A makeshift memorial near the Club Q nightclub continues to grow on November 21, 2022 in Colorado Springs, Colorado. On Saturday evening, a 22-year-old gunman entered the LGBTQ nightclub opened fire, killing at least five people and injuring 25 others before being stopped by club patrons. | Scott Olson/Getty Images
Today I woke up numb. I should have been saddened. I should have been angry, but as I saw “Five killed and 18 injured” flash across the screen at the gym early Sunday morning, I proceeded to my next exercise, desensitized as I thought to myself, “Welp, another mass shooting in America.”
For a moment, I experienced a sense of helplessness as the harsh reality that nothing will be done about gun violence crossed my mind, and then I continued my workout.
We wake up to the news of a mass shooting making national headlines too often, and we have been programmed to think and feel that a gun will always have more rights than a human being. It took another 20 minutes till I found out that the shooting was at an LGBTQ club. At that moment, as a Black, gender-diverse member of the LGBTQ community, “Five dead and 18 injured” meant so much more.
Daily, members of the LGBTQ community yearn to simply exist as their authentic selves. In a world where we are constantly reminded that we are the minority, we are consistently in search of a safe space where we can fully survive and thrive. That uneasy realization that another safe space has been decimated and destroyed just hours before the start of Transgender Day of Remembrance amplified the hurt, the anger, and the outrage.
I was immediately transported back to the June 2016 headline “49 killed, 53 wounded” after the Pulse nightclub mass shooting during Pride month. That day six years ago, I was working at a Pride festival in New Jersey, where I was fearful that my life could be next.
We are living through an epidemic of hate and violence, and the safe spaces that we have built are being destroyed.
In the six years since the Pulse nightclub attack, this country has been fueled by hatred, racism, homophobia, and xenophobia, inflamed by the Trump regime and the candidates who endorse the notion that queer people are groomers and transgender people are a threat to society, especially our children.
Across the nation, 36 states have introduced and passed anti-LBGTQ bills that are harmful and life-threatening for members of the LGBTQ community. In Colorado, Lauren Boebert, the representative for Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District, continuously stood by the Trump administration in spewing hateful rhetoric and spreading blatant lies about LGBTQ individuals.
On Sunday morning, Boebert tweeted, “The news out of Colorado Springs is absolutely awful. This morning the victims & their families are in my prayers.” This fake empathy, unfortunately, works for her voting base. And she’s not alone. Here in New Jersey, there are members of the New Jersey Legislature who “celebrate the diversity of Pride month” and then vote against bills to protect young trans lives.
Last week, Gov. Phil Murphy signed executive order No. 311, which will protect transgender individuals from having a name change listed in public records —making New Jersey one of the first states in the nation to do so. Despite this national lead, earlier this year, a Pride flag was burned down not once, but twice outside of Sparta United Methodist Church in Sussex County. LGBTQ inclusive lessons and resources are being stalled and halted altogether by boards of education throughout the state — often leading to BOE meetings turning into battlegrounds for the safety of LGBTQ youth.
After speaking with leaders of the trans community at the end of Trans Awareness Week — a week that ended with carnage and devastation — we are all calling for the same things. We are tired of being reminded that we live in a country that is constantly fighting against our right to exist fully and authentically. We are tired of waking up after tragedy and only hearing thoughts and prayers. We want radical policy reform and legislative action to address systemic barriers that impact BIPOC LGBTQ+ folks’ daily experience. We want allies who are going to put themselves in uncomfortable positions to advance our cause.
Marsha P. Johnson said, “No pride for some of us until there is liberation for all of us,” and with that, Garden State Equality and I refuse to move backward. We will continue to push the needle forward toward lived equality for all! Will you join us on behalf of all those from our community who aren’t here to fight?
This column first ran in the Advance‘s sister outlet, the New Jersey Monitor.
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