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Actor Michael D. Cohen talks transition — and never keeping secrets

Nickelodeon star says, ‘I don’t see myself as coming out right now’

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Michael D. Cohen (courtesy Cohen)

One good aspect of the debate over impeaching Donald Trump: the trolls are so preoccupied flogging their Twitter foes, they’ve missed a story that could have once created a vortex of online cruelty. Instead, Michael D. Cohen, who plays “loveable genius” Schwoz Schwartz on Nickelodeon’s “Henry Danger” and its spinoff “The Adventures of Kid Danger,” is featured in a widely shared Time magazine article about his gender transition 20 years ago.

Ironically, it’s the convergence of stories about Trump, as well as the development of his one-man show about his transition that moved Cohen to disclose his personal story now.

“I don’t see myself as ‘coming out’ right now, Cohen told the Los Angeles Blade in a recent phone interview. “I’m disclosing. I’m sharing my story. But my ‘coming out’ happened almost 20 years ago. I’ve been living my life. This isn’t a coming out and I think that’s an important distinction.

“I was never secretive about my having transitioned,” says Cohen. “I transitioned in Toronto back in 2000. I was working as an actor at the time. I told my agent, went through the physical transition, and started auditioning as a man after that. People in the community that I worked with in terms of casting directors—they knew me before and they knew me after. People who were my friends, people who were other actors, everybody in my life, my family, my extended family, everybody knew. It was never a secret. In fact, I auditioned for roles that had trans characters so it was never a secret.”

After he moved to Los Angeles and started dealing with Hollywood agents, Cohen says that he was mindful of his intentions on a “continuum of disclosure.”

“To me it was a question of when is it relevant?” Cohen says. “I would have to question my intentions. Am I bringing this up because I’m afraid if they found out or am I bringing this up because it’s relevant? I always wanted to go from the place of relevance. If I was looking for representation or something like that if it was relevant, and it usually was, I would mention it.”

One time Cohen was outed because someone knew his story and recommended him for a transgender role.

“Keeping something that feels like a secret—it doesn’t feel good,” he says. “It feels like I’m attaching some sort of shame or something to it and I didn’t do that consciously. I was as open as I needed to be.”

Cohen has a completely different take on the issue some transgender people face when a straight person claims a trans person is  “deceiving” them by not disclosing.

Other than some “weird comments on the internet,” Cohen has not had that experience. “For me, and I think a lot of people in transition feel this way, that when you do share that you have a trans history, you feel more deceptive sharing that than you do just being quiet and living your life because I’m living my truth now,” Cohen says.

“If I tell you—”Hey, there was a period in my life where I felt like I was living a lie and I want you to see me through that lens of that lie”—it’s encouraging a deception but it’s a deception that’s reversed from what you’re talking about,” he says.

“The way you see me now is the truth. That’s where my authentic self lives. Whatever people expect, that’s their business. This is the truth and this is what I’m going to show up in,” Cohen says. “I think that’s confusing for people who don’t understand the nature of gender identity and being assigned a gender identity at birth that does not fit who you are. I think that coming into your truth is living it to the best you can. I’ve had the privilege of being able to live in my authentic self and present of my authentic self. Not everybody has had that privilege or had that access for whatever reason. It makes things extraordinarily difficult for a lot of those people.”

Cohen says he’s got a whole checklist for a person he might date and that does not include someone who might accuse him of deception.

Though he hasn’t been highly visible in the LGBT movement, Cohen says he volunteered as a counselor with the Trevor Project’s Lifeline about five years ago, an experience that changed his life.

“I’ve just been very passionate about helping youth and focusing on the needs of youth who are dealing with LGBT issues—whether it’s coming out or that they feel like they are miss-assigned in their gender,” he says. “Just having the privilege of be able to work on the Lifeline, that in and of itself was transformative.”

Being able to connect with such vulnerable youth, many calling from the Deep South or other deeply religious areas where they can’t be themselves—“to be literally be their lifeline is just the most profound honor and privilege.”

And while he emphasized that most of the calls were not dramatic, some were. “They were literally about to kill themselves,” Cohen says. “To be able to speak with them and spend as much time as it took on the phone and help them transform their ideas of what is possible for themselves, there’s nothing like it….It made me grateful for how fortunate I have been and grateful for what I have been given.”

