Saturday, November 19 was the night before the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance, marking the loss through hateful violence against transgender and gender non-conforming people. (At least 32 have been killed so far just this year.1)
In Colorado Springs, Club Q has served for 20 years as the main “safe space” for LGBTQ people in this often-hostile conservative city, and as a welcoming venue to everybody. Saturday night Club Q was filled with people having fun, including many straight people. There was a drag show that night, and another scheduled for Sunday.
Then, a little before midnight, a man carrying an AR-15 and a handgun (plus multiple loaded magazines)—started shooting. People fell to the floor wounded or dead, hid, fled, tried to help each other. One man tackled the shooter, while two others helped disarm and restrain him until the cops arrived. An injured man recalled other patrons rushing to aid him and a more badly wounded woman next to him. People saved each other’s lives.
The incident itself was over in under six minutes. And that was all the time it took for five lives to be snuffed out. (See “More Lives Lost” box.) At least 18 others were wounded. And the ripples of trauma, fear, pain—and righteous anger—were already spreading through the club, to families and friends of those killed, to LGBTQ and especially trans people who already feel under constant attack, and to decent people everywhere.
At this point little is known with certainty about the alleged killer or his motives, but there is a larger climate in which he was operating. Fascist forces in the U.S.—from the Christian fascists to Republi-fascist elected officials to terrorist misogynist thugs like the Proud Boys—have been whipping up hatred against LGBTQ people for many years, and much more intensely so in the last few months.
Increasingly, LGBTQ people—and anyone who defends them—are being painted as predators and pedophiles by these fascists. Christian-fascist Florida governor Ron DeSantis built his highly successful reelection campaign heavily around what became known as the “Don’t Say ‘Gay’” bill, which barred or heavily restricted discussion of sexuality in schools, and was also linked to banning books that depicted “non-traditional” characters and families (trans kids, or gay families, i.e., kids with two moms or two dads, for example.)
In defending this bill, DeSantis’s press secretary called it the “Anti-Grooming bill,” and said that anyone who opposed it was “probably a groomer or at least you don’t denounce the grooming of 4 to 8-year-old children” (By “grooming” they mean ways to manipulate children into sexual relationships.) So here, open classroom discussions of questions of sexuality that confront large numbers of children are being equated with a predatory conspiracy to sexually abuse children and “turn” kids gay!
Likewise, fascist Colorado congresswoman Lauren Boebert has said that a Congressional bill to bar discrimination against LGBTQ people is aimed at achieving the "supremacy of gays and lesbians and transvestites." So according to these fascists, LGBTQ people are trying to “take over”—when the reality is that LGBTQ people are systematically persecuted and demonized in this society.
With this kind of outrageous propaganda being blasted out by right-wing media, “influencers,” and political leaders, anti-LGBTQ violence is both predictable and almost inevitable.
Children’s hospitals that assist transgender children face bomb threats. A planned LGBTQ festival in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, was targeted for attack by the white nationalist hate group Patriot Front—31 of their members were arrested as they neared the event. Drag shows, which Christian fascists see as subverting traditional gender norms, have also come under attacks by the fascists.
At the heart of this cruel insanity is the fact that changes in the “nuclear family” brought about by larger changes in the economy and society, and the growing acceptance and prevalence among sections of people (especially younger people) of “non-traditional gender roles” are challenging and in some ways undermining traditional patriarchal relations and authority (the authority of men) that has been key to holding U.S. society together (on a highly oppressive basis.) The fascist agenda is in large part about reasserting in the most overt, violent and grotesque forms of what they believe “Made America Great”—white supremacy, male supremacy, and American chauvinism.
In an interview published the day after the massacre, Mike Pompeo—a leading Christian-fascist, Secretary of State under Trump, and a possible candidate for president in 2024—declared that “the most dangerous person in the world is Randi Weingarten” (head of the American Federation of Teachers union). And why does he say this? Because, he says, of “all the filth they’re teaching our kids,” an obvious reference to the many teachers who insist on treating LGBTQ people as human beings who happen to live and love differently… and not as demonic pedophiles who should be forcibly driven “back in the closet”—if not outright imprisoned or killed.
According to Pompeo, this makes her “the most likely to take this republic down.”
These fascists see these changes as an existential threat and are determined to violently reverse them. The challenge is whether those on the side of decency will recognize the depth of the threat posed by these fascists and move not only to defend LGBTQ people against these attacks, but fight to bring forward something truly emancipating out of this madness.
Five More Lives Lost to Anti-Gay Violence
The following is based on the NBC News report “What we know about the Colorado Springs Club Q shooting” and Colorado Public Radio report “Those we lost in the Club Q shooting.”
Daniel Aston, 28
Daniel, a bartender and entertainer at Club Q, was a transgender man. His mom, Sabrina Aston, told the Associated Press that Daniel: "lit up a room, always smiling, always happy and silly." She said his death was a "nightmare that you can't wake up from."
Kelly Loving, 40
Like many trans people, Kelly had already been a victim of violence, surviving a previous shooting and a stabbing. Kelly’s sister, Tiffany Loving, told the New York Times that "She was loving, always trying to help the next person out, instead of thinking of herself. She just was a caring person.”
Natalie Skye Bingham, a friend of Kelly’s, and herself a survivor of the 2017 Pulse nightclub massacre, said that Kelly could have been "intimidating because she was so gorgeous. But she was the exact opposite. She was warm, welcoming, and she took me under her wing." Reflecting on the loss of her friend, Bingham said she wants her memory to live on: “I want to be a voice for her, and I will make sure she is heard.”
Derrick Rump, 38
Derrick Rump moved from Pennsylvania to Colorado to start a new life. His sister Julia said that “He found a community of people that he loved … and he felt that he could shine there, and he did," Rufio Jimenez,, a close friend, said “He’s a sweetheart. He’s a leader at heart, I would say. He’s calm and quiet, sassy when he wants to be.” And Rufio added that he had heard that Derrick was killed while trying to save people, that he “was running around trying to tell people to run and leave. And he got shot. He’s a hero to us. It sucks that he was such a good person, that he was the one that had to die.”
Raymond Green Vance, 22
Raymond went to Club Q with his girlfriend, Kathy Fierro, and her parents to celebrate a birthday—it was his first time there. (Kathy’s dad, Richard Fierro, was the person who tackled the shooter, later saying that "I needed to save my family. That family was, at that time, everybody in that room.")
Kathy posted on Facebook, "My baby was the most hilarious most loving human. Let’s share that with each other." Raymond’s mom, Adriana Vance said “Raymond spent most of his spare time with his girlfriend (whom he had been with since middle school) and playing video games, which were his favorite hobby and something he hoped to turn into an online career.” And she said that she wanted people to remember her son as a "tall, handsome, gentle giant."
Ashley Paugh, 35
Ashley Paugh, described by her sister Stephanie Clark as a loving wife and mother of an 11-year-old girl, was capping off a day trip in Colorado Springs with a night of fun at Club Q when the gunman opened fire. Clark said “Nothing will ever be the same without her. Right now, I don't want to laugh. She was a loving, caring person who would do anything for anybody. We're gonna miss her so much.”
“It just doesn’t seem real. We’re heartbroken. We’re sad. We’re mad, angry.”