JP Leskovich, a freshman at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, discusses the need to counter the hate directed at the LGBTQ community following the shooting at Club Q…
Last Sunday was Transgender Day of Remembrance, the day the LGBTQ community and their allies mourn trans people lost to violence and vow to erase transphobic hate. In the run up to Sunday, people were talking about how Transgender Remembrance Day was particularly important this year, given the Push for anti trans legislation Tragically, another stark reminder of its importance would soon arrive in many states.
The night before, in Colorado Springs, Colorado, people from all walks of life gathered at Club Q, an LGBTQ club that served as a refuge in a conservative stronghold for a long time. They were there to celebrate life, enjoy each other’s presence, and have fun; there was a drag show planned for the night. Instead of enjoying the night, they suffered tragedy when someone entered Club Q with an assault weapon and opened fire, killing 5 people and injuring 18 more. More lives could have been lost, were it not for the bravery of a veteran and a trans woman who stood up to the shooter, seized his gun, and subdued them. On the eve of Transgender Day of Remembrance, the LGBTQ community experienced our worst attack since the Pulse shooting six years ago.
This was not a random tragedy, but rather the predictable result of an ongoing hate campaign against LGBTQ people in general and trans people in particular.
The technical term is stochastic terrorism. That is definite as “the public demonization of a person or group that results in incitement to a violent act, which is statistically probable but the details of which cannot be predicted”. Law enforcement and extremism experts have used the term to describe white supremacist-inspired “lone wolf” shootings, such as the 2018 synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; the 2019 mosque shooting in Christchurch, New Zealand; the 2019 Walmart shooting in El Paso, Texas; the 2021 spa shooting in Atlanta, Georgia; and more. Each of these shootings was committed by individuals acting alone but who were radicalized and incited by targeted hate messages.
LGBTQ people are currently the target of such a hate campaign, and the violence at Club Q is the horrific result of this deliberate dehumanization. In addition to the hundreds of anti-LGBTQ and anti-trans bills introduced in the past two years, numerous politicians, social media accounts, and influencers have promoted, echoed, and broadened the audience for hateful and dehumanizing rhetoric. a 2022 report of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) found that anti-LGBTQ “groomer” narratives and other hateful content have increased online, increasing dramatically after Florida passed its “don’t say gay” invoice.
“We are in the midst of a growing wave of hate and demonization directed at LGBTQ people, often distributed digitally by opportunistic politicians and so-called ‘influencers’ for personal gain,” Imran Ahmed, executive director of the Center for Countering Digital Hate, said in a statement. a Press release on the HRC report. “Online hate and lies mirror and reinforce offline violence and hate. The normalization of anti-LGBTQ narratives in digital spaces puts LGBTQ+ people at risk.”
While extreme anti-LGBTQ rhetoric is often propagated by right-wing influencers, FAIR, the national media watchdog, noted in a statement after the shooting. Article, “It is important to remember the role of the media in normalizing hateful and violent right-wing rhetoric.” FAIR goes on to detail how outlets such as the New York Times, The Guardian, The Washington Post and CNN have published articles that “ask questions” about safe medical transition and conventional “prepared” rhetoric. Together, legislative attacks on LGBTQ communities, extreme anti-LGBTQ rhetoric, and a degree of mainstream media normalization combine to create a dangerous environment for LGBTQ people. It’s the kind of environment that results in stochastic terrorism like the shooting at Club Q.
Unfortunately, the shooting at Club Q was not a breaking point for this hatred. Right-wing social media accounts and influencers have shown no signs of remorse. In fact, they have duplicate on anti-LGBTQ rhetoric. A stark example of this is LibsOfTikTok, a right-wing hate and disinformation account, which targets a drag event in Colorado the day after the shooting. Matt Walsh, a prominent right-wing influencer, even suggested that drag queens and trans people were responsible for the shooting because they committed the crime of existing.
Even the mainstream media, which has rightfully condemned the attack, initially reported that the trans woman who confronted the shooter was a drag queen. Although it was due to the confusion of the initial reports and the publications that issued subsequent corrections, this type of monitoring and deletion can affect long-lasting narratives. Many people still believe that she was a drag queen.
If this is not the end, how do we move forward and prevent the next tragedy? The most important thing to do is call out right-wing moral panics about LGBTQ people wherever they are. Reject narratives that we are “preparers,” inherently sexual, or dangerous. Stand unequivocally for transgender people, advocating for their ability to access healthcare and their right to live a happy and peaceful life. Reject anti-LGBTQ and anti-trans laws that seek to criminalize LGBTQ youth and prevent people from speaking out about our communities. Express your support, making it clear and loud that hate will not be tolerated. A March report from HRC showed that support for LGBTQ rights continues to rise despite hateful rhetoric. Anti-LGBTQ hate is not popular, and that needs to be clearly stated.
In short, remember that we protect ourselves. It wasn’t the police who arrested the Club Q shooter; they were two normal people who defended the community from him. We can resist the rising tides of hate and white supremacy if we build strong communities, protect each other, and stand in solidarity. Hate will not prevail if together we reject it.
JP Leskovich (he/he) is a first-year law student at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law.
Suggested citation: JP Leskovich, The Club Q Shooting Was an Act of Terror that Must Be Resisted, JURIST – Student Commentary, December 1, 2022, https://www.jurist.org/commentary/2022/12/jp-leskovich-club- shooting -act-of-terror/.
This article was prepared for publication by Hayley Behal, co-editorial editor of JURIST Commentary. Please direct any questions or comments to her at [email protected]
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