‘Straight line’ between anti-LGBTQ+ politics and Colorado Springs shooting, activists say
The Colorado Springs shooting that took the lives of five people was a consequence of hatred whipped up against the LGBTQ+ community by the far-right, activists have said.
Raymond Green Vance, Kelly Loving, Daniel Aston, Derrick Rump and Ashley Paugh were all murdered in a mass shooting in Club Q, an LGBTQ+ venue in Colorado Springs, on Saturday (19 November). Another 25 people were injured by the shooter, who is facing murder and hate crime charges.
The horrific attack comes just six years after 49 people were killed in the Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando, Florida.
Pulse should have been a catalyst for change, but the six years since that shooting have been painful and turbulent for queer Americans. From legislative attacks to physical violence, LGBTQ+ people have been reminded time and time again that they don’t matter – and that hatred can be weaponised by politicians to win public support.
“You can draw a straight line from the false and vile rhetoric about LGBTQ people spread by extremists and amplified across social media, to the nearly 300 anti-LGBTQ bills introduced this year, to the dozens of attacks on our community like this one,” said Sarah Kate Ellis, president and CEO of GLAAD.
“That this mass shooting took place on the eve of Transgender Day of Remembrance, when we honour the memory of the trans people killed the year prior, deepens the trauma and tragedy for all in the LGBTQ community.”
Melanie Willingham-Jaggers, executive director of LGBTQ+ youth charity GLSEN, said the shooting was a “tragic consequence” of anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric from right-wing politicians.
“We’ve seen it time and again: hate speech, especially hate speech enshrined in state bills, fuels hate crime,” they explained.
“Our hearts go out to the victims of the Club Q shooting and their families and loved ones. For the rest of us, now is a moment to mourn our siblings, but also to translate our fear and rage and desire for solidarity into clear, direct action.”
They added: “We all must rise up against efforts to silence and remove LGBTQ+ people from public life, including this vicious and intentional slaughter of LGBTQ+ people.”
In the aftermath of the Colorado Springs shooting, Willingham-Jaggers would like to see “bold protections” to stop gun violence once and for all.
“We must demand that our leaders govern in ways that honour our communities, respect our lives, and support our safety and rights,” she said.
LGBTQ+ people need ‘humane policies’ after Colorado Springs shooting
Willingam-Jaggers’ plea shouldn’t be a big ask, but in the current climate, even a hint of kindness from some lawmakers would feel like a radical act.
Over the last number of years, viciously transphobic and homophobic pieces of legislation have been cropping up in state legislatures across America. Lawmakers have learned that they can garner public support by leaning into anti-trans talking points that double as conspiracy theories.
Legislatures have banned gender affirming care for minors while others have stopped trans kids from playing sport all in the name of “fairness”.
At a federal level, LGBTQ+ people endured four years of attacks from Donald Trump during his time in the White House. The former president worked diligently to roll back LGBTQ+ protections, and he repeatedly courted homophobia and transphobia in a bid to boost his popularity with his support base. The legacy of that is that the Republican Party remains intently focussed on leveraging transphobia to rally its base.
To end violence against trans and queer people, we need more humane policies that send the message that our community is inherently valuable.
In the wake of the Colorado Springs shooting, politicians have a choice to make: they can either loudly reject anti-LGBTQ+ policies and hate, or they can do nothing.
Shelby Chestnut, director of policy and programs at the Transgender Law Center, puts it simply: “What queer people need now as they mourn those lost in the Colorado Springs shooting is for politicians to step up.
“To end violence against trans and queer people, we need more humane policies that send the message that our community is inherently valuable.
“Our LGBTQ+ community is a gift to our society.”
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