The co-owner of the Colorado Springs gay nightclub that was the scene of a mass shooting believes the attack reflects anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment that has moved from prejudice to incitement.
Authorities have not said why the suspect allegedly opened fire on the club on Saturday, killing five people and injuring 17 others. The suspect, Anderson Lee Aldrich, has not pleaded or spoken about the incident but faces possible hate crime charges.
Club Q co-owner Nic Grzecka said he believed the targeting of a drag event was related to the art form that has been misrepresented in recent months by right-wing activists and politicians who complain about the “sexualisation” or grooming of children.
“It’s different to walk down the street holding my friend’s hand and getting spat on, [as opposed to] a politician who linked a transvestite with a groomer of their children,” Grzecka said. “I’d rather be spit on in the street than see the hatred get as bad as where we are now.”
Earlier this year, Florida’s Republican-dominated legislature passed a law prohibiting teachers from discussing gender identity or sexual orientation with younger students. A month later, references to “paedophiles” and “grooming” related to LGBTQ+ people jumped 400%, according to a report by the Human Rights Campaign.
“Lying about our community and turning them into something they are not creates a different kind of hatred,” Grzecka said.
Grzecka, who started mopping floors and bartending at Club Q in 2003, said he hoped to channel his grief and anger into learning how to use the unique support system for Colorado Springs’ LGBTQ+ community that the club, the only gay bar in the conservative city, provided.
City and state officials have offered their support, and Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden reached out to Grzecka and co-owner Matthew Haynes on Thursday to express their condolences and reiterate their support for the community, as well as their commitment to to fight back against hatred and hatred. gun violence.
After becoming a co-owner in 2014, Grzecka helped transform Club Q into a community center – a platform to create a “chosen family” for LGBTQ+ people, especially those estranged from their biological family.
“When that system falls away, you realize how much more the bar really offered,” says Justin Burn, an organizer with Pikes Peak Pride. “Those who may or may not have been part of the Club Q family, where do they go?”
Burn said the shooting ended a greater lack of resources for LGBTQ+ people in Colorado Springs. Burn, Grzecka and others are working with national organizations to assess community needs as they develop a blueprint to provide a robust support network.
Grzecka is trying to rebuild the “loving culture” and necessary support to “ensure that this tragedy is turned into the best it can be for the city”.
“Everyone needs community,” he said.