LGBTQ communities in the US face a “growing threat of violence” | LGBTQ News

Minneapolis, Minnesota – Amid a series of recent attacks against LGBTQ communities in the United States, advocates say the government must do more to protect vulnerable citizens.

Late last month, a man opened fire at a gay and lesbian nightclub in Colorado, killing five people and wounding at least 17 others. The suspect has been charged with hate crimes, murder and assault.

Right-wing protesters have also increasingly focused on drag performances during a year in which President Joe Biden has warned of rising violence against LGBTQ communities.

Days after the Colorado shooting, the Department of Homeland Security issued a bulletin highlighting the risk of terrorism against LGBTQ citizens and other marginalized groups, noting that “lone criminals and small groups motivated by a variety of ideological beliefs and/or Personal grievances continue to pose a persistent and lethal threat.”

But while this recognition is a step in the right direction, rights groups say it’s not enough.

“We live in a time where there is a growing threat of violence from far-right groups across the spectrum of marginalized communities. It’s terrifying, but it’s not surprising, unfortunately,” Laurel Powell, a spokeswoman for the Human Rights Campaign, a Washington-based LGBTQ+ advocacy group, told Al Jazeera.

“The world we live in today is not one that can be easily divided into online and the ‘real world’… It does not happen in a vacuum, and is being driven by very loud and lively extremist individuals who are stoking this hate online: and, unfortunately, it has consequences in the real world.

Social media companies and other internet platforms need to do more to provide a bully-free space, he said, while the plague of gun violence in the US must also be addressed.

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“The hate epidemic against the LGBTQ+ community cannot be separated from the fight against gun violence,” Powell said. “They are inextricably linked.”

Emboldening of intolerance

Several events across the US featuring drag performers, including a children’s storytime event in Ohio and a performance in Texas, were canceled this month amid threats from right-wingers.

“The scary thing is how it has continued to escalate and become more overtly violent,” Tonya Agnew, a spokeswoman for the New York-based group Family Equality, which advocates for LGBTQ issues, told Al Jazeera.

“After Club Q [the Colorado shooting]It was so scary,” he added, noting that the presence of armed protesters outside local drag events marks an alarming trend. “To have armed protesters standing outside because someone is wearing a lot of makeup and a fabulous outfit and reading to the kids, they find it offensive. So, it’s really a scary time.”

The animosity of the protesters has been reflected in hundreds of legislative proposals filed across the country this year in an effort to restrict the rights of people in LGBTQ communities. This only serves to embolden people who hold bigoted beliefs, Agnew said.

However, the recent midterm elections offer cause for hope, Powell said: “The people who gambled on their anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric, for the most part, didn’t win. That message didn’t resonate with people,” he said.

“We know that the vast majority of Americans are in favor of marriage equality. We know that the vast majority of Americans, when asked the question, ‘Do you believe it is a parent’s right to give their children the medical care they need?’ – of course, they agree with that.”

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Ashton Rose, a nonbinary college student in Minnesota, said the Department of Homeland Security bulletin only matters to the extent that it is followed up by legislative action.

“Are we going to start talking about gun law reform? Are we going to start being more critical of casual hate speech in the media? Are we going to start supporting families?” Rose asked.

This is part of the straight [person] thing of silence It shouldn’t be our job to have to stop people from killing us… The responsibility shouldn’t fall entirely on us,” they said. “And yet it often feels like it does. It’s not enough for allies to say, ‘Oh, I’m here for you and I support you.’

“People need to use the power they have when they can, because we can’t do it all.”