THUNDER BAY – The more things change on the LGBTQIA+ front, the more they horrifically stay the same.
Saturday night, the latest tragedy struck, when an armed 22-year-old man, who was allegedly fueled by hatred toward the gay and trans communities, and opened fire at Club Q, a gay nightclub in Colorado Springs, Colo.
Five people were killed in the attack and 17 others were wounded.
The shootings came a little more than six years after 49 people were killed and 53 more were injured in a deadly shooting at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla.
Jason Veltri, president of Thunder Bay’s Rainbow Pride Collective, said it seems like an endless cycle, as he gathered with supporters and allies on Wednesday night outside of city hall for a vigil in support of those who were killed or injured in the latest shooting targeting the 2SLGBTQIA+ community.
“Again, we’re here gathering because queer and trans people were murdered celebrating life, dancing in a bar and we are family. The 2SLGBTQIA+ family extends across the world and when one of us is hurting, all of us are hurting,” Veltri said.
“We’re going to gather and show support for our friends and family in Colorado and across the world.”
The accused has been charged with five counts of murder and five counts of committing a bias-motivated crime causing bodily harm.
The rampage only came to an end as quickly as it did because two Club Q patrons took the gun from the accused, hit him with it and pinned him down, according to a report by the Associated Press.
Veltri said it’s becoming increasingly clear that the progress made on gay rights has taken a giant leap backward in recent years, thanks in part to rhetoric from the far-right.
“We felt like we were taking steps forward, but we feel like it’s going backward. Hate incidents are rising in this city, in this province and in this country. We see increased hate across the U.S.. They guy who started most of this is running again in the United States. Populism is a cancer on society and misinformation is killing people,” Veltri said.
“This is where we need stand up. We need to be here holding space and really having these important gathering moments to call to action.”
Thunder Pride’s Kristen Poluyko said shootings like the one a Club Q convince her there’s still reason to fight, and fight harder, in a non-violent way, to ensure the queer community is safe, while holding fast to her dignity and not let anyone try to force them out of existence through rhetoric.
“We’ve been dealing with that same rhetoric for roughly six decades, probably more. I think it’s about time that it stops.”
It doesn’t help when elected officials in the United States are among those pushing the anti-gay agenda. Colorado Rep. Lauren Boebert, for example, recently tweeted parents should take their children to church, not drag shows, while Fox News’ Tucker Carlson has been accused by Media Matters of routinely spreading lies about LGBTQ people and labelling his supporters as the true victims. Others wrongfully accuse those in the gay community of grooming children.
“To be perfectly frank, it is a right-wing rhetoric that continues to permeate society and develops into a kind of ideology that seems like it catches on too quickly. People take that seriously. When you’re being told the kind of things that people are being told, without looking for evidence and having alternative sources, they don’t know what to believe,” Poluyko said.
“They’re not just giving platforms, they’re giving voice to their own sense of hatred, and they’re finding a way to justify it. There is no justification. No matter how you cut it, no matter how you phrase it there is no justification for violence against a group of extraordinarily peaceful human beings.”