in anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric and legislation is partially responsible for queer people being targetted in “yet another horrific event of murder”.

“When politicians and pundits keep perpetuating tropes, insults, and misinformation about the trans and LTBGQ community, this is a result,” Titone wrote. “I’m angry and my heart breaks for those who lost their lives.”