Gay club owner: Shooting comes amid new ‘kind of hate’

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — The co-owner of the Colorado Springs gay nightclub where a gunman turned a drag queen’s birthday celebration into a massacre said he believes the shooting that killed five people and wounded 17 others is a reflection of anti-LGBTQ sentiment that has evolved from prejudice to incitement.

Nic Grzecka’s voice was tinged with exhaustion as he spoke to The Associated Press Wednesday night in some of his first comments since Saturday night’s attack at Club Q, a place Grzecka helped build an enclave that kept the LGBTQ community in conservative-leaning Colorado Springs. .

Authorities have not said why the opening suspect opened fire on the club before being held up by patrons, but they are facing hate crime charges. The suspect, 22-year-old Anderson Lee Aldrich, has not entered a statement or spoken about the incident.

Grzecka said she believes the goal of a drag queen event is related to the art form that right-wing activists and politicians have complained about the “sexualization” or “grooming” of children in recent months. While mainstream acceptance of the LGBTQ community has grown, this new dynamic has fostered a dangerous climate.

“It’s different walking down the street holding my boyfriend’s hand and spitting on (instead of) a politician hooking up a drag queen with his kids’ hair salon,” Grzecka said. “I’d rather be spat on in the street than hate getting worse like we are today.”

Earlier this year, Florida’s Republican-dominated legislature passed a bill that would prohibit teachers from discussing gender identity or sexual orientation with younger students. A month later, references to “pedophiles” and “grooming” in relation to LGBTQ people increased by 400%, according to a report by the Human Rights Campaign.

“Lying about our community and turning them into something they’re not creates a different kind of hate,” Grzecka said.

Grzecka, who began mopping floors and bartending at Club Q in 2003 a year after it opened, said she hopes to channel her pain and anger into figuring out how to rebuild the support system for LGBTQ community in Colorado Springs that only Club Q had provided.

City and state officials have offered support, and President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden contacted Grzecka and co-owner Matthew Haynes on Thursday to offer their condolences and reiterate their support for the community, as well as their commitment to fight hate and guns. violence

Grzecka said Club Q opened after the only other gay bar in Colorado Springs at the time closed.

After becoming a co-owner in 2014, Grzecka helped turn Club Q into not just a nightclub, but a community center—a platform to create a “chosen family” for LGBTQ people, especially for those who were moving away from their birth family.

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