They say time heals all wounds. But only if they are allowed to. It is hard to heal when your wounds are ripped open time and time again.

As a member of the LGBTQ community, the shooting at an LGBTQ dance club in Colorado Springs last Saturday brought back the feelings of sadness, fear, and anxiety that I felt when I heard about the Pulse Nightclub in Florida shooting in 2016.

Colorado Springs Shooting

A makeshift display of bouquets of flowers are on display on a corner near the site of a weekend mass shooting at a gay bar, Monday, Nov. 21, 2022, in Colorado Springs, Colo. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

I had just moved to Washington, D.C. to start an internship. I’d spent the previous night celebrating Pride and grabbing drink with some new friends. We hopped around to the various gay bars. Pride flags, glitter and confetti could be found everywhere we went. Gay anthems like “I’m Coming Out” by Diana Ross or Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” were ringing in my ears as I made it home in the early morning.

As I drifted off to sleep, a horrific mass shooting was underway in Orlando.

When I stumbled up the stairs from my basement room later that morning, I found my roommate with her eyes glued to the television and her hand over her mouth. Whether it was the shock, or because my brain had yet to follow me up the stairs from my bed in my basement apartment, my roommate had to repeat that a gunman went on a shooting rampage at a gay nightclub in Florida.

I am a slow processor, so I lowered my head without saying a word. No immediate thoughts or feelings. Speechless. I walked back down to the basement and sat on the edge of my bed, scrolling through the headlines and notifications that were streaming in.

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The numbers of dead and wounded patrons of the Pulse Nightclub were growing and growing. The lump in my throat and the swelling of sadness and dread in my chest grew with them.

These feelings returned in full force earlier this week as I received the news coming out of Colorado Springs. The eeriness of the shooting occurring on the eve of Transgender Day of Remembrance hit too close to home, generated feelings too similar to those I had in 2016.

As I went about my day and talked with other members of the LGBTQ community, I heard similar stories. People told me that the shooting took them back to the moments of great fear and anxiety experienced after hearing about an assault or murder of a community member. Names familiar to us came up: Matthew Shephard in Wyoming. Harvey Milk in San Francisco. Charlie Howard in Bangor. Riah Milton and Dominique Fells, the Black trans women killed within one week of each other in 2020 as then-President Trump was rolling back health care protections for transgender people.

In each of these instances, in my opinion, we can find that rhetoric, disinformation and falsehoods spread by political, religious and community leaders helped to fuel heinous acts of hatred and violence.

According to an annual report published by the Human Rights Campaign this month, “25 anti-LGBTQ+ bills having been enacted, including 17 anti-transgender laws across 13 states. Overall, more than 145 anti-transgender bills were introduced across 34 states.”

The report goes on to say that the result is “a new record for anti-transgender legislation being introduced and enacted in a single state legislative session since the Human Rights Campaign began tracking legislation.”

In light of this, we should not view the Colorado Springs shooting as an isolated event. Violence and acts of hate against members of the LGBTQ community will continue to rise if politicians and faith and community leaders shirk responsibility for what they say. Free speech is not free of consequences. If the pen is mightier than the sword, words are capable of fueling a mass shooter’s motives to strip people of life and liberty.


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