Gracie Schweitzer is a psychology junior and opinion columnist for Mustang News. The views expressed in this piece don’t necessarily reflect those of Mustang News.
Club Q in Colorado Springs was just one of many shooting sites when it comes to the LGBTQ+ community and their friends — targeting a group of individuals in a place where they felt safe, seen and loved by those around them.
With five dead and 17 injured, the community is grieving the progress we thought had been made and remembering the fear that we temporarily placed in the backs of our minds.
Much of the backlash against LGBTQ+ individuals centers around the idea of having this “lifestyle choice” being forced on children in schools and within the community. This backlash leads to hate and violent words against the community, forcing them to hide who they are. Safe spaces, like Club Q, are meant to give the LGBTQ+ community a place where they can be themselves openly and proudly, without the threat of hate; so when this shooting occurred in a designated safe place, it meant that no home to the LGBTQ+ is safe from the hate growing within this country.
It was not until very recent generations that children across the country began to feel comfortable enough to come out to close friends and family. However, for some this still isn’t a reality yet. Looking around at the Cal Poly community there are so many students that are confident in who they are, in who they love, but with tragedy comes a growth of fear in designated safe spaces. Our generation already fears being on campus — a place meant to keep us safe — due to the many school shootings that have happened in the last two decades. Now, there’s a spark once again in our fear in being proud of who we are within our own communities.
Most queer individuals still struggle with the stares and hateful words that come with walking down the streets with their partner. It has forced many to hide from the towns in which they grew up; forced to find the few and far between safe havens made for them. Club Q was a safe haven for the queer population in Colorado Springs and surrounding areas, hiding near the outskirts of town. This was meant to be a club full of love, acceptance and fun but it quickly turned into a center of mourning and fear.
As the community continues to mourn, the LGBTQ+ population across the country begins to hold their breath as they enter other safe zones in fear of losing more loved ones. We grow up fearing living completely in the open due to the hate spread online, within community institutions, and in politics so much that these safe spaces are often one of the only locations that we can truly be accepted. It almost felt like shock that someone who despised the LGBTQ+ community simply walked into one of these safe places just to execute his hatred. Not only were individuals in Colorado Springs already in need of a safe haven, but now they had people coming in causing chaos and loss.
When it comes to the ripple effects across the country there are many to be found, especially in American youth who are struggling to come out to their own communities. There’s already the innate fear of not being accepted for who they are and love, but now with the fear of our own personal communities being places of fear or danger, coming out might be even more difficult. Will there be more fear when it comes to expressing who we are as individuals? What about the danger that follows when holding the hands of partners?
Our society is being thrown into a state of hatred, fear and hiding because of the actions committed by those like the Club Q shooter. We are not supposed to live in fear — we are meant to love those around us no matter who they love or identify as. The way in which our society responds to tragedies such as this sends a very specific message to the younger generations who are struggling with the idea of who they are. Will we keep them in fear, living in the dark, or are we going to fight for a world where they can no longer shudder at the thought of shouting to the world who they are?
There is too much dread in the hearts of minority populations. The Club Q shooting was just one of many examples of making places intended to keep our communities safe into places of loss. I do not want to live in a society where I cannot hold the hand of someone I love or where friends cannot tell their parents their real gender in fear of being thrown out. If we cannot fight this hatred and provide truly safe places for all communities — the LGBTQ+, students, religious groups and others — how are we supposed to live as who we are?