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Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Violence against the LGBTQIA+ community cannot be tolerated

We must condemn hate speech and put pressure on politicians to ensure LGBTQIA+ rights and safety

 

By THE EDITORIAL BOARD

 

On Nov. 19, five people were killed and 17 were injured in a mass shooting targeting the LGBTQIA+ community. The shooting took place at Club Q, a gay bar in Colorado Springs, a day before Transgender Day of Rememberance — a day to honor those “whose lives were lost in acts of anti-transgender violence.” 

The incident is a reminder of the long history of violence against and oppression of LGBTQIA+ people in the U.S. and has left the community mourning, including some members of the Editorial Board. Regardless of our gender or sexual identities, the Editorial Board stands united with the LGBTQIA+ community across the U.S.

Hate crimes like this shooting are a frequent occurrence, caused in part by a lack of gun control. But a bigger issue is the prevalence of violent rhetoric against LGBTQIA+ people on digital media platforms and in politics.

Hate speech online has become a common occurrence which can lead to violent actions against the LGBTQIA+ community. For example, a Twitter account known as “Libs of TikTok” is an anti-LGBTQIA+ social media presence that spreads hateful messaging and misinformation to its follower base of 1.3 million. In addition to its large following, this account is particularly dangerous because it often targets and harasses people based on gender and sexual orientation, and the comment sections of their posts share the same sentiments thousands of times over.

Kyle Rittenhouse, another outwardly anti-LGBTQIA+ online presence who gained notoriety after shooting three men at a Black Lives Matter protest, mocked an LGBTQIA+ event taking place in Colorado on his social media account just hours before the Club Q shooting took place. Rittenhouse deleted his tweet after news of the shooting broke.

Many influencers and politicians have similarly posted hateful comments towards a community and then backtracked when an incident of violence occurred. For example, Republican Representative Lauren Boebert of Colorado has spread anti-LGBTQIA+ rhetoric on Twitter, calling LGBTQIA+ people “groomers” and claiming children shouldn’t make “life-altering decisions,” referring to coming out as gay or transgender. But after the Club Q shooting, Boebert tweeted, “The news out of Colorado Springs is absolutely awful. This morning the victims & their families are in my prayers. This lawless violence needs to end and end quickly.” Democratic Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez criticized her for voting against gun control in Congress and spreading hate online and then turning around and posting a sympathetic tweet.

Anti-transgender laws across the U.S. have also contributed to the previously discussed violent rhetoric. Such laws include bans on gender affirming medical care, restricting access to the use of appropriate facilities such as restrooms, limiting trans students’ participation in sports and making it difficult to change their name and gender on official documents. Additionally, in the state of Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis passed a law known as “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which prohibits teachers in public academic institutions from holding classroom instruction about sexual orientation or gender identity. 

All of these examples normalize and contribute to the violence against the LGBTQIA+ community. Those who have contributed should take responsibility for their actions and be held accountable. Instead of sharing condolences when violent attacks do occur, they should change their actions to prevent these incidents from happening again. Additionally, it’s important for allies and members of the community to continue to put pressure on elected officials to enact policy which upholds LGBTQIA+ rights and ensures the safety of LGBTQIA+ people.

 

Written by: The Editorial Board