The Colorado Springs Shooting is a Grim Reflection of Local Homophobia & Transphobia


A bracelet gifted to Nathan Silva by a friend before she left on her mission for the Church of Latter Day Saints.

A conversation with my mom I had two weeks ago on the phone:

“Your brother decided to cut his hair.”


“He was getting bullied for it. The other kids thought he looked too feminine.”


It is Nov. 20, 2022, and like many other heartbroken people across the country, I woke up to the news of another mass shooting. A 22-year-old opened fire in a LGBTQ nightclub, Club Q, in Colorado Springs, killing five and injuring 19. Two patrons subdued the shooter, preventing more deaths. 

I grew up in Monument, Colo., a truck stop town that lies on the northern border of Colorado Springs, Colo.. In 2009, my family initially moved to Colorado Springs due to military ties to Fort Carson, before we settled in Monument, one highway exit away from the Air Force Academy. 10 years later, I walked my high school graduation at the Broadmoor World Arena in the Springs, before I eagerly moved to Seattle where I started at Seattle University as a journalism student. My mom and brother still reside in Monument today. 

I am queer, but I also grew up homophobic due to my environment at school. When I was 10, the school counselor held an anti-bullying session with my class, pretty ironic in hindsight. This was where I first learned about the concept of being gay, before hitting puberty. 

“Do you know what . . . being gay means?” The counselor said it in a hushed tone like it was a dirty word. That afternoon, I learned that being called gay was an insult. I remember being butthurt when the other kids started calling me gay, while I simultaneously did not help my case when I drew large portraits of Disney princesses, Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz and Mr. Potato Head (I was a weird kid). This was before the f-slur was introduced to my class a year or two later. I like to speculate that it was probably the internet, but I would not be surprised if one of my classmates first heard it from a family member or some high schoolers on the bus. After all, one of my white classmates reportedly first heard the n-slur from her father during one of his fits of road rage. 

It was the internet that led to my sexual awakening as I started middle school. I convinced myself it was a phase, while pushing myself into a relationship with a girl—it was a very humbling experience when she came out as asexual years later. It was actually because her friend came out as bisexual that I decided to shift my views on homosexuality and the LGBTQ+ community. 

In eighth grade, my American History teacher told my class that she believed that every gay person should be imprisoned. Her favorite student called me a f** the most in high school. Good times. 

I was a confused kid. Between an unstable home environment, my mom’s Multiple Sclerosis diagnosis and school, I morphed into a pretty bitter and self-loathing teenager. Out of spite, I came out of the closet when I was 15. “I’m gonna be called a f***** either way,” I thought. I viewed my queerness as a burden, something I still struggle with today. 

I learned that I had to be louder than my conservative peers and their parents who ran the town. I learned that I had to bite back whenever I was called the f-slur, or an Asian slur (By the way, I’m not Asian, they were just bad at being racist). 

Of course, it wasn’t black and white. 

Monument has a significant Mormon population. One of my good friends grew up in the Church of Latter Day Saints, and left on her mission when I was 17. She was also a proud ally of the LGBTQ+ community and a member of my high school’s Gay-Straight Alliance Club—a club the school refused to officially recognize during its early days. I attended her farewell service at her church, despite my inhibitions against the Church of Latter Day Saints. Before the service started, she gifted me a bracelet with a pride flag weaved into it—one I have honestly been afraid to wear since then. I look back fondly at this friendship. I don’t remember if the church officials witnessed this exchange, but I remember that they included the “definition of marriage between a man and a woman” in the service. 

My last two weeks of senior year of high school were dominated by a conflict between our high school newspapers’ editorial board, where I was serving as co-Editor-in-Chief, and our newspaper advisor. Our last issue of the year featured a profile on a transgender student. Our advisor wanted to deadname the student and refer to the student by pronouns assigned at birth, arguing that we had to follow school records. The editorial board, I am proud to say, was adamant on respecting the student’s identity. This was the moment where I lost all faith in my newspaper advisor as a professor, friend and mentor figure. 

I used to look back at my experiences growing up with resentment. Whenever I visit my family on the holidays, I don’t hide my disdain for Monument and the greater Colorado Springs area. I avoid the grocery stores. I argue with my mom about my brother’s safety at school. 

Today, I look back at these experiences with sadness. 

I think about how I am 21, and how the assailant who opened fire on the Nightclub is 22.

I think about this person probably grew up homophobic, like me. Yet, I also have the privilege of a mom and brother who love and accept me for who I am. I had the privilege to move to Seattle, where I found a community who respects me. I have the privilege of staying here and exploring my identity. 

I think about the five lives that were lost that night, on the eve of Trans Day of Remembrance. May Daniel Davis Aston, Derrick Rump, Kelly Loving, Ashley Paugh and Raymond Green Vance rest in peace. 

I think about the brave people who fought against the shooter. I think about how Club Q was supposed to be one of the few safe spaces for the queer community in Colorado Springs. 

I think about this person who became so consumed with rage and hatred, they decided to do something so horrific. I think about the endless list of possible experiences that pushed them to this point.

I think about my high school bullies, and the teachers complicit in homophobia and transphobia. I think about the pain they were likely also experiencing growing up. I forgive them, but I also hope they will ultimately reflect on how their actions contribute directly to this environment of violence. 

I think about Colorado. I think about the state’s gruesome history of gun violence. 

I am saddened to say that I am not surprised this happened in Colorado Springs. I am even more saddened to say that I lack faith that the city will become any safer for the queer community.

To my peers in the LGBTQ+ community, stay strong, stay vigilant and keep standing up for each other. My heart goes out to you.