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Colorado Springs shooting shows LGBTQ+ people facing ‘different kinds of hate’ | Colorado

The co-owner of the Colorado Springs gay nightclub that 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, did not plead guilty or speak about the incident, but faces possible charges for hate crimes.

Club Q co-owner Nic Grzecka said he believed the aim of a drag event was related to the art form that right-wing activists and politicians complaining about the “sexualization” or “grooming” of children have cast a false light in recent months.

“It is different to walk down the street holding hands with my boyfriend and to be spit on, [as opposed to] a politician who associates a drag queen with a hairdresser of his children”, said Grzecka. “I’d rather be spit on in the street than have the hate become as bad as it is now.”

Earlier this year, the Republican-dominated Florida legislature passed a bill barring teachers from discussing gender identity or sexual orientation with younger students. A month later, references to “pedophiles” and “grooming” in relation to LGBTQ+ people increased by 400%, according to a Human Rights Campaign report.

“Lying about our community and making them into something they are not creates a different kind of hate,” Grzecka said.

Grzecka, who began mopping floors and bartending at Club Q in 2003, said he hoped to channel his grief and anger into figuring out how to rebuild the unique support system for Colorado Springs’ LGBTQ+ community that the club, the only gay bar in the Conservative Town, always.

Club Q co-owners Matthew Haynes, front, and Nic Grzecka, headed for a memorial to those killed in the shooting. Photographer: David Zalubowski/AP

City and state officials have offered support, and Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden reached out to Grzecka and co-owner Matthew Haynes Thursday to offer condolences and reiterate their support for the community, as well as their commitment to fighting the hate and gun violence.

After becoming a co-owner in 2014, Grzecka helped shape Club Q into a community hub, a platform for creating a “chosen family” for LGBTQ+ people, especially those separated from their birth families.

“When that system goes away, you realize how much more the bar was really providing,” said Justin Burn, an organizer with 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 raised the 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 strong support network.

Grzecka seeks to rebuild the “culture of love” and the support needed to “make sure this tragedy becomes the best it can be for the city.”

“Everybody needs community,” he said.

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