The mass-shooting at Club Q in Colorado Springs on Nov. 19 grabbed headlines nationwide, and for good reason. The murder of five members of our queer and trans family impacts our entire community. This attack, almost certainly motivated by the wave of anti-LGBTQ hatred fostered by the MAGA movement, is an injury to all of us.
But the Club Q tragedy has deflected attention from another assault on the queer and trans community: the onslaught of anti-LGBTQ legislation that is inundating the Ohio legislature and statehouses across the country. These bills are just as dangerous an attack on queer and trans lives as the shooting at Club Q.
The Ohio legislature is currently considering a set of anti-LGBTQ bills that have little public support and no basis in fact. House Bill 454 would deny trans children life-saving health care, placing in the hands of lawmakers medical decisions that should be left to families in consultation with medical experts. House 616 is a “Don’t Say Gay, Don’t Mention Race” bill that would prevent schools from including queer and trans people in discussions about sexuality and gender while restricting the discussion of “critical race theory, diversity, equity and inclusion learning outcomes” and, chillingly, “any other concept that the state board of education defines as inherently racist.”
As if that weren’t enough, the Ohio State Board of Education will soon hold another meeting to consider a resolution condemning proposed federal rules to include LGBTQ students as a protected class. In other words, members of the school board are asking for the right to discriminate against LGBTQ children.
I fear laws like these as much as I fear gun-toting bigots.
It is no exaggeration to say that if these laws pass, queer and trans people will die. Study after study shows that gender-affirming health care and safe schools can prevent LGBTQ suicide. On the other hand, discriminatory laws give cover to casual bigotry and embolden violent individuals.
Legalized discrimination and acts of violence go together, like a casing and a bullet.
But only one of these two types of attack captures the public’s imagination and our own community’s attention. The silence around anti-trans and anti-LGBTQ legislation reveals how normalized legislative violence against trans and queer people has become.
When we focus our attention on individual acts of violence, like mass shootings, we risk ignoring the structural injustices that threaten our lives.
The Club Q tragedy also overshadowed Trans Day of Remembrance, the annual memorial for trans people murdered across the country and around the world. More than 32 trans people were murdered in the United States over the last year. The overwhelming majority were Black, Brown or Indigenous trans women. Trans women of color face disproportionate violence, discrimination, criminalization and poverty. They are both the focus of intense bigotry and invisible to more powerful members of the LGBTQ community. The outcry over the Club Q massacre and the silence over these women’s deaths provided yet another heartbreaking example of this reality.
Despite the dire situation we find ourselves in, there still are many opportunities to defend our community against violence and bigotry. Today (Tuesday, Nov. 29), the Ohio legislature is scheduled to hold the first hearing of the legislative session for the Ohio Fairness Act. This landmark law would make it illegal to discriminate based on sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression in matters of employment, housing and public accommodations. It’s an important step toward ensuring our community’s survival.
If the Club Q shooting frightened you, broke your heart or angered you, I urge you to contact your elected officials and ask them to vote in favor of the Ohio Fairness Act. Request that they hold a second hearing on the bill and consider turning out when it comes up for a vote.
The queer and trans community is strong and resilient. We can protect and support each other in the face of all kinds of violence, and work to transform the systems that also endanger us.