When Nicole Garcia, a transgender Latina Lutheran pastor in Colorado, first came out, she spent her evenings exploring her gender identity at LGBTQ bars.
Drag queens at Denver drag bars taught him how to style his hair, apply makeup, and do his nails. He also performed on stage.
“It really gave me a space to figure out … how I want to express myself in the world,” she said. “The bar gave me a place where I could do this, a place where I felt safe, a place where I had friends, a place where I knew people had ‘my back’ so to speak. “
After spending the past few days in Colorado Springs offering spiritual guidance and grief support to the community following last weekend’s shooting at Club Q, Garcia says she and those she’s comforting share the same concerns.
“The Fear Is Now: Where Is Safe?”
Members and allies of the local LGBTQ community describe Club Q as one of the few places in the area where queer residents can find a safe haven to express their identity. But its significance is no outlier: The venue’s role for Colorado Springs demonstrates the larger importance of LGBTQ bar and club venues to the queer community across the country.
Gay, lesbian and LGBTQ bars have long served not only as arenas of expression for gender and sexuality, but as mourning circles, wedding venues, venues for political events, and platforms for letting loose in drag shows. Let’s work The spaces are also places for queer patrons to find what many adults seek in social spaces: the opportunity to drink and socialize with friends or find a love interest on a night out, all with less fear of harassment.
LGBTQ podcast personality Dan Savage told USA TODAY, “These are not just watering holes or drinking establishments, in some ways they are our community centers, in some ways, they are our temples where we gather to worship , where we gather in commune.” , “It’s not just the people in that location who were harmed, anyone who could have been in that location is threatened and feels less safe than they were before.”
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According to Eric Marcus, founder and host of the Making Gay History podcast, it is important not to romanticize the history of gay and lesbian bars in America, many of which previously opened under the operation of organized crime and in unsafe and unsanitary conditions.
But despite the risks, those places were something where gays and lesbians could gather and openly be themselves without fear of danger, he said.
“If you were a young single person and you didn’t already have a community, this was a place where you knew you could meet other gay people,” Marcus said.
As cultural acceptance of the LGBTQ community has changed drastically, so has the nature of these safe spaces. Cathy Renna, director of communications at the National LGBTQ Task Force, said that early gay and lesbian bars often used passwords for entry, or bouncers’ drivers to prevent harassment inside the bar from outsiders and to keep others safe from law enforcement. held the license of
“It wasn’t that long ago that these were really the only safe places for queer people to gather,” she said.
According to Renna, from the past to the present, spaces have provided not only a sense of safety, but also a sense of freedom for members of the LGBTQ community, which is often necessary to be openly queer in public spaces. Decreases the need for hypervigilance.
“You walk in and you just exhale and feel like you’re in a safe place,” she said. “You realize you are with your people.”
Colorado Springs:City worked to change its anti-gay image – then its only LGBTQ nightclub was targeted
After Club Q, the sense of safe haven is further shattered
In conservative Colorado Springs, Club Q has been a vitally important gathering place: while the city’s population has exploded in recent decades and its LGBTQ community has followed suit, queer venues have struggled to keep pace Is.
Club Q was also a venue patronized and valued by LGBTQ allies. On the night of the shooting, Richard Fierro, whose heroics in dealing with the gunman at Club Q saved the lives of other patrons, was at the club with his family to watch a family friend perform a drag show.
He told reporters, “Gay, straight, doesn’t matter. I’m straight, and my kids are straight, but we go out there and protect them because it’s about community.”
The attack on Club Q is far from the first of its kind on an LGBTQ space, such as the 2016 mass shooting at the Pulse club in Orlando that killed 49 people, and the 1973 arson at the Upstairs Lounge in New Orleans Had happened. According to Raina, the attacks in these places create fear for more than just the LGBTQ community in the affected area.
“The attack on Club Q is an attack on all of our bars, clubs, community centers, the safe spaces we’ve created,” she said. “And what it does is instill fear in people.”
The attack on a sacred space already on the fringes of a rise in anti-LGBTQ rhetoric over the past year has raised alarm in a queer community that has seen legislation targeting discussion of LGBTQ topics in elementary schools, legal debate over gender-affirming access is included. Caring for transgender and gender-nonconforming youth.
An increase in inflammatory language among politicians and other public figures that denigrate members of the LGBTQ community has also created a hostile environment that fuels anti-gay stigma and promotes bigotry.
For Garcia, her greatest fear is the result of LGBTQ people losing the safety and support from these spaces, which grew up without affirming families and accepting environments. Data from the 2022 Trevor Project survey shows that 45% of LGBTQ youth have seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, including more than half of trans and non-binary youth.
“All these kids who are victims are trying to figure out what their sexual orientation or gender identity is – they don’t really have a safe place to explore themselves and that results in negative behaviour, self-harm. habits,” Garcia said.
What does the ‘Q’ stand for in LGBTQ?:How the word ‘queer’ was reclaimed.
What does the ‘B’ stand for in LGBTQ?:Difference between bisexuality and pansexuality.
While safety concerns resurface, bars already have post-pulse precautions
Concerns about safety at LGBTQ bars have grown since Club Q — as it did in the aftermath of the most mass shootings of any venue. The Pulse nightclub tragedy prompted many venues to institute stronger security measures.
Joe McDaniel, co-owner of LGBTQ bar As You Are in Washington DC, said the space has always taken security precautions including bag checks and “constantly monitoring behavior”. He also said that his cofounder is active shooter trained, and As You Are’s staff training includes many discussions about safety.
McDaniel said the bar may revisit on the occasion of more in-depth staff training, but as you are currently after Club Q is focused on finding resources for members of your grieving community.
“We want to make sure that the people who need us know that we are here,” he said.
In San Diego, Mo Girton, owner of LGBTQ bar Gossip Grill, said his location is unfortunately no stranger to threats: Gossip Grill receives an average of one violent threat a week in the form of homophobic, transphobic or otherwise hateful customers, And there has been shooting or stabbing threats against employees, according to Girton.
“It’s something we deal with constantly,” she said. “So we don’t have the luxury of being loose on our structures.”
Audrey Corley, owner of the lesbian nightclub Boycott Bar in Phoenix, said at least one patron has told her they’ll be taking a break from LGBTQ nightlife because of Club Q.
Others who frequent these types of venues have focused on personal safety preparedness before and after the Club Cue shooting. Orlando Torres, a survivor of the Pulse shooting, said he walks into every building he walks into — from community spaces to McDonald’s — aware of its exits and on high alert for how the gunman should have escaped.
Garcia, who has felt that LGBTQ bars and clubs have the power to build personal identity and community, said the answer lies in taking precautions to reassure patrons that they can enjoy these safe havens.
“If we raise our security and are alert about what is happening around us, we will not be able to experience the present, but we have to make sure that people are safe,” she said. “The way forward is figuring out how we can recognize the fear, but not let the fear guide us.”