OPINION | Fear for our LGBTQ family never goes away

Alexandra Ferguson

Editor’s Note: Allison Hope is a writer whose work has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, Slate, and other outlets. The opinions presented in this article belong exclusively to the author of it.

(CNN) There’s a hole I feel in my gut. I’m always sorry. It’s a ball of anxiety proportional to the sociopolitical environment and my LGBTQ family’s perception of safety at any given time.

Sometimes the hole is so big that I can’t think of anything else.

This weekend was one of those moments. The cause was the mass murder and injury of LGBTQ people at the Q Club in Colorado Springs just before midnight on Saturday. A 22-year-old white man killed five LGBTQ family members, physically injuring 25 others and emotionally scarring many others.

The fact that the mass shooting occurred just before Transgender Remembrance Day, which is November 20, makes it even more egregious. This day is a time for peace and reflection, to honor those whose lives were taken too soon, and to help educate the general population about the value of trans people in order to avoid the senseless violence that occurred this weekend. of week.

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At least two of the five people whose lives were taken Saturday were trans: Daniel Aston, a 28-year-old bartender at Club Q, and Kelly Loving, 40. Both young, both deceased.

Acts of violence like the one that took place in Colorado this weekend are sadly not an anomaly, but that doesn’t make them any less shocking. The LGBTQ community is still in mourning five years after the mass shooting at Orlando’s LGBTQ Pulse club that left 49 people dead.

Additionally, hate crimes are at a 13-year high, with one in five hate crimes targeting LGBTQ people, according to FBI data. One need look no further than the 2022 legislative season to see how LGBTQ people, and trans people in particular, were targeted by a more professional class of “bullies”: elected officials.

With the news of every new anti-LGBTQ bill or hate crime, every piece of misinformed rhetoric that seeks to strip us of our rights, our history and our humanity, the hole rises in my throat and sometimes I feel like I could suffocate. Sometimes, at my most vulnerable moments, the hole rises high enough to overflow and pour out of me in tears.

I cry for LGBTQ youth who will never make it to adulthood, for those who cannot see past their hate to a future where they can step into the light and into their true, fabulous selves. I cry for a country that continues to do nothing and sees violence move ever closer to their homes, allowing domestic terrorists to destroy our social fabric, our families, our children.

Mourners pay their respects to victims of the mass shooting at Club Q, an LGBTQ nightclub, in Colorado Springs, Colorado on November 20, 2022. Credit: Jason Connolly/AFP/Getty Images

The question that I ask myself over and over again, every time a cruel, senseless and violent act takes more members of a family, is why? Why does someone have such hatred for LGBTQ people that they would be willing to risk everything to harm other human beings? What are they afraid of? What do they teach you at home? Hate is a learned behavior. Whether perpetuated within the confines of the law or outside of it, hate wears a different veneer, but it all leads to marginalization, stigma, and sometimes the death of fellow human beings.

In the LGBTQ community, we refer to each other as family. The term was born partly out of necessity because we were rejected by many of our own assigned and biological families.

But it is more than that. There is great comfort in being surrounded by people who love and accept you without conditions, who understand you without you having to explain yourself. There is a certain thrill in meeting “family” when you are walking down the street, especially if you live or travel to a place where being LGBTQ is not safe. Family is everything, and the LGBTQ family can be the difference between social isolation and well-being, between homelessness and care, between despair and hope.

Bars and clubs have long been family gathering places, the only refuge for LGBTQ people in a world that can otherwise be hostile. I remember taking the R train of the New York subway from the first stop in Queens to the last stop in Brooklyn, to go to a small lesbian bar. I was young and had just discovered my own identity.

Club Q was more than a nightclub. It was the safe place for the Colorado Springs LGBTQ community

On the sidewalk outside the bar, I was the “other”, a queer person who continued to hide who I was from most people in my life. I feared for my safety and well-being, and for what others might plant in me if I revealed my true self to them. However, when I crossed the threshold of that bar, I was immediately transformed into a confident and happy queer adult. This little, unimpressive place was much more than a bar. It was a portal to a better world, a magical place where you weren’t the only one, where you didn’t have to watch your back, and where you had an automatic community, a family.

The alleged Colorado Springs shooter ripped that safety net from the city’s LGBTQ community this Saturday, something that would never have happened if proper gun control laws had been enforced. Something that wouldn’t have happened if he’d been raised in a home that validated that it’s not a big deal how someone identifies or who they love.

Seeing our fellow LGBTQ community as family means we look out for each other when no one else does. Family means that we feel connected to other LGBTQ people even if we don’t know them.

It means that we grieve for those five people whose flames went out this weekend as if they were our brothers and sisters, because they were.

We have no more space for thoughts and prayers. We need a policy change. Now. We must not leave room for hate, violence or discrimination. Only then will that hole recede and something much more vibrant be allowed to grow in its place: hope.

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