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After Colorado Springs attack, LGBTQ people furious at rhetoric aimed at them

Elizabeth Pixie is angry.

She is angry that her friend Daniel Aston died in a shooting at Club Q. She is angry that she had to move from Texas to Colorado because she didn’t feel safe as a trans woman there. And she is angry at people who spread anti-LGBTQ rhetoric online – some for years – before the shooting.

Elizabeth Pixie remembers her friend Daniel Aston, who died in the shooting, as an “absolute lover”.Courtesy of Elizabeth Pixie / Snapchat

“They can call it religion, they can call it politics, they can call it saving people,” said Pixie, who lives in Colorado Springs. “Whatever fluff or s — they want to sprinkle on it, they can do it, but at the end of the day, these people are murderers.”

Late Saturday, a suspected shooter entered the LGBTQ club and opened fire with an AR-15 type rifle, killing Aston and four others and injuring at least 19 others. The suspect was apprehended by police after being injured in the attack and is in hospital. Although authorities did not share a motive, the suspect faces five counts of first degree murder and bias or hate crimes.

Pixie is not alone in her fury. While grieving, other Colorado Springs residents and national activists have also described their anger, and they attribute that rage to the flurry of anti-LGBTQ bills proposed by conservative representatives in dozens of states. , to an increase in anti-trans violence, and to a failure by some media outlets to accurately report on it all.

“I keep going back and forth between a level of devastation and grief and loss and a level of anger,” Pixie, 30, said.

AuthorJames Davis.
James Davis said the attack at Club Q was the result of “cause and effect”.Courtesy of James Davis

James Davis, who has lived in Colorado Springs for most of his life, said he felt an “injustice too familiar and unbelievable to be foreseen”. In 2016, after 49 people were killed at Pulse nightclub, a gay club in Orlando, Florida, Davis said he felt sad and closed off, but after hearing about Club Q he was “just pissed “.

“It’s cause and effect,” he said. “There’s so much dog whistling and scripting for people who need it – to get out there, grab the gun, make their way through space and do this thing that they know they’re going to be the mass shooter, they’re going to be in the news.

Davis wrote a poem about Club Q in 2019 that has been widely shared on social media since the shooting. He said the club “didn’t deserve this”.

“It’s only worth serving people who are stuck in Colorado Springs for whatever reason, and trying to live an authentic life and just have a place to hang out and feel normal,” he said. . “And someone decided that was too much, too much for the people who work there and the people who like to go there.”

Poem Club Q
The poem “Club Q” by Davis, who lived in Colorado Springs for most of his life.Courtesy of James Davis

Pixie, who wasn’t at the club that night, still described her friend in the present tense on Monday, calling him an “absolute darling”.

She recalls the first time she met Aston, a bartender at Club Q, he said, “You are absolutely the most beautiful woman I have ever seen. What can I offer you? »

“He was so gender-affirming in every way,” Pixie said. “He always made sure that even if you didn’t feel valid or beautiful, when you walked in, he made sure you knew you mattered.”

Aston invited her to perform at the club, which she did for around four months. He also once stood up for her and protected her from a client who made a transphobic comment, she said.

Pixie, who worked at a pharmacy, said she also left Texas because the state began investigating parents who provided gender-affirming care to minors. She didn’t want to be forced to report one of her underage clients.

She specifically named the social media account Libs of TikTok, which has 1.5 million Twitter followers, saying it is responsible for spreading hate. The account shares photos and videos of teachers and drag performers, among others, who are LGBTQ or who advocate inclusiveness and falsely label them as children who groom themselves.

The account owner did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Parker Gray
Parker Gray was a regular at Club Q but stopped caring about safety.Courtesy of Parker Gray

On Monday, Parker Grey, who has lived in Colorado Springs for about five years and regularly visited Club Q because he lived next door, said locals gathered outside the club to grieve, but he could feel tension as a result of the heavy media presence.

“It wasn’t a good vibe, just because a lot of news and media was talking very loudly about the best photo to get, where they could stand, and meanwhile there’s the members of our community, just standing there looking at this building that we’ve been to hundreds of times and drive by every week,” he said Monday. “It was like there was an air in anger and a sad expression.”

Gray said he stopped going to Club Q about a year and a half ago because the local climate felt increasingly unsafe due to both the national rhetoric surrounding LGBTQ people and the fact that Colorado Springs — unlike Denver, just an hour north — is more conservative. He said the only reason he felt safe was because he could hide his identity as a trans man.

Kelley Robinson, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said at a Monday press conference that many LGBTQ people do not feel safe in their communities nationwide and that fear “doesn’t come out of nowhere. “. She noted that the shooting also fell on the eve of Transgender Day of Remembrance, an annual observance to honor the memory of transgender homicide victims that began in 1999, and that Club Q had planned to honor that. day with a drag show for all ages. Sunday.

“In the 10 years we’ve tracked deadly violence against trans and non-binary people, we’ve recorded over 300 deaths – with 2021 being the deadliest year on record for trans lives,” Robinson said. “And we know that some of the Club Q victims also identified as trans.”

Robinson called the violence against LGBTQ people a crisis that “did not happen in a vacuum.”

“The violence we see is directly linked to anti-LGBTQ extremism,” she said. “Over the past year, we have seen a record number of anti-LGBTQ+ bills move forward in the United States, and some of these same politicians are behind the attacks we are seeing at the state level, they use their platforms. to call us “predators” and “predators”. Meanwhile, send thoughts and prayers and pretend they played no part in this tragedy.

Erin Roseau
Erin Reed, an activist, said the risk of violence towards the LGBTQ community has been apparent for months.Courtesy of Erin Reed.

Erin Reed, a Maryland-based trans activist and legislative researcher, said anyone who has been active in the LGBTQ community knows the risk of violence has been rising nationally for months.

She mentioned a bomb scare on Boston Children’s Hospital in August, which occurred after Libs of TikTok and other conservative social media accounts claimed without evidence that the hospital was offering gender-affirming hysterectomies to people. children under 18, NBC reported at the time. The hospital denied the allegations.

“We’ve all said these people are going to get somebody killed because of the language they use and because of the actions they take,” Reed said.

Pixie thinks Aston is now a victim of this violence.

She said one of the things she would miss most about him is his hugs. Pixie said that once when Aston finished a shift at the club, he told her it had been a rough night, so she hugged him.

“And he just let out this deep sigh, like that sigh where you know you’ve given someone a really good hug,” she said.

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