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The Tragedy at Club Q, the Tipping Point, & the Bloodbath

Jason Connolly
Photo by Jason Connolly/AFP via Getty Images

A gut punch. Pulse. Groomers. Disgust. It all came to mind in the early morning hours as news of the mass shooting in Colorado Springs became known.

You expect to wake up on a Sunday morning and not have to worry about much; however, in this era of hate, violence, and chilling rhetoric, turning on your phone can be fraught with foreboding apprehension.

The minute the phone comes alive and you see notifications lining up on your screen from CNN, The New York Times, MSNBC, and the Associated Press, you know immediately something bad has happened. Nothing good occurs on a Saturday night into Sunday morning.

Then there's the real uneasiness of typing in your passcode and watching the summary of the notifications come alive. Today, the reveal was death.

How many of us saw the news about the mass shooting at the gay nightclub Club Q in Colorado Springs, Colo., overnight, and immediately felt a gut punch? Perhaps we recalled first hearing about the carnage at Pulse in Orlando, Fla., over six years ago, and how devastated we were then, like now. Or more ominously, maybe we thought about all the hate our community has faced, particularly in this past year.

The Anti-Defamation League in September warned about the dangerous and bigoted rhetoric being hurtled at the LGBTQ+ community and the implications of this perilous language:

Far-right and extremist voices have launched a significant attack against the LGBTQ+ community in 2021-2022, demonizing people via repeated false claims that LGBTQ+ people are "pedophiles" who are "grooming" children in order to abuse them. This false and malicious narrative has been weaponized to label the LGBTQ+ community as "groomers" and has fueled a slew of hostile legislation and policies aimed at erasing the discussion of LGBTQ+ related issues in schools, removing LGBTQ+ books from schools and public libraries and, especially, to ostracize, defame and harass transgender people.

And in May, I wrote about the hateful through-line that tied together critical race theory, "don't say gay," and the great replacement theory, with an unnerving prediction. "Remember, these sentiments are baked in. They are repeated. They are amplified. They spread. They won't be undone. It will just get worse until there's a tipping point, and when that happens ... it will be a bloodbath," I wrote.

We had our bloodbath in Colorado last night.

I wrote a column back in August of 2019 after the mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, about the conflict of having an anniversary of a mass shooting fall on your birthday. My birthday is June 12, which, in a fatal irony, is the same day as the Pulse shooting. I wrote this column before the atrocious hate magniloquence against our community started ramping up precipitously earlier this year -- well, actually since Trump came on the scene and unleashed hateful language that rippled like dominoes.

I wrote that June 12 will most likely be forever known "as the day of the worst mass shooting in U.S. history, in a place where many sought solace, kinship, a safe haven, and acceptance."

I spoke to Brandon Wolf, a survivor of the Pulse shooting, about how he recalls that day. "My friends and I call it the ugly cry moment. It's sort of when the weight of the date hits you, whether it's on June 12 or the days preceding the anniversary. This year, my ugly cry moment happened on Tuesday.

"That's the tricky thing about trauma, you never quite know when the ugly cry moment will hit you. It could be a song, smell, or something you see, and it always hits when I'm alone. On Tuesday, I was on an airplane, and I saw an old photo, and I just had a very emotional moment."

The patrons of Club Q in Colorado Springs sought solace, kinship, a safe haven, and acceptance when they entered the welcoming doors of their local gay club. Shortly before midnight, that comfort was ferociously destroyed. Even though Colorado, for reasons unknown, has a history of mass shootings, with Columbine and Aurora, Club Q patrons had no reason to believe that their night would end in terror targeted at them.

Don't think for a minute that we've seen the last of these bloodbaths, because the vial vitriol will continue, and we need to be mindful that we all have a target on our backs.

This week Democratic candidate Adam Frisch conceded his Colorado U.S. House race to virulent anti-LGBTQ+ Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert. She has said that it should be "illegal" for anyone to come out or declare their sexual identity before the age of 21, that LGBTQ+ people have created a national "identity crisis" for children and families by "spitting in God's face" and perverting his creation, and that the pending national Equality Act would create "supremacy of gays and lesbians and transvestites" above all other Americans.

Insidiously, she had the gall to tweet this morning, "The news out of Colorado Springs is absolutely awful. This morning the victims & their families are in my prayers. This lawless violence needs to end and end quickly."

Every one of us was infuriated when we saw this. I'm sure the demonic Boebert laughed diabolically as she typed this message that went way beyond hypocritical. It was a stab in the eye to all the victims and to us.

Anger is one way to counter the spewing of hatred. Responding with love is another. I wrote last year how the other devil in disguise, Marjorie Taylor Greene, hung a horrendous homemade placard outside her congressional office that ignorantly said, "There are TWO genders MALE & FEMALE. 'Trust the science!'" She also sent out a tweet invoking the transgender daughter of Illinois Democratic Rep. Marie Newman, whose office was directly across the hall from Greene's.

I spoke to Rep. Newman about her response, which was to hang a transgender flag outside her office. "I'm going to leave it up along with the state flag and the country flag. [Greene] can't touch those flags," Newman told me. "She can keep her sign up, and she can do whatever she wants with that. I have no interest in having a tit-for-tat with her. My only hope is that every time she leaves her office, she looks across the hall and sees that flag as a symbol of love and equality."

Do we really need to know the motive of the killer? We all know that hate was in the heart of a man who killed people that only had love and the hope of equality and tolerance in theirs. The intolerant murderer struck down people because of who they loved, who their friends were, who their lovers were, their exes were, their crushes were, and who they were. That's all we need to know about a man who sought to destroy love.

Morosely coincidental is the fact that today is Transgender Day of Remembrance, when we honor all those from the trans community we've lost. So many have perished over the last few years as hate spiked, along with countless queers whose lives ended prematurely because their only desire was to counter all the hate with love.

This season of Ryan Murphy's American Horror Story was about another killer that trampled through our community 40 years ago: AIDS. The show imagined that those who lost their lives to the disease returned as beautiful deer who roamed the picturesque Fire Island.

I'm imagining that the souls we lost last night, like all the other amorous souls from our community that we've lost to violence in recent years, are brilliantly white doves canvassing the skies today, symbolically spreading their wings and scattering birdsongs of peace, freedom, and love.

John Casey is editor at large at The Advocate.

Views expressed in The Advocate's opinion articles are those of the writers and do not necessarily represent the views of The Advocate or our parent company, Equal Pride.

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John Casey

John Casey is a senior editor of The Advocate, writing columns about political, societal, and topical issues with leading newsmakers of the day. John spent 30 years working as a PR professional on Capitol Hill, Hollywood, the United Nations and with four large U.S. retailers.
John Casey is a senior editor of The Advocate, writing columns about political, societal, and topical issues with leading newsmakers of the day. John spent 30 years working as a PR professional on Capitol Hill, Hollywood, the United Nations and with four large U.S. retailers.