A gunman opened fire at an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs, Colorado, Saturday night, killing five people and injuring 19 others. At the time, Club Q was hosting a drag show and was expected to hold two more drag events the following day to honor Transgender Day of Remembrance. Now, however, lives have been stolen, others have been critically wounded, and Club Q has closed its doors until further notice.
Adding salt to the wound of all of this is the hypocrisy of Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., who tweeted that “the victims & their families are in my prayers.” This is the same person who has become notorious for her anti-LGBTQ rhetoric, wild conspiracy theories and glorification of guns and who has played a significant part in helping mainstream some dangerous talking points about queer and trans people. Unsurprisingly, her tweet fell flat and sparked outrage from the LGBTQ community and its allies, who unapologetically called her out for failing to acknowledge exactly who was targeted in the attack.
As a queer person, I’m heartbroken and devastated by the shooting, but as a journalist, I am unfortunately not surprised.
As a queer person, I’m heartbroken and devastated by the shooting, but as a journalist, I am unfortunately not surprised. The shooting at Club Q is a tragic yet predictable outcome of demonizing LGBTQ people and using children as political pawns.
When I first reported on the right’s anti-LGBTQ “grooming” narrative back in April, I was afraid that this hateful rhetoric would lead to violence, and now my worst fears have been confirmed. For months, bad-faith actors on cable TV and social media have relentlessly attacked our community, whipping up hysteria and constant threats, much of which has unfortunately been spread and legitimized by certain politicians like Boebert.
Throughout her career, she has repeatedly expressed her disdain for the LGBTQ community. In recent months, she has baselessly accused drag queens, trans people and LGBTQ-allied teachers of “grooming” young children. She’s compared gender-affirming medical care to mutilation, vilified trans athletes and claimed that LGBTQ characters shouldn’t be in TV shows that kids might watch. Boebert also suggested that there should be an age limit on when people can come out or transition, similar to the age restrictions on alcohol and tobacco products. In August, she even warned drag queens to “stay away from the children in Colorado’s Third District” in response to a flyer advertising Drag Queen Story Hour at a local library.
Furthermore, she has amplified the Twitter account Libs of TikTok, perhaps one of the largest purveyors of anti-LGBTQ disinformation and rhetoric. Run by Chaya Raichik, Libs of TikTok has targeted LGBTQ people, drag events and Pride celebrations across the country.
Raichik’s account has also gone after doctors and hospitals that offer gender-affirming care to trans kids. A Washington Post report showed how the account has been blamed for multiple children’s hospitals across the country receiving threats, including one that was the target of a bomb threat.
To make matters worse, Libs of TikTok recently targeted another drag event in Colorado just hours after news of the Colorado Springs shooting broke, once again using children to stoke unwarranted fear and hostility.
It’s hard not to draw a direct line from the purveyors of this violent rhetoric to the fact that this act of violence happened at an LGBTQ club.
Boebert is not alone in her actions and sentiments, however. She is just one among many conservatives in the public eye who have promoted Libs of TikTok and used their platforms to peddle hatred and rile up extremists. In fact, her comments are part of a much larger moral panic fueled by conservative pundits and politicians, who have revived many old-school homophobic stereotypes and exacerbated the current vitriol against trans and nonbinary people to score cheap political points. This has resulted in a wave of anti-LGBTQ legislation in many states across the country, which follows an increase in bias-motivated harassment and hate crimes.
In addition to Boebert and Libs of TikTok, political leaders like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis; Fox News anchors like Tucker Carlson; as well as conservative activists like Matt Walsh and Christopher Rufo, among others, have repeatedly attacked drag queens and other queer and trans people, spreading lie after lie and conspiracy after conspiracy.
Now that preliminary hate crime charges have been brought against the suspect in the shooting, it’s hard not to draw a direct line from the purveyors of this violent rhetoric to the fact that this act of violence happened at an LGBTQ club.
For too long, their words and actions have inspired others to harass and threaten LGBTQ people at gay bars, Pride events and drag shows, and now their hateful rhetoric has helped incite a deadly attack that has stolen precious lives. What else did they expect was going to happen? You can’t constantly stoke fear and hate and not expect violence to ensue. You can’t baselessly smear and vilify an entire group of people for simply existing and accusing them of being a threat to children and not expect some people to feel compelled to take matters into their own hands.
Being an LGBTQ person in this country is already hard enough. Having your entire existence constantly politicized, as if your very humanity is a question up for debate, is hard enough. But now, even our safe spaces are being attacked and taken away from us — the very spaces we were forced to create because society didn’t want to have to see us in public in the first place. We deserve so much more than this. We deserve to be able to not live in fear and to not have our rights and existence constantly come into question. We deserve to feel safe in our own spaces and not be made to feel like our lives are somehow inappropriate. We deserve to go to gay bars and drag shows or walk down the street without being attacked or harassed, or killed.
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At the end of the day, an attack on some of us is an attack on all of us, and this attack was the inevitable culmination of nonstop fearmongering and baseless conspiracy theories targeting our community. Any Republican leader who has the nerve to offer up their hollow “thoughts and prayers” after helping to mainstream this blatant homophobia and transphobia shows just how shameless and boundless their hypocrisy really is.