Some in Durango’s Pride community say hateful rhetoric from politicians helps fuel violence
A week before the Club Q mass shooting in Colorado Springs, Brian Joy from Durango was at the LGBTQ+ friendly nightclub and had a fun night. While there to see a show he met one of the bartenders who was just as friendly as the rest of the staff.
The bartender’s name was Derrick Rump. He was murdered by the 22-year-old gunman, who opened fire at the club, killing five people and injuring at least 18 others.
Joy, a leader of the Four Corners Alliance for Diversity, still thinks of that friendly bartender.
“It was a strange way of realizing a small world,” Joy said. “I was literally just at this club. I just saw these people. We had just met some of the cast and the bartender who was killed.”
Joy said the Colorado Springs club is a place where all walks of life are welcome.
“There was this diversity,” Joy said. “It was all ages, all ethnic groups. There was the trans community and lesbians and gays. You could tell that a lot of people lived here. You could tell this was a place where people knew each other. I was just blown away by how warm everyone was and how comfortable they were with each other.”
While Joy is still shaken by what happened just a week after visiting the nightclub, she isn’t surprised that members of the LGBTQ+ community have been the victims of a senseless hate crime in a place they thought was safe.
“This isn’t the first incident we’ve had,” Joy said, referring to the 2016 mass shooting at a Florida gay nightclub that left 49 people dead. “I feel like we’re going backwards on so many things right now.”
Planned Parenthood Community organizer Ryan Garcia, also from Durango, agrees with Joy’s lack of surprise at what happened at Club Q.
“It’s tricky,” Garcia said. “My heart goes out to everyone who was affected, but unfortunately as an odd brown person I’m kind of used to people wanting to murder us. It’s the world we live in.”
Garcia said many like him have gone numb to violent incidents like the Club Q shooting because targeted hate crimes against LGBTQ+ members are not uncommon in the United States.
“Unfortunately, for a lot of us queer people, that’s sort of the reality,” Garcia said. “Every time I walk into a room, I try to assess the situation and have my back to the wall to see where the exits are so I can see what’s happening. I shouldn’t have to do this, but this is the country we live in right now. It seems like there is a very specific sector in the United States of America that is unstable and causing harm to others. When you are in a position of power, you have to realize what that power can do.”
In the immediate aftermath of Saturday’s shooting, politicians and public figures pointed accusingly at each other, and those who took the brunt of the blame were those who had spoken out against LGBTQ+ on numerous occasions, either in speeches or on social media.
“We’ve got governors across the country running for president and introducing a bill that says, ‘Don’t say gay,'” Joy said, “and you have to worry about the message that’s going to send to kids.”
Joy is also reaching out to local representatives, particularly one he doesn’t name but who has been vocal against the LGBTQ+ and trans communities.
“We have this rep who has said so many negative things, so many things against trans people and such, and yet has the gall to post ‘thoughts and prayers,'” Joy said. “It’s a bit late. It is time for politics and change. We should hear that from you. The thoughts and prayers thing – we’re tired of hearing it. It has become meaningless.”
Aria PettyOne, a local event organizer and drag performer, shares Joy’s feelings.
“I 1000 percent blame politicians and celebrities who peddle harmful rhetoric that makes these homegrown terrorists believe they are doing the right thing and then try to offer ‘thoughts and prayers,'” PettyOne said in an Instagram interview. “People like Lauren Boebert (and others) made these monsters believe that what they were doing was right. Labeling drag performers “groomers” and “predators” has given these homegrown terrorists the false sense that they are some kind of hero. you are not a hero You are a monster. The fact that these people have platforms and millions of followers is disgusting to say the least.”
Colorado’s 3rd congressional district representative, Lauren Boebert, has made derogatory comments about LGBTQ+ members on Twitter on multiple occasions, specifically targeting members of the trans community, though she staunchly denies that her comments were in any way responsible were what happened at the club Q.
“I understand freedom of expression,” Garcia said, “and I’m pretty sure their intention wasn’t to cause these kinds of situations, but they need to be aware of the impact their words have because people are constantly and regularly.” are murdered every single day in the United States.”
Whether or not the Club Q massacre changes what certain politicians and public figures say about the gay, lesbian and trans community online or in person, members of Southwest Colorado’s LQBTQ+ community have no plans to change themselves to hide from those trying to harm them.
“I don’t let hate and fear stop me from working with the community,” Garcia said. “I personally feel safe in Durango. I’m just trying to be the change I want to see in the world. If you don’t like the fact that I exist, that’s your problem, not mine.”
PettyOne shares Garcia’s opinion.
“It’s not going to stop me from performing and organizing shows,” she said. “It can happen anywhere. It doesn’t have to be a queer safe space. It literally happened today (Wednesday) in Virginia at a Walmart. Will this stop people from shopping at Walmart? no So why should it keep us from living our lives truthfully? If I stop myself from going out and being who I am, these monsters will win and I will not let fear win.”