As Republican lawmakers and right-wing media figures have singled out the LGBTQ community with hateful rhetoric, children’s hospitals have faced bomb threats, armed extremist groups have targeted drag-related events, and LGBTQ individuals have been murdered, most recently in a mass shooting that left five dead.
On Nov. 19, a 22-year-old gunman killed at least five people and injured 25 others at a gay nightclub in Colorado Springs before patrons confronted him together and disarmed him.
Police have said that they are investigating the shooting at Club Q as a hate crime; it’s also the deadliest attack on LGBTQ people in the United States since the Pulse nightclub shooting in 2016. The shooting occurred just before midnight on Saturday, hours before Sunday’s Transgender Day of Remembrance, an annual observance that honors the memory of transgender people who lost their lives to anti-transgender violence.
In a statement on social media, Club Q said it was “devastated by the senseless attack” on their community. The club also thanked “the quick reactions of heroic customers that subdued the gunman and ended this hate attack.”
The venue also called out those who “spread disgusting rhetoric and encourage violence” and urged them to “stop this behavior immediately before more people get hurt.”
This year alone, Republican lawmakers across the country have introduced more than 200 anti-LGBTQ bills in 39 states, according to a legislative tracker from Freedom for All Americans and the Equality Federation. These include Republicans’ controversial “Don’t Say Gay” bill in Florida, which prohibits kindergarten through third grade public school teachers in the state from holding classroom instruction or discussion about sexual orientation or gender identify. Many of the other pieces of discriminatory legislation focus on targeting transgender children specifically and their ability to play sports and receive gender-affirming health care, which has been shown to save lives.
In addition to introducing these bills, Republican lawmakers have also engaged in hateful rhetoric. Colorado Congresswoman and gun-rights activist Lauren Boebert used slurs to describe transgender people and called the Equality Act “gay supremacy.”
Right-wing media figures like Tucker Carlson and anti-LGBTQ social media accounts like the Libs of TikTok have also engaged in dangerous rhetoric and spread lies about members of the LGBTQ community—to devastating effect.
An independent analysis by the research group Crowd Counting Consortium found that right-wing demonstrators have escalated their attacks on the LGBTQ community considerably in the past year. For example, the white nationalist organization the Proud Boys have used intimidation tactics to disrupt a number of drag events in Texas, Oregon, and Nevada.
Children’s hospitals across the country are also facing growing threats of violence, largely driven by an online anti-LGBTQ campaign attacking the facilities for providing care to transgender kids and teens.
And just days before the shooting at Club Q, the National Center for Transgender Equality released a report stating that at least 47 transgender people were killed in the past year.
According to Jay Brown, senior vice president of programs, research and training for the Human Rights Campaign, it’s impossible to divorce these threats and acts of violence from the hundreds of pieces of legislation that he called “state-sanctioned efforts to limit LGBTQ rights.”
GLAAD President and CEO Kate Ellis also spoke out against these efforts saying that “you can draw a straight line from the false and vile rhetoric about LGBTQ people spread by extremists and amplified across social media, to the nearly 300 anti-LGBTQ bills introduced this year, to the dozens of attacks on our community like this one.”
The past year hasn’t totally been filled with negative milestones, however. A record number of LGBTQ candidates both ran for office and won their elections in this year’s midterms. Four hundred and thirty-six LGBTQ candidates won their respective elections, a 60% win rate, according to the Victory Fund, an American political action committee. This is an increase from the record of 336, set in 2020. And, there are still some races with LGBTQ candidates yet to be called.