Cohen pauses, recalling one kid in particular who called the next day and left a message. “He said, ‘Please tell Michael thank you for saving my life.’ I’m choking up. How do you not get changed from something like that? To touch people and to be touched in that profound way, it’s life changing.”

Several events prompted Cohen to disclose his transition, including a longtime plan to do a solo theatrical show, which has been deferred until spring 2020 by the success of his Nickelodeon show, “Henry Danger.  Another was seeing “more and more push back from the Trump administration against the rights of people with Trans experience, I started to get more and more frustrated with feeling like I didn’t have a voice,” he says.

“I’m going to be part of the fight in terms of making this administration see, to the best of my ability with other people obviously in partnership, that what they are doing is abject discrimination, it is unacceptable, and it is hurting innocent people and rolling back advances that our society has made that is bringing us back to a lesser society instead of a greater one,” Cohen says. “I’m so disturbed about it. My intention is to help people have more room to be truthful in their own expressions.”

Cohen understands that can be confusing. “The way that I see myself is: I am male. I am a man. That is my core being. That’s always been there, that I’ve always been male. That feels like the truth in that core being way of truth,” he says.

“Transgender, to me, describes the situation that I was in as a kid and partially as an adult, too. It describes the circumstance, it describes the journey, it describes the history, it describes some of the medical issues. It describes things that are more circumstantial. It does not describe my identity, it does not describe who I am in the most core basic way,” Cohen says. “I also understand that there’s a lot of people who feel differently and that really do identify with that word and that word’s so important to them and their identity and I think that’s completely valid and needs to be respected. But for me that does not fit.

“To me, I’m in alignment right now so, why would I bring up the fact that there was a huge part of my life that I wasn’t in alignment with myself useless its relevant to that conversation? Then I would say, ‘I’ve had a Transgender experience,’ or ‘I’ve had a Trans journey,’” he says. “I have spent a lot of my life taking labels that were uncomfortable for me that I felt like I had to contort to fit and I’m not willing to do that anymore.”

The actor says he may be tied up with production of his Nickelodeon show but is checking to see if he might be free to enjoy LA Pride this year.

“I love that we celebrate this annual event and that it’s called ‘Pride’ because it’s the opposite of shame,” Cohen says. “Coming out of shame and fully showing up as who we are, no matter what it is, is so important. I’m just proud to be aligned with a community of people that is willing to show up and celebrate being who they are. That’s what it’s all about.”

To see a video of Cohen’s in-production one-man show, 4 Cubits Make a Man, go to 4cubits.com.

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Texas

ACLU asks investigation of Texas school districts anti-trans policies

Frisco ISD’s new bathroom policy & Keller ISD’s ban on books referencing gender violate federal rules prohibiting sex-based discrimination

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The ACLU of Texas is calling for federal civil rights investigations into the Keller and Frisco school districts for policies they say discriminate against transgender students. (Photo Credit: Shelby Tauber for The Texas Tribune)

By Brian Lopez | DALLAS – The American Civil Liberties Union of Texas is calling for civil rights investigations into two North Texas school districts over recently implemented anti-transgender policies.

The ACLU, which filed the complaints last week, wants the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights to investigate the Frisco Independent School District for passing a policy on Nov. 14 requiring students to use bathrooms that align with their gender assigned at birth. The district said it would make accommodations for students who ask to use a private restroom.

The ACLU said Frisco’s policy would allow the district to “challenge or second-guess students’ official birth certificates.”

“It is deeply invasive and unlawful for school administrators to interrogate students’ private medical information in this way,” the ACLU said in a letter to the Department of Education. “School districts have no right to question students’ sexual characteristics such as genitalia, hormones, internal anatomy, or chromosomes.”

The ACLU also wants an investigation into the Keller Independent School District, which earlier this month passed a ban on all books that depict or reference transgender and nonbinary people.

“The policy attempts to erase the existence of transgender and non-binary individuals,” the ACLU’s letter said.

Keller ISD’s anti-transgender policy came about six months after three conservative school board members were elected onto the seven-member board. The new members, all of whom received large donations from a Christian political action committee, campaigned on issues like banning books about LGBTQ experiences from school libraries and banning critical race theory, a college-level field of study that explores the idea that racism is embedded in institutions and legal systems.

