We've All Been to Club Q Before
What to consider when violence breaks through.
As you probably know by now, on Saturday night in Colorado Springs, a number of queer people and their straight friends went to Club Q. A number of them didn’t make it home and the ones who did will never be the same, which is a cliché way to describe a fucking horrible event that has become an American cliché in itself.
It’s painful to see the photos and to read the quotes of people who lost friends, people trying to navigate and come to terms with the chaos and horror of the moment in real time. “I always felt protected there, no matter what,” one 18-year-old drag performer told the press.
It’s a feeling we all know. It’s why gay bars exist. To understand the pain of this for queer people is to know the history of the gay bar itself. They’re built out of necessity, a place hidden from view, behind closed doors, where people can be themselves and connect with one another, protected from the violence of the outside world. It’s a space where we can finally practice self-acceptance. The censoring we taught ourselves to survive and practice in the outside world – at work, on our commutes, with our friends, whatever – can erase with the thrill of a welcoming flag and a disco beat.
The gay bar itself is struggling in the era of dating apps and smartphones. People don’t need to depend on these places to meet, per se, but of course these spaces are still relevant and needed. It’s why Club Q was targeted in the first place. It posed a threat. For people like the gunman, it’s not enough for queer people to stay in the closet; these people want to erase our very existence.
Whenever these shootings happen – as they stupidly keep doing – I always think of the moments right before the gun goes off, the moments that feel so familiar. So of course I’ve been thinking about: Waiting in line in the cold, without a jacket because you don’t want to pay for coat check. Leaning against the bar and screaming to your friend three people back, asking what they want. Hoping they play whatever song. Laughing, always laughing.
I look toward those moments before the gunman crashes into view because that moment, and everything after, is so hard to fathom. I try to make the horror more relatable and more real, but it still boggles the mind.
I was doing this yesterday morning, grappling with the magnitude of the event, while I was reading the news on my phone in a Lyft. In an eerie moment, I realized that the morning after the Pulse shooting, I was doing the same thing, taking the same route. I had spent the night as a houseguest in the apartment where I currently live. (Our friend is our current landlord; I had had too much wine and fell asleep.) The next morning, Brad was texting me from New York about the Pulse shooting. This really is insane, he wrote. I read the news on my phone, headed across the city in a Lyft, trying to piece together the weight of what happened.
It felt like déjà vu. The disgrace is that’s exactly what it was.