It was only a matter of time before the explosion of anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric in recent years led to the kind of violence that struck Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Our community is, once again, reeling from the violation of a space meant to provide sanctuary, support and joy in a world that often tries to deny us those basic things.

Like the Pulse nightclub shooting in 2016 in Orlando, Florida, the massacre at Club Q on Nov. 19 took not just the lives of the victims, but the fragile sense of security clubs like theirs provide. 

That security has increasingly come under attack. 

While the details and motive behind the Club Q shooting are still unknown, preliminary charges against the accused shooter include five counts of first-degree murder as well as five counts of bias-motivated crime, more commonly known as a hate crime. 

What kind of hate and against whom is not clear. According to the alleged shooter’s attorney, the suspect was nonbinary. But when you shoot up an LGBTQ+ club, the attack sends a loud message.

This kind of violence is, in many ways, the fruit of a poisoned tree.


Sarah Kate Ellis, the president and CEO of LGBTQ+ media organization GLAAD, wrote in a statement after the shooting, “You can draw a straight line from the false and vile rhetoric about LGBTQ people spread by extremists and amplified across social media, to the nearly 300 anti-LGBTQ bills introduced this year, to the dozens of attacks on our community like this one.”

Sadly, the tree has been fertilized in our own backyard.

Last year, I wrote about the effort to paint education around racial inequality as “critical race theory” and create fear and resistance in the public mind around it. One of the primary proponents of that tactic was Gig Harbor’s Christopher Rufo, a conservative activist and senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute. 

Now, he has turned his attention to what he calls “radical gender theory,” which encompasses “academic queer theory, transgender ideology, and gender identity activism,” which — spoiler alert — are all supposedly dangerous and should be fought against.

Rufo even created a handbook on how to resist efforts to broaden our understanding of gender and sexual orientation, including guidance around language, such as advising readers to say “Drag Queen Story Hour is another way of saying ‘adult male transvestites who want to share their sexuality with kids.’ ” In two sections of the guide, he says some of the key concepts of the “radical gender theorists” who argue that “Sex, Gender, and Sexual Orientation are Socially Constructed,” are support for child pornography and pedophilia — two of the most misleading, horrific and inflammatory charges you can make.

He’s been open about the strategy, tweeting in June, “Conservatives should start using the phrase ‘trans stripper’ in lieu of ‘drag queen.’ It has a more lurid set of connotations and shifts the debate to sexualization.” Later in the thread he wrote: “The trick is to shift the language in a way that is factually accurate and has a plausible claim to neutrality, but attaches a new set of connotations to the concept that shifts the debate in your favor. The Left is very good at this; time for the Right to start playing.”

But this is not a game, and real lives are at stake.


Implying that queer and trans people are sex predators targeting children is, of course, going to have devastating and predictable consequences — and it has. 

Pulse massacre survivor Brandon Wolf wrote in The Guardian last week, “My community knew a tragedy like what happened at Club Q was coming. We kept sounding the alarm when armed protesters showed up at drag shows, when white supremacists were arrested outside of Pride festival after threatening violence, when a donut shop was firebombed because they dared to host an art show featuring drag queens. We begged those on the right to turn the temperature down, to stop assaulting an already marginalized community. They wouldn’t listen.”

And deep blue Seattle is not immune to these threats. As my colleagues Alexandra Yoon-Hendricks and Tat Bellamy-Walker reported last week, already this year 139 hate crimes or bias incidents related to sexual orientation or gender have been reported in Seattle.

For those who feel threatened by a changing world where queer and trans people thrive, I feel sorry for you.

You are missing out on the creativity, brilliance, strength and love of a community to protect the mythology and limitations of an America that never truly existed. LGBTQ+ people have always been here, gender diversity has always been here.

With our presence and our resilience, queer and trans people are changing the world for the better. Our embrace of a more accurate and inclusive understanding of sexual orientation and gender — as well as living our lives out and proud — open up possibilities for how to live and love for all people.

You might see “queer alternatives” and “a world beyond binaries” as something to fight, but to me, they represent beautiful people whose lives should be treasured, not feared.