Public education advocates and Texas teachers have largely said the discipline is not part of the curriculum in Texas public schools but it has become a shorthand for conservative groups to criticize how history and current events are taught with regard to race.

The ACLU claims that Frisco and Keller’s policies violate Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits sex-based discrimination in any school that receives federal funding.

Frisco and Keller are the latest North Texas school districts to have civil rights complaints lodged against them. Earlier this year, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund filed a similar civil rights complaint against the Carroll Independent School District, based in Southlake, for failing to protect students from discrimination based on their race, sex or gender identity.

Southlake, located between Dallas and Fort Worth, came into the spotlight three years ago after a viral video of white high school students chanting a racist slur prompted community members to share stories of harassment, NBC News reported.

Neither Keller ISD nor Frisco ISD immediately responded to a request for comment.

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Brian Lopez’s staff photo

Brian Lopez is the Public Education Reporter for The Texas Tribune. He joined the Tribune in August 2021 after a covering local government at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram for a little over a year. The Star-Telegram was his first gig after graduating from the University of Texas at Arlington in May 2020 where he worked for the student-run newspaper The Shorthorn. When not on the job, he’s either watching or playing soccer.

The preceding article was previously published by The Texas Tribune and is republished by permission.

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The Texas Tribune is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues. 

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Colorado

Biden calls Club Q owners; community grapples with aftermath

Fallout over the shooting continues as anger mounts at what many in the LGBTQ+ community see as a resurgence of anti-LGBTQ+ hate speech

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Entrance to the Focus on the Family complex in Colorado Springs after the mass-murder at LGBTQ+ Club Q (Photo by Nic Grzecka/Instagram)

COLORADO SPRINGS – As the LGBTQ+ community continues to mourn the loss of the five people killed in last weekend’s mass shooting, focus is now shifting to a reflection of anti-LGBTQ sentiment that has evolved from prejudice to incitement according to Nic Grzecka a co-owner of Club Q.

In an interview with the Associated Press, one of his first since the chaos of the aftermath created by the mass-shooting, Grzecka said he believes the targeting of a drag queen event is connected to the art form being cast in a false light in recent months by right-wing activists and politicians who complain about the “sexualization” or “grooming” of children.

Even though general acceptance of the LGBTQ community has grown, this new dynamic has fostered a dangerous climate, he said.

“It’s different to walk down the street holding my boyfriend’s hand and getting spit at (as opposed to) a politician relating a drag queen to a groomer of their children,” Grzecka said. “I would rather be spit on in the street than the hate get as bad as where we are today.”

On Thursday, President Joe Biden spending the Thanksgiving holiday with the First Lady and family members in Nantucket, Massachusetts, called Grzecka and Club Q co-owner Matthew Haynes.

The President and the First Lady offered condolences and reiterated their support for the community as well as their commitment to fighting back against hate and gun violence. They also thanked the two men for the ‘incredible contributions they have made and will continue to make to Colorado Springs.’

The president told reporters enroute to Nantucket, reflecting on the mass-shooting at the LGBTQ+ club and then another mass-shooting Tuesday, at a Wal-Mart store when a night manager opened fire in a breakroom in Chesapeake, Va., killing six, and wounding at least half a dozen more, said he has plans to support a bill banning assault rifles during the lame-duck session before the next Congress is seated in January.

“I’m going to do it whenever — I got to make that assessment as I get in and start counting the votes,” Biden said

As the memorial outside Club Q grows, more attention is now being focused on the needs of the survivors and others in the LGBTQ + community in Colorado Springs affected by the mass-shooting.

An annual ‘Friendsgiving’ feast for the members of the LGBTQ+ community unable to spend time with relatives because of their being LGBTQ+ and which was normally held by the owners and staff of Club Q was shifted to a community dinner at the Colorado Springs MCC Church.

In an Instagram post, earlier in the week, Grzecka thanked Colorado Governor Jared Polis, state Attorney General Phil Weiser, Colorado Springs Police Chief Adrian Vasquez and city councilmember Nancy Henjum whose district the LGBTQ+ club is located, “for your hard work to ensure there was a Crisis Center to service the Club Q and Colorado Springs community during the holiday.”

