The Sunday interfaith service at Temple Beit Torah in Colorado Springs was meant to be in observance of Transgender Day of Remembrance, a day to mourn the transgender lives lost to violence.
But a shooting at LGBTQ+ dance club Club Q in the early hours of Sunday morning quickly turned the service into a vigil and turned what was meant to be a remembrance of the past into an all too tragic reminder of the present.
Five people were killed in the shooting and 25 were injured.
“We found out this morning about the shooting that happened at Club Q last night and we knew we had to include that as well because it is another form of violence,” said Pastor Alycia Erickson. “And there are transgender people included in the people who were also shot last night.”
The vigil was hosted by Pikes Peak Metropolitan Community Church and was one of many across Colorado Springs as the community sought out shelter to grieve. Erickson said these spaces are important for those in the queer community who have felt cast aside by their religion.
“Just because you support the community doesn't mean that you can't be a Christian, that you can't have a faith life, that you can't have a spiritual life,” Erickson, who identifies as lesbian, said. “But far too often that is the narrative that is the rhetoric that is perpetrated against people in the LGBTQ community. And it is the root of the violence that we saw last night at Club Q against members of our LGBTQ community.”
Speakers criticized anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric from religious peers and politicians that, they say, has led to an increase in transgender hate speech and murders.
“We deserve love. We deserve honor. We deserve dignity. And we will not let this type of hate cut us out,” Nadine Bridges of One Colorado, an LGBTQ+ advocacy organization, said at a similar vigil at All Souls Unitarian Church. “And to those folks out there, and I'm talking to those folks who continue to have anti-LGBTQ rhetoric, we see you and we will not allow this to happen anymore.
“We'll not be a part of your political talking points.”
According to the Human Rights Center, at least 32 transgender and gender non-conforming people have been killed in the U.S. since the beginning of 2022.
Aurora Autumn Goodno, a member of First United Methodist Church pointed to anti-LGBTQ+ laws as a cause of rising violence against trans people.
“Looking inward in our country, across our most conservative Christian states, there have been hundreds of anti-trans legislation,” Goodno said. “Things that would stop transgender children from using the proper bathrooms that would stop transgender children from attaining the medical care that they need to survive.”
The Temple Beit Torah synagogue was completely full, without an empty seat in both the upstairs and downstairs overflow rooms. Outside, a crowd gathered silently in subfreezing temperatures to light candles for the victims at Club Q.
“It's really nice to be a part of a church that doesn't spew hate, because I know there are a lot of pulpits today that did,” Amelia Schulter, a trans woman who came out to be with her community, said. “I pray that their hearts change.”
“Hate's not gonna win, right?” Mike Williams, executive director for Citizens Project, said. “When we stand up together as a community, we really have way more impact,” Williams said.
The church holds a Transgender Day of Remembrance service every year. But, Erickson said, she’s never seen attendance like Sunday night’s. She said she hopes people take time to remember all those who have been killed by hate and violence.
“I also realized all the people who die lonely anonymous deaths, and no one knows that they've died,” she said “And it's just a reminder that there's many people who do not get this kind of community support when something happens.”
- Colorado Crisis Services hotline: Call 1-844-493-8255 or text “TALK” to 38255 to speak with a trained counselor or professional. Counselors are also available at walk-in locations or online to chat between 4 p.m. and 12 a.m.
- A list of mental health providers offering therapy for those impacted. Many are providing sessions free or at a reduced charge.
- Diversus Health: Offers a 24/7 walk-in crisis center for crisis services and counseling for all ages, regardless of ability to pay. You can request an appointment here or visit 115 S. Parkside Drive, Colorado Springs, CO 80910.
- Peak View Behavioral Health Assessment team: 719-444-8484 or www.peakviewbh.com.
- Inside Out Youth Services: Provides support and resources for LGBTQ youth, and are coordinating vigils for people to gather.
- See more resources here.
Southern Colorado is changing a lot these days. We can help you keep up. Sign up for the KRCC Weekly Digest here and get the stories that matter to Southern Colorado, delivered straight to your inbox.