Opinion: The fear for our LGBTQ family that never goes away

Editor’s note: allison hope is a writer whose work has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, Slate, and elsewhere. The opinions expressed here are my own. Read more opinions on CNN.


There is a hole that sits in my guts. I’m always sorry. It’s a ball of anxiety that’s commensurate with the socio-political environment and the perceived safety of my LGBTQ family at any given time.

Sometimes the well grows so big that I can’t think of anything else.

This weekend was one of those moments. The cause was the mass murder and maiming of LGBTQ people at Club Q in Colorado Springs just before midnight on Saturday. A 22-year-old white man took the lives of five LGBTQ family members, physically injured 25 others, and left emotional scars on many others.

That the mass shooting happened just before Transgender Remembrance Day, which is on November 20, makes it even more egregious. The day is a time for peace and reflection, to honor those whose lives were taken too soon, and to help educate the general population about the value of trans people in order to avoid the senseless violence that occurred this weekend. of week.

At least two of the five people killed Saturday were trans: Daniel Aston, a 28-year-old bartender at Club Q, and Kelly Loving, 40. Both young, both missing.

Unfortunately, acts of violence like the one that took place in Colorado this weekend are not an anomaly, but that doesn’t make them any less shocking. The LGBTQ community remains in mourning five years after the mass shooting at the LGBTQ Pulse nightclub in Orlando that left 49 dead.

Additionally, hate crimes are at their highest in 13 years, with one in five hate crimes targeting LGBTQ people, according to FBI data. One need look no further than the 2022 legislative season to see how LGBTQ people, and trans people in particular, were targeted by a more professional class of thugs, elected officials.

With the news of every new anti-LGBTQ bill or hate crime, every uninformed rhetoric that seeks to strip us of our rights, our history, and our humanity, the pit rises up my throat and at times it feels like I could suffocate. me. Sometimes, in my most vulnerable moments, the well rises high enough to spill out of me in tears.

I cry for LGBTQ youth who will never make it to adulthood, for those who can’t see past their hate to a future where they can come out and be true and fabulous. I weep for a country that sits idly by and watches violence draw ever closer to home, allowing homegrown terrorists to destroy our social fabric, our families, our children.

The question I ask myself over and over again, every time a cruel, senseless and violent act takes more family members, is why? Why does someone hate LGBTQ people so much that they would risk everything to harm other human beings? What are they afraid of? What are they taught at home? Hate is a learned behavior. Whether perpetuated within the confines of the law or outside of it, hate has a different veneer, but it all leads to marginalization, stigma, and sometimes the death of fellow human beings.

In the LGBTQ community, we refer to each other as family. The term was born partly out of necessity because many of our assigned and birth families rejected us.

However, it is more than that. There is great comfort in being surrounded by people who love and accept you without conditions, who understand you without you having to explain yourself. There is excitement in passing for “family” as you walk down the street, especially if you live or travel in a place where being LGBTQ is not safe. Family is everything, and the LGBTQ family can be the difference between social isolation and well-being, between homelessness and care, between despair and hope.

Bars and clubs have long been family gathering places, the only refuge for LGBTQ people in a world that can otherwise be hostile. I remember taking the R train on the New York subway from the first stop in Queens to the last stop in Brooklyn to a little lesbian joint. I was young and coming into my own identity.

On the sidewalk outside the bar, I was the “other,” a weird person who still kept a lot of who I was hidden from most people in my life. I was afraid for my safety and well-being, and for what others might plant in me if I revealed my true self to them. Yet when I crossed the threshold of that bar, I was immediately transformed into a confident and happy queer adult. This dreary little destination was much more than a bar. It was a portal to a better world, a magical place where you weren’t the only one, where you didn’t have to watch your back and where you automatically had community, family.

The suspected shooter in Colorado Springs ripped that safety net out of that city’s LGBTQ community this Saturday, something that never would have happened if the proper gun control laws had been invoked. Something that might not have happened if he had been raised in a household that validated that it’s not a big deal how someone identifies or who they love.

Seeing our fellow members of the LGBTQ community as family means we look out for each other when no one else will. Family means that we feel connected to other LGBTQ people even if we don’t know them. It means that we grieve for those five people whose flames went out this weekend as if they were our brothers and sisters, because they were.

We no longer have room for thoughts and prayers. We need a policy change. Now. We must leave no room for hatred, violence or discrimination. Only then will the well recede and something much more vibrant can grow in its place, hope.

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