Fallout over the shooting continues as anger mounts at what many in the LGBTQ+ community see as targeted hate amplified by a resurgence of anti-LGBTQ+ hate speech online and by right-wing media outlets and far-right figures such as Fox host Tucker Carlson.

Colorado Springs is also home to Focus on the Family, one of the largest anti-LGBTQ+ groups in the United States. The Christian ministry group has opposed same-sex marriage, LGBTQ+ service in any branch of the U.S. armed forces and continues to advocate for the discredited practice of conversion therapy.

Late Thursday person or persons unknown vandalized the sign at the main entrance to the group’s headquarters complex. “We went out there to investigate if there was a crime that took place,” Colorado Springs Police Department spokesperson Sgt. Jason Ledbetter told the Gazette regarding the overnight incident. “There is no suspect information at this time.”

In a Instagram post, Club Q owner Grzecka displayed a picture of the vandalized sign with graffiti spray painted in black reading; “Their blood is on your hands five lives taken.”

In his message accompanying the picture, Grzecka noted:

Focus on the Family moved to our city in the 90’s, was a large group behind pushing through amendment 2 along with Colorado for family matters. People such as Dr. James Dobson and Will Perkins have spread a nasty, false and hurtful narrative about our LGBT community.

Amendment 2 was passed in 1992, and Colorado Springs ( El Paso county) were the votes to pass the amendment, the same amendment that gave our city the nickname “hate city USA”

Words have consequences and your continuous false narrative about the lgbt community has consequences,
@focusonthefamily this message added to your sign has more truth to it than you may actually be able to understand.

This is not vandalism this is not an attack on Christian’s. This message is just that a message that was delivered in a way to ensure you receive it.

@cityofcos, Mayor Suthers when can we meet to discuss how this type of Anti Gay speech, is coming from our own backyard.

The Gazette also reported that people from around the nation are holding in-person and online fundraisers for victims and families of the Club Q mass shooting. 

While the state has an official online donation site, the Colorado Healing Fund, a private online drive, also has become one of the largest appeals.

Good Judy Garage in Denver, an LGBTQ business, raised $25,000 in two hours after starting a GoFundMe drive on Sunday. The initial goal was upped to $50,000 and now is at $750,000, as donations continue to pour in. As of Friday, the amount collected was $761,707 raised.

Link to the GoFundMe: https://www.gofundme.com/f/support-for-the-club-q-families-and-survivors.

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Colorado

Club Q suspect in court, friend says never claimed to be nonbinary

He told NBC 9 News that he informed investigators the suspect made several hateful comments toward the LGBTQ community

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Booking photo via Colorado Springs Police Department

COLORADO SPRINGS – The person police say murdered 5 people and is responsible for injuring 25 others appeared in a El Paso County, Colorado court Wednesday via a video link from the county’s detention center.

Slumped over in a chair in a yellow-gold jail issued jumpsuit and mumbling answers to the judge’s questions, suspect Anderson Lee Aldrich visibly bore the marks of the beating received by U.S. Army veteran, Major Richard Fierro, and U.S. Navy Information Systems Technician Petty Officer Second Class Thomas James, in the struggle by both to disarm Aldrich.

Fierro’s daughter Kassy’s longtime boyfriend and “affectionate member” of the Fierro family, 22-year-old Raymond Green Vance, was killed in the shooting. Fierro the owner of a local microbrewery along with Petty Officer James, who was shot in the struggle and hospitalized, were able to disarm the suspect.

Multiple media outlets reported that another Club Q patron, a trans woman, then joined in the courageous takedown, removing a high-heeled shoe and smashing the spike into the shooter’s face and head.

In a statement released Tuesday, the U.S. Navy confirmed that James was in hospital but added that “is currently in stable condition and we remain hopeful he will make a full recovery.”

Wednesday tweet of booking photo of suspect in Club Q mass shooting released by the Colorado Springs Police Department and the El Paso County Sheriff’s Department.

Known as an advisement hearing to inform a person suspected of a crime of the charges and also potential bail requirements, Joseph Archambault, the chief trial deputy for the Office of the Colorado State Public Defender and Michael Bowman, another state public defender, appeared with the suspect as Judge Charlotte Ankeny set the first in-person appearance in court for 8:30 a.m. Dec. 6 and ordered Aldrich held without bail.

