[Illustration by Jen White Johnson]
The saying is ‘things get better.’ But it doesn’t always feel like it.
And certainly not right now.
It wasn’t long ago that we began the month of November remembering and celebrating the lives of our fallen loved ones on Día de Muertos. And now that November has come to a close, five more names have been tragically taken and etched into our collective consciousness.
On Saturday Nov. 19, on the eve of the Transgender Day of Remembrance, Raymond Green Vance, Kelly Loving, Ashley Paugh, Derrick Rump, and Daniel Aston were all killed by the white 22-year-old homophobic grandson of a far-right Southern California lawmaker. Armed with a military-style assault rifle, Anderson Lee Aldrich (who was known as Nicholas Brink until he changed his name in 2016) entered the LGBTQI+ safe haven that was Club Q in Colorado Springs, and began his murderous rampage, killing the five people mentioned above and injuring 25 more.
There would have undoubtedly been more casualties had it not been for the actions of at least three people — one being a trans woman who has yet to be identified, and the others being a straight Latino father and military veteran Richard Fierro, and Navy petty officer Thomas James — who disarmed and pummeled Aldrich until authorities arrived on scene. And while we’re on the topic of law enforcement, it’s important to note that police didn’t stop the shooter, but instead once on scene tackled Fierro and detained him for more than an hour believing that he was the shooter.
We could’ve all predicted the talking points that preceded yet another targeted, hateful act of violence. The narratives that follow hate crimes such as this one usually suggest that the assailant is “mentally ill” or a “lone wolf” or that gun control laws or “prayers in school” would’ve prevented such a tragedy. These tropes are dangerous, as they intentionally and blatantly erase the rise of hate-based movements — particularly against LGBTQI+ communities and trans individuals in recent times — whose sole purpose is to inspire direct acts of violence towards communities that have resisted hate and violence for generations.
But one talking point was particularly callous and infuriating, yet unsurprising given the mainstream rise of transphobia over the last few years. Just three days after the shooting in Colorado Springs, Fox News’ ultra right-wing pundit Tucker Carlson hosted Jaimee Michell, the lesbian founder of the anti-trans hate group, Gays Against Groomers.
In typical TERFy (trans-exclusionary radical feminist) fashion, Michell blamed the shooting on the “evil agenda” of gender-affirming healthcare. While sickening, Michell’s words are hardly surprising given that the far-right in this country has made targeting and criminalizing trans people and youth their rallying cry.
But this targeted vitriol hasn’t just been limited to the toxic trolling cesspool that is social media. According to an NPR analysis, 306 bills targeting trans people have been introduced over the last two years, with 86 percent of them focusing on trans youth. And while about 15 percent have become law, parents in states such as Texas have had to uproot their entire lives for fear of being criminalized for providing health care to their transgender children.
Republicans — notably Texas, Florida and Tennessee governors Gregg Abbot, Ron DeSantis and Bill Lee — have led the legislative charge in criminalizing trans kids for merely existing, all under the guise of claiming to “protect children.”
If these lawmakers and organizers were truly interested in the well-being of children, why not pass universal healthcare with access to mental health services? If they were truly “against groomers,” why not prohibit children from attending church? Are pastors, musicians, and U.S. Presidents who prey on and sexually exploit children, not groomers?
Somehow for some, that label has been exclusively attached to queer people. And that label has now led to the death of five innocent lives.
And if we’re not careful, more violence will ensue. While we argue over rainbow armbands in Qatar, let us not forget the transphobia that exists in the supposed bastion that is the Bay Area where we’ve seen drag storybook readings shutdown by fascist Proud Boys and murals in the Mission literally set on fire for the daring display of Latino queer love.
This failing settler colonial project that we now find ourselves in was built upon many things, including but not limited to the erasure of our queer relatives. But our folks are still here. We have always been here. And in the face of violent extremism, we remain. The extremism that wishes to continue that erasure cannot be defeated with debate or logic. But only through physical resistance. May all of us who have heart, regardless of language, culture, gender, binary, or pronouns, contribute to and reinforce that resistance.
untitled prayer, 2022
Bless Queer and Trans rebels of colour treading like unapologetic tornadoes raging across this bloodthirsty simulated post-apocalyptic police state.
Bless disabled and undocumented kin treading like comets through cosmic highways and who expose pathways to our liberation.
Bless our sick, elderly, and neglected kin treading hard through callous battlefields and who emerge like flowers blooming through cracks in the concrete.
Bless future generations who will inherit the trauma inflicted by hateful, immoral, and cowardly bigots but who will tread victoriously to create vibrant worlds that will be the result of centuries of ancestral dreaming and resilience.
Bless our communities, protect us from harm, and celebrate our joy as we restore harmony among the stars.— Demian DinéYazhi´/@heterogeneoushomosexual