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Queer & Trans NYCers Respond to Colorado Springs Mass Shooting

Issue 276

“I don’t feel more fearful than I did before. But the fear is at the forefront of my mind now," says one person we spoke with.

Blake McMillan Dec 19, 2022

In the wake of the Nov. 26 mass shooting at Club Q in Colorado Springs, The Indypendent spoke with people in the LGBTQ community at different locations throughout the West Village, predominantly “safe” queer spaces. They shared how they are processing their fears and what should be done to address the increasing hate and violence directed at queer people. 

Light edits for length and clarity have been made. 

Asher is a nonbinary person who has frequented the LGBT Center in the West Village since they were 16. The Indy encountered them seated at the entrance of the center.

“The people doing the stuff, when you look at them, are all white supremacists. As a Black person, these people are always kind of on my radar as dangerous people. As a queer person, I just always knew the hate and the capacity for this kind of violence existed. 

“I’m 22. The Pulse nightclub shooting happened in 2016 in the summer, I think. And I first started coming to the center in October of 2016. I remember talking to my school social worker, who’s a trans man and just being like, ‘I’m scared to go,’ even though I’d always wanted to. Like, I was scared to come here; I just didn’t feel safe. A queer space that’s labeled a queer space, everyone can see that in the first place. 

“I thought that I had gotten over that kind of paranoia until the Colorado Springs shooting happened. And I realized, I’m still scared. But I’m not reacting the same way because I’m able to sit in the space.

“I don’t feel more fearful than I did before. But the fear is at the forefront of my mind now. I think the Pulse nightclub shooter really was the one that put that fear there. And I’ve just been managing that fear all these years. 

“I’m for gun control. But I think America is weird because the government and the politicians — it feels like they’re saying, ‘Let’s not offend like the Second Amendment people.’ I don’t understand why they hold so much loyalty to these old documents and shit like that. I don’t understand. If it’s an amendment, you can amend it. We can change it. People will still find a way to keep guns, but a lot of these shooters, they attain them legally.”

Alexander Scelso is a drag queen performing at the Stonewall Inn in the West Village under the name Sitanya Face.

“There’s a lot of tension, and sometimes it just seeps into just everyday life, mundane life. I think when that kind of stuff is taught, and that kind of stuff is seen as an example, people that have that negative belief system of queer people, it can even just affect how people view you on the train. I’ve been taking cabs a lot more to my gigs just to avoid that kind of stuff to be safe. And it makes me fear for my queer family, just feeling that lack of safety. 

“I feel like the fear was always there, to be honest. I think right now it’s being amplified. It’s just a matter of taking precautions in different ways, like going to places with friends, making sure you’re not totally alone. So, in a way, you always feel like you have your queer family with you.

In these spaces, you want to feel like you’re escaping from daily life where you don’t feel as loved or supported. These places are safe havens; I make people smile for my job as a drag queen. But I want to make it an escape for people, these queer bars. And I just hope that we’re able to really tough it out.”

Kanga Roo is a trans cocktail waitress at Playhouse in the West Village.

“It’s hard to navigate how you should feel about this because it’s really delicate. It’s been ­really tough. I mean, I definitely know the increase in ­security has already heightened anxiety for a lot of people. And I understand that. I’m just here for people. I just want to be an open energy for people. They need somebody to talk to about any difficult situation, especially this. This has been a huge, catastrophic event that’s happened.

“If I’m going to go down in someplace, that sure as hell better be a place that has love in it. In some ways, you just kind of have to live your life as if it were going to be your last day, and it’s better to do it with the people that you love a lot. I love this place and I’m going to be here as much as I can.”

What do you think should happen in response to this anti-queer backlash?

“Trying to listen to understand, instead of listening to respond. There’s a lot of response but it’s not the correct response, a lot of it coming from people who aren’t directly affected. You need to sit back and listen to what’s going on. You know, unfortunately, that’s really all you can do. There’s nothing that will make a person change more than just listening to understand.”

Debbie Yorizzo is a lesbian who visits the LGBT Center. She works at a coffee shop and is applying to become a school teacher.

“It’s painful, and it’s based on people’s inability to see that diversity actually is powerful. 

“I live in Staten Island and I’m an out lesbian. There are some pockets of progressive liberal people, but there’s also pockets of Republicans who are not willing to hear us, so I think it’s about our voices being heard.

“I’m so anti-guns. It’s ridiculous. … You see a kindergarten kid with crayons of blood. And back to the shooting in Colorado, this is not how I want to live a life where we go look at the autopsies and say, ‘That’s perhaps how we could change the gun laws.’

“We have to keep fighting. There was a recent Nobel Peace Prize winner who went with peace activists in Ukraine. And she said that they’ve got to fight. ‘You got to fight these people that are trying to invade your country.’ And I feel like as a queer person it’s about love. You’re trying to invade my heart. And it’s not going to happen.”

The Indypendent is a New York City-based newspaper and website. Our independent, grassroots journalism is made possible by readers like you. Please consider making a recurring or one-time donation today or subscribe to our monthly print edition and get every copy sent straight to your home. 

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