Included in the court documents, the suspect’s defense team noted: “Anderson Aldrich is non-binary. They use they/them pronouns, and for the purposes of all formal [court] filings, will be addressed as Mx. Aldrich.”

The Gazette reported District Attorney Michael Allen said following the advisement hearing, that Aldrich’s identity as nonbinary would not impact how the District Attorney’s Office prosecutes the case.

“His legal definition in this proceeding is ‘the defendant,’” Allen said.

NBC 9 News Denver correspondent Kelly Reinke reported that a recent neighbor of the suspect said he spent hours talking to the FBI on Tuesday morning. He told Reinke that he informed investigators the suspect made several hateful comments toward the LGBTQ community.

“Just expressed he didn’t like the LGBTQ community,” said Xavier Kraus, a neighbor of the accused shooter, said he and his girlfriend lived across the hall from Aldrich and his mother until September. “And pretty sure at one point he expressed he hated the LGBTQ community, he hated gays.”

Kraus said he specifically remembered one time “Aldrich vocalized verbally using a derogatory term for them [LGBTQ people].” He added that many other “outbursts” were “racial.”

“This is not the type of person I would take around my gay friends,” he said. 

Kraus told NBC 9 News he and Aldrich became close friends last year. They bonded over tech and video games. Kraus added that Aldrich never mentioned being nonbinary in their times together.

“If I knew what he was going to do what he did, I would have done something. I would have said something. I just didn’t know,” Kraus said.

KFMB-TV CBS News 8 San Diego spoke with the biological father of the suspect, a former federal inmate and adult porn actor Aaron Brink, 48, who told News 8 “we’re Mormons, we don’t do gay!” He added that his ex-wife called him from Colorado in 2016 to tell him their son, Nicholas Brink, had changed his name to Anderson Aldrich, and had killed himself.

Then, two days ago, Brink got a call from his son’s defense attorneys, telling him Aldrich was involved in a shooting at an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs, News 8 reported.

Brink said he’s a Mormon and his first reaction was to question why his son was at a gay bar.

“You know Mormons don’t do gay. We don’t do gay. There’s no gays in the Mormon church. We don’t do gay,” Brink said.

“They started telling me about the incident, a shooting… And then I go on to find out it’s a gay bar. I got scared, ‘Shit, is he gay?’ And he’s not gay, so I said, phew… I am a conservative Republican,” Brink said.

He told News 8 his ex-wife, the daughter of California State Assemblyman Randy Voepel, and his son moved to Colorado around 2012.

Laura Voepel, Aldrich’s mother, had been arrested for arson and a series of probation violations according to an emerging portrait of the alleged shooter pieced together by CNN.

CNN also reported that Voepel called police last year and reported Aldrich had entered the Colorado Springs house she was renting a room in and threatened her with a homemade bomb.

Several hours after the initial police call, the local sheriff department’s crisis negotiations unit was able to get Aldrich to leave the house. Authorities did not find any explosives in the home, the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office said.

Aldrich was arrested and booked into the El Paso County Jail on two counts of felony menacing and three counts of first-degree kidnapping, according to a 2021 news release from the sheriff’s office.

It was not immediately clear how the bomb threat case was resolved; the Colorado Springs Gazette reported the district attorney’s office said no formal charges were pursued in the case. The district attorney’s office did not respond to a request for comment from CNN.

Brink, who currently works as a mixed martial arts coach says he taught his son how to fight.

“I praised him for violent behavior really early. I told him it works. It is instant and you’ll get immediate results,” Brink said.

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Colorado

Club Q ‘Family’ gathers at city hall in Colorado Springs

“We are honored to share this symbol of hope, love and unity with the people of Colorado Springs in their time of sorrow”

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Club Q 'Family' gathers on the steps of City Hall in Colorado Springs on November 23, 2022 (Photo courtesy of GLAAD)

COLORADO SPRINGS – In a show of solidarity, support, and love for its LGBTQ+ community devastated by the mass-shooting in the LGBTQ+ safe space Club Q last Saturday, several thousand people gathered in front of city hall in downtown Colorado Springs Wednesday.

In the rally of support was accompanied by the unfurling of a 25-foot segment of the larger LGBTQ Pride Flag that was created and displayed to mark the 25th anniversary of the first Pride flag created by Gilbert Baker, which was also displayed in Orlando after the Pulse mass-shooting.

