Colorado LGBTQ groups handle safety concerns while grieving

Colorado LGBTQ organizations continuing to work amid mourning last month’s mass shooting at Club Q are taking into account new safety concerns raised by a recent incident. federal terrorism bulletin as they look ahead to events like next summer’s Denver Pride celebrations.

the Department of Homeland Security recently warned that the United States remains in “a heightened threat environment,” specifically mentioning that LGBTQ spaces are a potential target for terrorist attacks, along with public gatherings, religious institutions, schools, and racial and religious minorities.

DHS observed people on online forums “known for posting racially or ethnically motivated violent extremist content” praising the Club Q shooter, the bulletin said. Domestic extremists in the US also praised an October shooting at an LGBTQ bar in Slovakia and encouraged further violence, according to the bulletin.

Those warnings and concern over the Colorado Springs shooting have led to the Center in Colfaxthe largest LGBTQ community center in the Rocky Mountain region, to begin discussing adjustments to security plans for the month of June. denver pride eventwho oversees the center.

“We have two areas of concern: our year-round community center here in Colfax and Lafayette, where we’re always worried about the day-to-day security of that place, but we also have to look at PrideFest, which is a really huge public event and it’s probably a higher risk in many areas from a security perspective,” said Rex Fuller, executive director of the Center on Colfax.

The Center in Colfax already has security measures in place, Fuller said. While the Club Q shooting and the DHS memo are stark reminders of the threats out there, Fuller said LGBTQ spaces have always had to be vigilant and prepared for security issues.

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For Fuller, the shooting at Club Q highlighted the ever-present fear of gun violence.

“A lot of people talk about Club Q as a safe space, and I think it was a safe space, but emotionally safe,” Fuller said. “It was where someone felt like they could be themselves and be open with their friends, but almost anywhere you go these days, you’re at risk of gun violence. It could be Club Q, the grocery storethe cinemaits high school – those are all very high-profile shootings in the Denver metro. The constant litany of gun violence all the time feels harder to handle.”

Partnerships with other community organizations and local police help ease Fuller’s concerns.

The Colfax Center is a member of the Hate Free Colorado coalition, a group of 18 civil rights, advocacy and law enforcement organizations working together to discuss and counter hate crimes.

Although the Q Club attack took place more than 70 miles to the south, Fuller said local police were quick to check with the center after the Nov. 19 shooting and make sure the space was okay.

“We cannot allow this to force us back into the closet,” Fuller said. “As individuals, we all have a right to be who we are despite how difficult it may seem or how potentially scary any of this may be. Of course, we find ways to stay safe whenever we can.”

RP Whitmore-Bard is the program director at Queer Asterisk, a Denver nonprofit that provides counseling services, educational training, and therapeutic programs focused on queer and trans experiences. They have noticed that members of the LGBTQ community are trying to balance seeking connection during this turbulent time with safety concerns about meeting in public.

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“We are in this place of balancing the very real need to talk and think about physical safety with what we know about trauma and how the symptoms of trauma can manifest and be triggered when this happens,” Whitmore-Bard said.

Queer Asterisk focuses heavily on virtual LGBTQ mental health, so in-person events are less of an issue. However, cybersecurity is one of the main concerns, they said.

“We have members of our team and community that have been in a Zoom room and someone walked in and started spewing hate speech, so it’s happening on all fronts,” Whitmore-Bard said.

Because Queer Asterisk is guided by queer and transgender leadership, Whitmore-Bard said the organization focuses on helping staff with their mental health issues in light of the Club Q shooting. The organization provides support groups for its employees and offers mental health support and resources to other LGBTQ-focused organizations that are trying to do their job in the midst of their own pain.

Guy Rivers, a member of the community group Denver Black Queer Collective, said he didn’t know what to make of the DHS terrorism warning.

LGBTQ spaces have long been subject to violence or harassment, Rivers said. The Denver Black Queer Collective should always keep safety in mind when gathering for social events and community development, Rivers said.

“I would like to see a statement from the Department of Homeland Security with the steps they are taking to ensure the safety of targeted and marginalized communities,” Rivers said. “You can’t really organize your way out of being attacked or marginalized… We would definitely like to see our local, state, and federal representatives propose legislation that would better protect all of the targeted communities listed in the DHS warning. Meanwhile, we love each other through a terrorist attack.”

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Whitmore-Bard, Rivers and Fuller said they wanted the LGBTQ community in Colorado to know that they are not alone and that there are still spaces to be together and places to seek help if needed.

“The scary part of our job is that sometimes it can feel like there are some personal risks, but a big part of our job is just getting out there and being visible,” Fuller said.