After deadly shooting, anger and grief weigh heavy on Colorado Springs' LGBTQ community at vigil

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Just six miles from Club Q, an LGBTQ-friendly nightclub where a lone gunman killed five people and injured 25 others, hundreds of mourners gathered at a Unitarian church on Sunday to grieve those lost in the attack and find solace in each other’s arms.

Many faces were awash with tears at All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church where locals organized the vigil. Together, those in attendance remembered the dead and reassured one another as they tried to make sense of this attack in a part of Colorado where they said it has become more difficult to be an open member of the LGBTQ community.

Outside the vigil, Shayana Dabney, 23, a Black bisexual woman said the “heartbreaking and egregious” shooting had left an indescribable sadness in the pit of her stomach.

“What is most disturbing to me is that Colorado Springs is always on the list for nicest places to live, but when you live in the city it becomes evident very quickly that that’s only the case for a very specific demographic,” she said.

Matthew Haynes, an owner of Club Q, said at the vigil that he opened the club 20 years ago when “we didn’t have a lot of rights and we needed places to have a community.”

People gather for a vigil at All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church in Colorado Springs, Colo., on Nov. 20, 2022, following a mass shooting at Club Q, a gay nightclub.
People gather for a vigil at All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church in Colorado Springs, Colo., on Sunday.Sumiko Moots / NBC News

It was a retreat in those “darker days,” he said. That darkness appears to have returned to this community, however, as it lives in the shadow of a devastating shooting that has left 11 people in the hospital.

“Never would we think this, this level of hate,” Haynes said of the shooting.

Some spoke about the city as also a victim of the senseless attack. Brandon Floyd, 28, who does not identify as LGBTQ, said he attended the vigil to pay his respects and show his support to the community deeply wounded by the gunman.

“I came to see the faces of the people who are affected by this because obviously this is a tragedy,” he said. “The city is hurt.”

People gather for a vigil at All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church in Colorado Springs, Colo., on Nov. 20, 2022, following a mass shooting at Club Q, a gay nightclub.
People gather for a vigil at All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church in Colorado Springs, Colo., on Nov. 20, 2022, following a mass shooting at Club Q, a gay nightclub.Deon Hampton / NBC News

But, according to some, the city’s pain appears to also come from an intolerance for the LGBTQ community that has developed in recent years.

As he further reflected, Haynes said that growing hatred for LGBTQ people and the prevalence of high-powered guns had created a powder keg in this area of the country. With the holidays coming up, he said it made the situation so much worse.

“Family members won’t be with their family members,” he said.

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, an openly gay man, speaking virtually at the vigil because he tested positive for Covid, called the attack devastating.

“My heart breaks for family members, friends and neighbors,” he told the packed church Sunday afternoon. “Evil will never win out over love and kindness.”

The shooting was exponentially more traumatic, the governor said, because the club had served as a safe haven for the LGBTQ community — a place to laugh and dance.

Zeth Gross, 22, knows the club’s significance better than most.

For the last four years, they were a regular at Club Q. They performed their first drag show there, and it was an oasis for them and so many others. The only reason Gross wasn’t there on Saturday night when the shooting occurred was because they’d injured their leg.

“It was the safest place I knew. It was so accepting,” Gross said outside the vigil on Sunday. “No matter what, I didn’t have to hide.”

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