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November 21, 2022 | 1 comment

The Club Q Shooting and The Ripple Effect of Anti-LGBTQ+ Hate

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On November 19, 2022, a gunman opened fire in Club Q, an LGBTQ+ nightclub in Colorado Springs, CO. The suspect killed five people and injured at least another twenty-five. The suspect was taken into custody. Club Q, in a Facebook posting, wrote, “Club Q is devastated by the senseless attack on our community.” Tragically, this shooting was reminiscent of another horrific mass shooting in an LGBTQ+ club. In 2016, Pulse in Orlando, FL was the site of a mass shooting that killed forty-nine and wounded fifty-three people.  

Whether we ultimately learn of an explicit motive for this particular act of terrible violence or not, we know that the current environment of anti-LGBTQ+ bias, discrimination and hate create the conditions for violence to thrive. ADL’s Pyramid of Hate helps explain how biased language, attitudes and acts of bias can escalate to discrimination and bias-motivated violence. When these attitudes and actions at the lower levels of the pyramid go unchecked and unchallenged, those behaviors are “normalized.” This contributes to an acceptance and further escalation of discrimination, hate and violence in our society, like what happened at Club Q. 

Feeling unsafe, attacked, unwelcome and discriminated against based on who you are—your core identity—is harmful and destructive to individuals and society.

A myriad of factors contributes to the anti-LGBTQ+ bias and hate permeating our society. In online spaces, we regularly see the marginalization and harassment of LGBTQ+ people. In ADL's annual survey of online hate and harassment, LGBTQ+ respondents were more likely than any other group surveyed to experience harassment: 66% compared to 38% of non-LGBTQ+ respondents. Over the past several years, bills targeting the LGBTQ+ community have skyrocketed: hundreds of bills have been filed aiming to limit LGBTQ+ rights and marginalize LGBTQ+ people, with many of these bills specifically targeting the transgender community. These include bills that would restrict discussions of LGBTQ+ topics in school curricula; would grant broad religious exemptions to discriminate against LGBTQ+ people and would limit transgender people’s ability to play sports, use bathrooms that correspond with their gender identity, and receive gender-affirming health care. Further, far-right and extremist groups have been using malicious lies and attacks to demonize LGBTQ+ people and then weaponizing those narratives to rationalize biased and discriminatory legislation.    

Feeling unsafe, attacked, unwelcome and discriminated against based on who you are—your core identity—is harmful and destructive to individuals and society. The impact and harm caused by this bias and hate can feel devastating and overwhelming. It is vital for LGBTQ+ people to have a safe, welcoming place, where they can be themselves and be accepted for who they are, especially when so many places are unsafe and securing one’s basic needs is so often a fight. It is particularly destabilizing to be attacked in a place that is supposed to be a haven.  

As we wait for more details to emerge, including the suspect’s motive, it is important to consider how young people are learning about the news. Here are some suggestions for talking with young people about what happened at Club Q within the larger context of anti-LGBTQ+ bias, hate and oppression. Be mindful that you likely have LGBTQ+ students in your classroom and/or students with LGBTQ+ family members. Be sensitive to their needs and what supports will help. 

  • Reflect on and discuss what happened. Remember to first talk with young people about their thoughts and feelings about what happened, clear up any inaccuracies and misinformation and respond to questions and concerns they have. When something violent, scary or dangerous like this happens in the news, provide ample time for discussion and reflection. Consult ADL’s Empowering Young People in the Aftermath of Hate for ideas and suggested language. 

  • Explore identity. Engage young people of all ages in learning about the many aspects of identity that encompass our society and world. That can happen by reading a picture or chapter book, considering the various aspects of their own identities, highlighting identity through narratives and history, and bringing issues of identity into anti-bias and current events conversations. Learning about different identity groups and people helps to build empathy, understanding and acceptance for the many kinds of people who make up our society, including LGBTQ+ people.  

  • Talk about bias. Help young people understand what bias is, the different forms it takes (e.g., heterosexism, anti-transgender bias, racism, sexism, etc.), how different forms of bias are connected, how bias manifests in small and large ways and how it can take place on an individual or institutional level. It is essential to accompany these conversations with exploring how to challenge bias in ourselves, others and society. 

  • Examine online hate and harassment. Talk with young people about the hate and harassment they hear about, see and experience in digital spaces, including in online games. Help them analyze the extent to which hate and harassment is present and consider what they can do to reduce and prevent hate and harassment online.  

  • Take action. Provide an opportunity for young people to consider something they can do. This can include advocating for increased safety in digital spaces, educating themselves and others about LGBTQ+ issues, or getting involved in activism for LGBTQ+ rights. You can also follow LGBTQ+ organizations on social media for additional ways to support the local community and LGBTQ+ rights. Enabling and empowering young people to take action teaches them that they can make a difference.  

Republished with permission from ADL.

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ADL is a leading anti-hate organization. Founded in 1913 in response to an escalating climate of anti-Semitism and bigotry, its timeless mission is to stop the defamation of the Jewish people and to secure justice and fair treatment to all.

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