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The Violence Queer and Trans People Face Is State-Sanctioned

The Colorado Springs shooting targeting an LGBTQIA+ club was stoked by the white supremacist, Christian-fascist right.

Jezeravon Swisher, center, gets comforted by friends at a makeshift memorial near Club Q on November 20, 2022, in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

On Transgender Day of Remembrance, queer and trans communities were already in mourning. Many of us were marking the day by echoing the names of those who were taken from their kin, their friends, and their (chosen) families. We also woke up to mourn another atrocity — five people were killed, and another 18 were injured when a gunman opened fire inside an LGBTQIA+ nightclub in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Club Q, the 20-year-old nightclub described by the owner and patrons as a haven of both joy and safety for LGBTQIA+ locals in the mostly-conservative Colorado Springs area, is now the site of yet another mass murder in the U.S. The shooting compounds the already-devastating harms committed against queer and trans folks across the nation. While the identities of the victims have yet to be confirmed, reports already state that before the authorities arrived, patrons of Club Q subdued the gunman, who has since been arrested and charged with five counts of bias-motivated crime.

The political environment that led up to this latest attack against LGBTQIA+ folks is yet another reminder that political rhetoric demonizing our communities has real and fatal consequences. Transphobic and homophobic violence is a fire stoked by the white supremacist, Christian-fascist right. Conservative forces are inciting violence against queer and trans communities through hate-filled speech; they threaten to legislate us out of existence and to erase us from schools, libraries, and all public spheres because our mere existence and visibility are direct threats to the ever-fragile white nationalist cis hetero patriarchy. Elected officials and their many foot soldiers use fear and hatred to maintain power here and across borders.

By June 2022, over 160 anti-LGBTQIA+ bills were introduced in state legislatures across the U.S., but it doesn’t end there. Politicians like Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis also stoke and incite violence against LGBTQIA+ people, focusing specifically on queer and trans children and their families. This is the kind of state-sanctioned violence that emboldens civilians to walk into our safe spaces with a rifle and kill our kin. The same hatred invites far-right movements and groups to attack drag queen story hour at bookstores and libraries, and threaten hospitals that provide gender-affirming care. The violence is relentless, and our grief compounds before we’ve even had the time to heal from our other losses.

But how do we combat the current systems that enable these murders? Ending state-sanctioned violence and the criminalization of queer and trans folks requires the safety and protection of our most vulnerable through police and prison abolition. Protecting and ensuring bodily autonomy, safety, and access to reproductive care and justice requires more than lukewarm promises around election seasons. The freedom to survive and thrive requires the dismantling of the white supremacist cis-hetero patriarchy and its insidious and oppressive structures, and they require action. While we mourn, we must also lend our support to those who lost their kin.

There are funds available to provide support; here are a few that have been verified:

Because our existence is endlessly politicized, targeted by state forces, and legislated against, the murders of our kin are inherently political. Those who no longer want us to exist are counting on our anguish to subdue us, but justice demands that our grief, our sadness, and our righteous anger fuel us to organize, commune, and fight for the living.

Prism is an independent and nonprofit newsroom led by journalists of color. We report from the ground up and at the intersections of injustice.