Statement from Colorado Working Families Party State Director Wendy Howell:
“As a queer person and leader, the thoughts that keep running through my head today, following the horrific attack at Club Q, are around LGBTQ resilience. As a community, this will not be the first or last tragedy we face; the sad truth is that no matter how far we have come, simply being out and proud about who we are puts us at risk every day in America.
“We are at risk for physical violence in the streets, in our homes, and even in the bars & clubs that should be our safe spaces. We are continually targets of political violence, aimed at stripping us of our rights and dignity, in city halls, state capitols, and the US Capitol. We are exposed to relentless psychological violence, from bullying in our schools to dehumanizing rhetoric in the broader public sphere.
“But the thing I know about our community – the thing I appreciate most about it – is this: no matter what violence is directed towards us, we will prevail, because our movement is fundamentally rooted in love. In the ‘80s, as thousands of LGBTQ people died as a result of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, we fought ferociously to get a complacent and often obstructionist government to adequately respond to the crisis. We did so both because we had no other choice and because we knew an army of lovers could not fail. When we stood up to a slew of anti-gay ballot measures in the ‘90’s & ‘00’s aimed at dehumanizing us and diminishing our relationships, we likewise fought back for ourselves and those we love no matter what was thrown at us- including literal bottles, bricks, and firebombs. And now, even as we have won marriage equality, we see a rise in vicious anti-LGBTQ, and particularly anti-trans, rhetoric, couched in terms like “grooming” and “protecting sports” that aim to paint LGBTQ people as dangerous predators rather than as fully human, and we continue to fight back.
“We know that rhetoric has consequences. We bear the brunt of those consequences. But we also know that it is nothing new. We know that we will survive, and thrive, just as we have done before. We know that a movement rooted in love – a love that we fight for, and that indeed some of us have died for – will not and can not fail.
“It also feels important to say clearly that the rise in anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and violence we see is a reaction to all the progress we have made. The very district in which Club Q is located, House District 16, just this month chose an out member of the LGBTQ community to represent it for the first time ever; in one of the closest elections of the night, State Rep-elect Stephanie Vigil won this Republican-leaning district. The choice of twelve Republicans to join their Democratic colleagues in voting to protect marriage equality in the US Senate is also a clear sign of how far we have come. Both of these votes show just how irresistible the force of a movement built on love can be. LGBTQ people, leaders, and issues are ascendant, though unfortunately we also know all too well that for every action there is a contrary reaction.
“But we also know this: We are resilient. We are strong. We will keep marching forward, even through our tears. In the end, we will pray for our dead, and we will never stop fighting like hell for the living and for a better future. And we will do so because that is what a movement grown out of love must and will always do.”
Wendy Howell is the Colorado State Director of the Working Families Party, which holds LGBTQ+ equity & justice amongst its core values. Previously, she served as a union organizer with SEIU & AFT, as the former Director of Why Marriage Matters – Colorado (the coalition for marriage equality), and as the Field Director for Betsy Markey’s 2008 Congressional campaign, which ousted anti-LGBTQ crusader Marilyn Musgrave from Congress.