It’s been a brutal year for mass killings in a broken America. In 2022, victims include young schoolchildren, college students, grocery shoppers and, once again, queer people gathered in what should have been a safe space, behind the “closed doors” many Americans would prefer they always stay behind.
We could point to a dozen reasons why. Inaction on meaningful gun reform. Untreated mental illness. Internet echo chambers. Inadequate law enforcement response in some cases. The list goes on.
At the heart of the Colorado Springs Club Q murders, which have now been characterized as hate crimes, we’d be remiss not to consider political rhetoric.
It was only a few months ago that hundreds of men in Dearborn protested the local high school library system for stocking queer-themed books. “Faggot!” these grown men shouted at a sole counterprotestor, a young trans college student. Meanwhile, local politicians stood at the podium repeating deadly anti-queer Republican rhetoric that dominated the 2022 election cycle.
For months, the party has characterized LGBTQ+ people, especially transgender people, as “groomers,” never citing evidence that queer folks are more likely than cis-het folks to prey on children because there isn’t any.
Republicans vowed to criminalize parents who sought treatment, including mental health care, for their transgender and questioning children in places like Texas and Florida. Several states, at the behest of the party, are considering laws to outlaw transgender treatments for minors, including non-medical interventions.
Republicans have been happy to carry the water for political leaders like those leading the Texas Republican Party, whose official party platform this year included the statement, “Homosexuality is an abnormal lifestyle choice.” Here in Michigan, voters were treated to months worth of baseless, dangerous claims by failed governor candidate Tudor Dixon, who called Gov. Gretchen Whitmer a “birthing parent” and frequently repeated GOP talking points targeting trans women.
Post election, queer-phobic national Republican strategies seem to be evaporating. How could that be, when they were so urgently insisting a few weeks ago that our children are in grave danger (not from the threat of the next school shooter, but from teachers who acknowledge the existence of LGBTQ+ people)? Faced with the reality of the midterm vote — that only deep red states are likely to respond positively to that brand of rhetoric — Republicans across the country are quietly changing course.
Out here in the real world, that rhetoric still reverberates in the spaces where fearful, narrow-minded Americans whip one another into frenzied states of panic, until yet another renegade emerges, hellbent on taking out the “enemy.” When they take aim, any LGBTQ+ community member will do, even if they’re minding their own business.
And so, even through our tears, we look for the answer and, once again, come up short. There is no easy answer.
Many will retreat from public places that have felt safe. Some will push away the reality, finding it too difficult to confront. Others will lean into love and community and at least feel less broken in the arms of their community. None of it is wrong. Please, practice self-care as you process your reaction to this latest national headline. It’s not on you, alone, to fix this.
To truly combat the impact of dangerous political rhetoric, it will take real action on the part of the Democratic leaders who have the burden and power to amplify LGBTQ+ voices. Rhetoric travels fast, and all too often, it fosters violence.
We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: Silence leads to violence. We need more Mallory McMorrows and fewer “both sides” politicians loaded to bear with thoughts and prayers.
Michigan State Sen. McMorrow, you may remember, went viral for her response to anti-LGBTQ+ Republican rhetoric. In a floor speech, she pointed out that she is a straight, white, Christian, married suburban mom who simply wants “every kid to feel seen, heard and supported — not marginalized and targeted because they are not straight, white and Christian.”
We need more statements like the one Gov. Whitmer put out after news of the Club Q shooting broke, which said in part, “Violent attacks on our LGBTQ+ family, friends, and neighbors are on the rise.” Acknowledging that LGBTQ+ people have faced more violence in recent months is a worthwhile use of Whitmer’s enormous platform.
We need more Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez energy, who tweeted to Colorado Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert, “You have played a major role in elevating anti-LGBT+ hate rhetoric and anti-trans lies while spending your time in Congress blocking even the most common sense gun safety laws. You don’t get to ‘thoughts and prayers’ your way out of this. Look inward and change.”
Most of all, we need swift, vocal, unequivocal pushback from Democrats when Republicans push dangerously false rhetoric into the community we all share as Americans, far from the political bubble.
As a voting block, the LGBTQ+ and ally community consistently supports the Democratic party, who we entrust with our safety in so many ways. Please support us with the same enthusiasm.Signed, The Pride Source Editorial Board