The co-owner of the Colorado Springs gay nightclub that was the scene of a mass shooting believes the attack is an expression of anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment that has turned from prejudice to hate speech.
Authorities have not said why the suspect allegedly shot at the club on Saturday, killing five people and wounding 17 others. The suspect, Anderson Lee Aldrich, has not filed a plea or spoken about the incident but may face hate crime charges.
Club Q co-owner Nic Grzecka said he believes the targeting of a drag event is related to the art form being revived in recent months by right-wing activists and politicians who complain about the “sexualization” or “grooming” of Complain to children about being portrayed in the wrong light.
“It’s different walking down the street holding my boyfriend’s hand and being spat at, [as opposed to] a politician associating a drag queen with a caretaker of her children,” Grzecka said. “I’d rather be spat on in the street than hate get as bad as it is today.”
Earlier this year, Florida’s Republican-dominated state legislature passed legislation prohibiting teachers from discussing gender identity or sexual orientation with younger students. A month later, references to “pedophiles” and “grooming” when referring to LGBTQ+ people increased by 400%, according to a Human Rights Campaign report.
“Lying about our community and making them what they aren’t breeds a different kind of hate,” Grzecka said.
Grzecka, who started mopping floors and bartenders at Club Q in 2003, said he hopes to channel his heartache and anger to figure out how to rebuild Colorado Springs’ unique support system for the LGBTQ+ community, provided by the Club, the only gay bar in the region’s conservative city.
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 their condolences and their support for the community and commitment to fighting hate and hatred affirm gun violence.
After becoming a co-owner in 2014, Grzecka helped transform Club Q into a community center — a platform to create a “chosen family” for LGBTQ+ people, particularly those who have become alienated from their birth families.
“When that system goes away, you realize how much more the bar really is,” said Justin Burn, organizer at Pikes Peak Pride. “Those who may or may not have been part of the Club Q family, where are they going?”
Burn said the shooting drew a curtain on a broader lack of resources for LGBTQ+ people in Colorado Springs. Burn, Grzecka and others work with national organizations to assess community needs while developing a plan to provide a robust support network.
Grzecka wants to rebuild the “culture of love” and the support needed to “ensure this tragedy becomes the best for the city.”
“Everyone needs community,” he said.