The co-owner of the Colorado Springs gay nightclub, which was the scene of a mass shooting, believes the attack is a reflection of anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment that has evolved from prejudice to incitement.
Authorities have not said why the suspect allegedly opened fire on the club on Saturday, killing five people and wounding 17 others. The suspect, Anderson Lee Aldrich, has not come forward or spoken about the incident but is facing potential hate crime charges .
Club Q co-owner Nic Grzecka said he believed the targeting of a drag event was linked to the art form that has been cast in a false light in recent months by right-wing activists and politicians who complain about “sexualisation”. or “treatment” of children.
“It’s different walking down the street holding my boyfriend’s hand and getting spat on, [as opposed to] a politician linking a drag queen with a caretaker of her children,” said Grzecka. “I would rather be spat out in the street than the hate get as bad as where we are today.”
Earlier this year, Florida’s Republican-dominated legislature passed a bill banning teachers from discussing gender identity or sexual orientation with younger students. A month later, references to “pedophiles” and “grooming” towards LGBTQ+ people went up 400%, according to a report by the Human Rights Campaign.
“Lying about our community and making them into something they are not creates a different kind of hate,” said Grzecka.
Grzecka, who started cleaning floors and bartending at Club Q in 2003, said he hoped to channel his pain and anger into figuring out how to rebuild the unique support system for Colorado Springs’ LGBTQ+ community that the club, the only bar conservative city gay, provided.
City and state officials offered support, and Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden reached out to Grzecka and co-owner Matthew Haynes on Thursday to offer condolences and reiterate their support for the community, as well as their commitment to fighting hate and gun violence. .
After becoming co-owner in 2014, Grzecka helped transform Club Q into a community hub – a platform to create a “chosen family” for LGBTQ+ people, especially those estranged from their birth families.
“When that system disappears, you realize how much more the bar was really providing,” said Justin Burn, organizer of 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 drew a curtain on a broader lack of resources for LGBTQ+ people in Colorado Springs. Burn, Grzecka and others are working with national organizations to conduct a community needs assessment while developing a plan to provide a robust support network.
Grzecka seeks to rebuild the “culture of love” and the support needed to “ensure that this tragedy turns into the best thing it can be for the city”.
“Everyone needs community,” he said.