Club Q ‘Family’ gathers on the steps of City Hall in Colorado Springs on November 23, 2022
(Photo courtesy of GLAAD)

Addressing the massive gathering, City Council Representative Nancy Henjum whose district includes Club Q, said:

This morning I am honored to serve as manager this ceremony and to represent our City Council, our Mayor, and other City Leaders. Standing with us today are(Mayor John Suthers, Police Chief Adrian Vasquez, Fire Chief Randy Royal, District Attorney Michael Allen and Jessie Pocock, the Executive Director of Inside Out and the many folks she has gathered to help make today happen.”

This flag which we are about to unfurl was designed and created by Gilbert Baker. He was the designer of the original rainbow flag. 25 years later to commemorate its anniversary Mr. Baker then worked with over 2000 volunteers to create a 1.25-mile-long rainbow flag. The flag was later cut into 25- foot sections for display and use around the world. The section we will unfurl today – section 93 — has been in dozens of ceremonies across the world. To name just a few: It appeared at The Supreme Court for the announcement of the 2015 decision for marriage equality. And as it was leaving the White House from an LGBT Presidential Reception on June 9, 2016, it was diverted from a preplanned display in New Orleans to arrive in Orlando, Florida where it was offered as a gesture of love support and healing in response to the Pulse nightclub massacre. It hung in downtown Orlando and graced a memorial ceremony for those 49 lives lost. It returns each June on the anniversary of that massacre. We receive this flag with the same gratitude that the City of Orlando did those 6 years ago.

(Photo courtesy of GLAAD)

What does the future look like for Colorado Springs and especially for the LGBTQ+ community? There is so much love and support for you here today. We MUST continue that for the days, weeks, years, and lifetimes to come – especially for queer people of color and for transgender people. We heard from many of you yesterday in this very building that you don’t feel safe, you don’t feel respected – that we must do better. Yes – we MUST do better. We WILL do better. And we will start with our display of support by unfurling this flag on our historic 1904 building.

In hearing the story of the journey of this sacred cloth from its custodian Mark Ebenhoch, we learned of its incredible healing power. Flags are important symbols that express identity, community, and solidarity. SO NOW – Let’s call this flag down from the top of our City Hall. All together let’s say: LOVE BEATS HATE! LOVE WINS!

Jessie Pocock, the executive director and CEO of Inside Out Youth Services LGBTQ noted, “As Colorado Springs mourns, we are heartened that this historic flag has been offered for display. We are grateful for this incredible demonstration of compassion.”

The flag, measuring 14 by 25 feet, is one section of the historic Rainbow25 flag sewn together by Gilbert Baker in Key West, Fla., in 2003 to create a 1.25 mile long flag in the original eight colors (versus the six colors that became more common). That flag marked the 25th anniversary of the 1978 flag originally created by Baker. The Sea to Sea Flag was later cut into sections, and Section 93 is preserved as the Sacred Cloth. It has traveled the globe to be displayed at celebrations, occasions of mourning, and historic moments.

“We are honored to share this symbol of hope, love and unity with the people of Colorado Springs in their time of sorrow,” said Mark Ebenhoch, Sacred Cloth Project director.

The person alleged have committed the mass-shooting is scheduled for a video “Advisement Hearing” later today. In response to the court documents filed Tuesday in which defense lawyers alleged that the suspect is non-binary, GLAAD responded in an emailed statement:

“GLAAD stands in full solidarity with the Club Q family devastated by the heinous and horrific acts of a mass murderer. As our community has said from the beginning, regardless of the motive, the LGBTQ community has been, and continues to be, under attack. As we wait for evidence and information to emerge, what we do know is that this violent and unspeakable crime, which clearly targeted LGBTQ people, illustrates two facts:

One, the epidemic of anti-LGBTQ rhetoric, especially anti-transgender rhetoric, is infecting every part of America, created by politicians in their crass drive for power, parroted by right-wing media outlets, and amplified by social media platforms who prioritize profits over public safety. And two: assault weapons continue to senselessly end American lives and we need common-sense gun safety reform now.

In fact, newly released GLAAD polling now shows a worsening climate for LGBTQ people: 72% of transgender people and 48% of the LGBTQ community overall say that the current political environment makes them fear for their personal safety.”

