As it has been forced to far too often, the LGBTQ+ community is grieving the losses of yet another hate-fueled mass shooting. The latest victims — five killed and another 19 injured — were patrons at Club Q, an LGBTQ+ nightclub in Colorado Springs, Colorado. This slaughter is not an isolated incident: rather, it is the culmination of a broad rollback of LGBTQ+ rights across queer social and political life over the past few years. The Editorial Board condemns the heightened violence and moral panic against queer and transgender communities in the United States. We further call on institutions such as Yale to desist from platforming and legitimizing homophobia and transphobia and to provide greater institutional support to local and regional queer communities.
This shooting is one of the many attacks on queer nightlife spaces that have occurred across the United States. Queer nightlife holds incredible historical significance to the LGBTQ+ community, as they were some of the only spaces queer people could be themselves, find friends and love and build community based on their shared identity. Queer nightlife still acts as an important community space where people find employment and explore their identities. No one should have to put their lives in danger to enter a safe, validating space like Club Q, which is and will continue to be such for the members of the Colorado Springs community. In this manner, the Club Q shooting is a symptom of a larger trend of attacks on all aspects of queer life, from representation in textbooks to community centers. Both far-right politicians like Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebert — whose district begins less than an hour away from Colorado Springs — and more “mainstream” politicians, such as Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, have propagated hateful rhetoric that paints queerness as a threat to American social life.
The American public is becoming desensitized to news of violence and hate. In this past week alone, a Chesapeake, Virginia, Walmart shooting shortly followed the Colorado Club Q shooting. In particular, the Club Q shooting is a harrowing reminder of the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando in 2016, which killed 49 people and wounded 53 more. We cannot allow ourselves to become desensitized to violence. We need to consciously recognize these shootings as hate crimes — the aggressors are motivated by hate and bigotry against members of the LGBTQ+ community.
In order to truly grapple with this nationwide hatred towards the queer community, we must understand the process by which bigotry and anti-LGBTQ rhetoric leads to violent hate crimes. The Colorado Springs shooter has a history of both espousing and being immersed in anti-LGBTQ rhetoric. In an interview with the gunman’s father, the New York Post quoted him saying that he was worried about the fact that his son had been at Club Q, not because a deadly shooting had just transpired at that location, but because he was scared his son might be gay. It is no wonder that the current rates of anti-LGBTQ violence are increasing as discussions concerning the pathologization of transness and LGBTQ grooming conspiracy theories reach a breaking point. The logic is simple: the more negative light is shone upon the LGBTQ community, the more likely queer folk are to suffer from violent transgressions. The legitimacy of queer identities should not be a topic of debate. Debates over queer personhood endanger queer life.
Yale does not play a passive role in the attacks on queer lives and livelihoods currently occuring in the country. Yale, as a university with incredible wealth and influence, has the power to direct not only local, but national conversations on LGBTQ+ rights. As a university, Yale has not only failed to formally condemn these attacks, but has also, in the past, provided platforms to many of the individuals who peddle the abhorrent lies that lead to violence against queer individuals. In March of 2022, the Yale Federalist Society invited Kristen Waggoner, an attorney for Alliance Defending Freedom, to speak at Yale Law School. The Alliance Defending Freedom is classified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as an anti-LGBT hate group, and has advocated for conversion therapy, the criminalization of homosexuality, the mandatory sterilization of transgender people and false links of homosexuality to pedophilia. When Yale Law students protested Waggoner’s presence, Yale Law Dean Heather Gerken called the behavior of protesters trying to disrupt the event “unacceptable” and reiterated her commitment to free speech. Yale must recognize that while free speech is important to the intellectual health of the University, as an institution with disproportionate national and international influence, it has an ethical responsibility to consider the implications of whom it affords prestigious and powerful platforms. What message is Yale sending to its students, especially its queer students, when it amplifies and creates space for individuals who foster hate, division and violence?
If Yale is to not only support all its students, regardless of their sexuality or gender identity, but also adhere to its commitment of serving the public good, then it must take into serious consideration the direct and indirect impacts of hateful voices it fosters and amplifies. But Yale shouldn’t stop there. Yale has the ability and resources to take a strong and clear stance in support of its vulnerable queer students at this time. This can and should begin with acknowledging and condemning the violence against queer people happening across the nation. Further, it should extend to providing proactive support for queer students on campus, including further financial and administrative investments into the Office of LGBTQ Resources. Though significant, these are just first steps in assuring that Yale creates a safer environment for its queer students: further measures should include investing resources into New Haven queer community centers and expanding Yale Health Basic Coverage to include reproductive and gender-affirming care.