“It was only a matter of time.”
That was my first thought Sunday morning, as the nation woke up to the horrific news of yet another mass shooting – this one at an LGBTQ bar in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Five people were killed and a further 25 injured. It was the night before Q, the bar in question, was to commemorate Transgender Day of Remembrance.
Police are still investigating the shooter’s motive, including whether it was a hate crime. As The Independent previously reported, he is the grandson of a Republican state legislator who praised the January 6 insurrection. A man with the same name and age as the shooter are reported to have lived with a woman with ties to another insurrection-supporting legislator (this one in California), and Facebook posts on her profile “describe her buying a military camouflage suit for her son’s 15th birthday.” She also sought a PTSD therapist for her son and, following the suspect threatening his mother with a bomb in 2021, this same woman asked if anyone knew “a fantastic defence attorney” to help her family.
Elected officials were quick to condemn the attack, including Colorado Congresswoman Lauren Boebert. “The news out of Colorado Springs is absolutely awful,” she (I think disingenuously) tweeted Sunday morning. “This morning the victims & their families are in my prayers. This lawless violence needs to end quickly.”
As far as I am concerned, Boebert – who has a history of making homophobic and transphobic comments – is at least morally responsible for this “lawless violence”, even if she has no legal responsibility. This is the woman who sneered at Pete Buttigieg taking paternity leave to “figure out how to chest feed,” demeaning gay parenting. She has routinely mocked Assistant Secretary for Health Rachel Levine for being transgender, including labeling her a “groomer.” She has warned drag queens to stay away from children, implying they are a threat to kids.
She isn’t the only one, either. The MAGA right has increasingly attacked the LGBTQ community over the past two years, leading to a 400% increase in usage of the “groomer” slur on social media. This slur, of course, implied that LGBTQ people are targeting children for nefarious, immoral, and criminal activity – relying on the homophobic and transphobic trope that we are predators recruiting children.
The far-right did not limit its attacks on our community to slurs on social media, though. Data compiled by the ACLU found that by July, 2022 was already a record-breaking year for anti-LGBTQ legislation at the state level. That month, for example, Florida’s infamous “Don’t Say Gay” law took effect – chilling speech in the classroom and further stigmatizing LGBTQ people as dangers to children by banning our mention in Florida schools.
That was no accident. Stigmatizing and attacking the LGBTQ community has been something the far-right has made a priority. Armed, far-right thugs like the Proud Boys have routinely been showing up outside of drag shows across the country. Elected officials like Lauren Boebert and her evil ilk have denigrated us and slurred us. Vigilantes have attacked our spaces.
Given this increasingly hostile atmosphere, it is unsurprising that 70 percent of LGBTQ Americans have reported experiencing discrimination in the past year, an 11 percent increase from 2020. Anti-gay hate crimes have increased more than 50%. There have been more than 100 violent attacks or threats of violence on drag shows in the past year, GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said on MSNBC’s Morning Joe this morning. “We don’t feel safe as a community. And we don’t have any reason to feel safe as a community. We’re under attack, and the rhetoric is driving it.”
Boebert and her vicious, cruel, and hateful confederates should have the decency at least to spare us their platitudes. This environment, dangerous as it is for LGBTQ Americans, is one they created. This is them reaping what they have sown.
If this news is “awful,” as Boebert tweeted, I believe it is only because she is just as awful. So is every other Republican elected official who has gone along with the far-right lies about the LGBTQ community, who has sponsored or voted for or endorsed legislation targeting our community, who has used us as a wedge issue to turn out their bigoted base.
What happened in Colorado Springs was infuriatingly predictable precisely because of the environment the right has created. When you lie to Americans and tell them that an entire demographic of their fellow citizens is a threat to their children and to their freedom, demonizing them as predators and perverts, you have to expect there will be deadly consequences. We’ve been warning about this for two years now, telling you how afraid we felt, how wrong you were, how dangerous this was.
Republicans. Didn’t. Listen.
And now five innocent people are dead.
The Republican Party should be ashamed.
AMERICA should be ashamed.
In August, when I went to Florida to cover the Young Americans for Liberty conference, I made a pilgrimage to Pulse Nightclub, another LGBTQ venue where 49 innocent people were killed by a gunman in 2016. It was one of the most moving experiences of my life. These were people doing what I had done countless times – dancing in a gay bar, enjoying fellowship and community with others like them in a sanctuary from the hate of this world. They paid for that privilege with their lives. They died in the one place they should have been able to live free. It doesn’t bear thinking.
Colorado Springs won’t be the last violent attack on the LGBTQ community. More will follow. I hope, however, that this shooting gives the right – especially Republican elected officials – cause to reconsider their hateful rhetoric and bigoted positions. It isn’t working as an electoral strategy, as their thumping in the midterms show. For me, it is emboldening and inspiring the most dangerous people in their coalition to commit acts of unspeakable terror against a marginalized group.
To end on a more hopeful note, I would remind Republicans that support for same-sex marriage is at a record high, and that in my experience, even their own base isn’t as hateful as they are. I was very up front about my sexuality at that Young Americans for Liberty conference – a conference of college-aged libertarians and conservatives. They were all respectful, even kind and complimentary.
And just last week, I was wearing a new dress at a Walmart here in East Tennessee. A woman and I got in each other’s way, as is apt to happen in those narrow aisles. “Sorry sir,” she said, before noticing my dress. “I mean ma’am.”
“No,” I explained with a smile, “you were right. I just happen to be a man in a dress.”
“Oh!” she exclaimed, a little shocked. Without missing a beat, though, she added “well, you’re still pretty.”
Most Americans are good and decent and kind, and that includes GOP voters. Republican politicians like Lauren Boebert would do well to remember that. Whether this attack was a hate crime or not, they have created an environment where such an attack is more likely and lesser attacks are already happening. I pray this is a moment of deep reflection for the Lauren Boeberts of the world – and that they change their hateful ways before even more innocent blood is spilled.