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One month after Club Q attack, LGBTQ+ Coloradans grapple with increasing hate

Natalee Skye Bingham
Posted at 9:27 PM, Dec 20, 2022

DENVER — It’s been more than a month since Colorado, and the world, woke up to the devastating news of the Club Q shooting in Colorado Springs and to the reality that targeted hate is not just a problem in our community, but a growing one.

It’s a reality that Natalee Skye Bingham was certainly aware of Nov. 19, but it was not top of mind as she answered a FaceTime call from a close friend at 11:48 p.m. that night.

“It was nice to see my friend have her confidence coming back and embracing who she was,” Bingham said of the call, which lasted just five minutes. “She was telling me that she got to Colorado Springs, talking about Club Q.”

The person on the other end of the call was Kelly Loving, who just minutes after they hung up would become one of the five victims killed in the attack. Thanks to security cameras inside her home, Bingham was able to retrieve a recording of the call.

“This would be the last conversation I had with Kelly,” she said. “I’m forever thankful to be the last one to speak to her, and I will hold this video on to me forever.”

It was their last FaceTime call, of which there were countless.

Bingham said they talked nearly every day. She also said it was Loving who, seven years earlier, gave her the support and confidence to begin her own transition. Loving became her “trans mother,” as Bingham put it.

“We met at a transgender club in South Florida,” Bingham recalled. “And seeing this woman with a gorgeous body — the ‘it girl’ — it was so inspiring. I wanted to be her. And having her take me under her wing to teach me what it is to be the most beautiful person of yourself is something I’ll cherish forever.”

The death of her “trans mother” was not Bingham’s first close experience with targeted hate, culminating in a mass shooting. It was the second.

On June 12, 2016, she was living in Orlando, Florida, and working at the Pulse Night Club. Forty-nine people, including several of her close friends, lost their lives in a mass shooting that night. But Bingham was spared, leaving the club just before the shooting began. She woke up to the news the next morning.

“The person that called me the most was my mother. She was at the hospital, identifying bodies in hopes that I was not one of them,” Bingham said.

We’ve seen reported hate crimes consistently climb in recent years. The latest FBI report found that 2021 saw the highest-ever recorded number of incidents in Colorado, and marked the fifth consecutive year of increases. The state saw more hate crimes regarding sexual orientation, gender and gender identity.

Dr. Rachel Nieslen, director of Targeted Violence Prevention Programs at the McCain Institute, said she is worried that a combination of missed social interaction during the pandemic and misinformation online have created a toxic combination for our young people.

“It seems to be a perfect storm of social unrest, political strife,” Nielsen said. “What we know is that it comes from a personal grievance — perceived or otherwise — that they do feel like a victim of some sort themselves. And then from that place, ideologies and violent extremism are like fuel on the fire. So, you have someone who’s already not in a good place, who then finds these justifications online, believes them and then could be encouraged to hurt or kill others."

Bingham said she feels less safe and more on edge, but is choosing to respond with strength. One way of showing that strength came Dec. 19, exactly one month after her last FaceTime call with Loving. She made the trek to Club Q, and to the growing memorial there.

“I don’t know why people have this hate in their heart for innocent people,” she said crying, looking at Loving’s picture among the five now affixed to the club’s exterior wall. “I would do anything to bring you back right now, Kelly. I wish I could tell you I love you one more time.”

And with that, she lit a floating lantern and released it into the sky.