NewsClub Q Shooting


LGBTQ+ advocates say hateful rhetoric has ramped up over the past year

Rep. Brianna Titone
Posted at 5:32 PM, Nov 22, 2022

DENVER — Sometimes in life, when there are not enough tears to cry or tributes to leave after a tragedy, all that is left are words.

After the Club Q tragedy that left five people dead and 19 injured, words poured out of those touched by the tragedy at vigils from Denver to Colorado Springs.

The words helped attendees remember the lives that were lost, but also helped those affected cope with emotions like grief and anger.

At a vigil in Denver Monday night, Scott Levin, the regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, used his words to condemn the rhetoric against the LGBTQ community.

LGBTQ+ advocates say hateful rhetoric has ramped up over the past year

“My heart is broken, your hearts are broken. But when that happens, I get mad. And why am I angry? I'm angry because of the people who are culpable, the ones that normalize hate so much that someone would go out and shoot and kill innocent people,” Levin said. “When you make jokes, or you belittle people, or you use slurs to describe people, you enable hate, you normalize it and you are culpable.”

While the motive of the shooting has not yet been made public, across the country, LGBTQ advocates say there has been a significant increase in hateful rhetoric over the past year, particularly around the election.

A report that was released this month by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation found that since the start of 2022, at least 32 transgender and gender non-conforming people have been killed in the U.S.

During that same time period, the report found that 25 anti-LBGTQ+ bills have been enacted across the country, including 17 anti-transgender laws across 13 states.

The report also found that overall, more than 145 anti-transgender bills were introduced across 34 states, including some to ban transgender youth from playing sports or use locker rooms in accordance with their gender identity.

Meanwhile in Colorado, some conservative politicians like U.S. Congresswoman Lauren Boebert have taken to Twitter with their own rhetoric.

In one tweet, Boebert encouraged people to take their kids to church, not drag bars. In another, she accused the assistant secretary of health of trying to groom kids to help them become transgender. It’s a sentiment she reiterated in another tweet in May saying the Left as a whole is trying to groom kids.

“When politicians and these groups and these pundits are saying all these things, they're not going to be the one who pulls the trigger. But it's going to be somebody who has been listening to them, and eating up their ideas for a long time, that are going to be pulling the trigger,” said Rep. Briana Titone, D-Arvada.

Titone is Colorado’s first openly transgender state lawmaker who herself has faced the rhetoric even this week about her gender identity.

“These kinds of things have been going on for a long time,” Titone said. “They're just using these things to get people riled up, to get their anger going, because anger is a powerful motivator.”

She has noticed that rhetoric particularly ramp up around elections, saying some politicians across the country made this a top issue for their campaigns when there are so many other kitchen table topics voters care more about.

However, Titone insists that the recent election results — with state Democrats holding on to every major state seat, winning closely watched congressional districts and extending their majorities in the state House and Senate— prove that voters do not support extremism or divisive rhetoric.

Along with the politicians and pundits, though, Titone also blames social media companies for allowing the rhetoric to spread.

In the hours and days after the Club Q attack, Colorado’s congressional delegation send out statements and tweets offering sympathy for those who were killed and injured while also condemning the attack as a whole. However, there was a marked difference in the type of language Republican members of Congress from Colorado used in their statements versus Democratic members.

While every Democratic lawmaker specifically mentioned the LBGTQ+ community in their tweets, not a single Republican made mention of the community in their statements.

“If you let them get away with sending their thoughts and prayers that they don't really mean, then they're normalizing and you're normalizing hate,” Levin said.

Titone also said that the statements of sympathy sent by Boebert fell flat because of her previous rhetoric.

Denver7 reached out to Boebert’s office to ask about her rhetoric but did not receive a response. Lamborn also did not respond to questions about his omission of the community from his statement.

Despite all of this, Titone said Colorado has come a long way in protecting the rights of the LGBTQ+ community, though she admits there’s always more work to be done.

For now, in the aftermath of the Club Q tragedy, she hopes people will choose their words more carefully moving forward.