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Colorado

Club Q suspect claiming to be non-binary defense attorneys say

“They use they/them pronouns, and for the purposes of all formal [court] filings, will be addressed as Mx. Aldrich”

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Screenshot/YouTube KRDO 13 ABC News

COLORADO SPRINGS – The suspect in the killing of five people and the wounding of over a dozen others in the Saturday night mass-shooting at the LGBTQ+ Club Q is non-binary say attorneys in documents filed Tuesday in the 4th Judicial District and El Paso County, Colorado Combined Courts.

The Colorado Springs Gazette reported that lawyers for suspect Anderson Lee Aldrich filed a series of motions after Aldrich was released from the hospital and transferred to the El Paso County jail in downtown Colorado Springs.

Joseph Archambault, who is the chief trial deputy for the Office of the Colorado State Public Defender and Michael Bowman, another state public defender, included a footnote in the documents which read: “Anderson Aldrich is non-binary. They use they/them pronouns, and for the purposes of all formal [court] filings, will be addressed as Mx. Aldrich.”

The suspect has 10 charges stemming from the shooting. Five felony counts of first degree murder and 5 felony counts of  bias-motivated crimes causing bodily injury.

In a press briefing earlier, Colorado Springs Police Chief Adrian Vasquez said the suspect had not made any statements to CSPD investigators despite attempts to interview Aldrich.

The Gazette reported that Aldrich is scheduled to make a virtual appearance for an advisement hearing at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday in 4th Judicial District Court. There is no date set for the suspect’s first in-person court appearance. 

According to the Gazette the six motions filed by the defense include a motion to unseal the arrest affidavit for the defense, a motion to limit pretrial public comment, a motion to provide ongoing disclosures to the defense, a motion for the court to prohibit ex parte search warrants by law enforcement, a motion for preservation of discoverable materials, and a motion demanding a preliminary hearing. 

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Colorado

Black queer lawmaker speaks out: ‘Hell yes, I support trans youth!’

Herod, who grew up in Colorado Springs, is the first Black LGBTQ person to hold office in the Colorado General Assembly

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Rep. Leslie Herod (Screenshot/YouTube Denver NBC 9 News)

DENVER – State Rep. Leslie Herod (D-Denver) is calling on local officials to enforce the state’s red flag gun laws and for all to take action against hateful anti-LGBTQ rhetoric in the aftermath of the Club Q shooting that killed five.

Herod, who grew up in Colorado Springs, is the first Black LGBTQ person to hold office in the Colorado General Assembly and has been a Club Q patron for more than 20 years. 

She called the act a heinous attempt to silence the LGBTQ community.

“I’m very upset because I know that people were targeted for loving who they love, just for presenting how they present — just for being themselves and wanting to celebrate and party and find connection,” Herod said.

Herod is critical of the recent explosion of anti-LGBTQ comments, including those made and amplified by U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) about Colorado’s LGBTQ community. 

Herod herself was the target of hateful anti-LGBTQ rhetoric on Trans Day of Remembrance,  just a few hours after Club Q was attacked. 

tweet from a popular anti-LGBTQ account notorious for possibly inciting bomb threats against hospitals that provide trans-affirming healthcare earlier this year blamed Herod and another representative for supporting drag performances at venues like Club Q. 

“And just as I’m hearing the news, I get tagged by some horrible, right-wing site trying to target me for supporting trans youth. Hell yes, I support trans youth! and your threats and trolls won’t stop me from ALWAYS standing up against hate,” Herod tweeted back.

Hatred toward the LGBTQ community continues to be a hot button topic in politics, sharply dividing the Republican right and Democratic left. This politicized divide, Herod says, both shelters and fuels violent rhetoric against the LGBTQ community. 

“They’re the ones who embolden, indoctrinate and groom young people to have this hate in their hearts and think it’s OK to walk into a club and shoot people simply for who they are,” Herod said.

Colorado’s red flag gun law should have prevented the gunman, who has a history of bomb threats and making threats of physical violence, from easily buying the two firearms used in the Club Q attack but didn’t.

Herod says that El Paso County, where Club Q is located, is part of the problem. El Paso County declares itself a “Second Amendment county” and largely refuses to enforce gun regulations.

Herod co-sponsored Colorado’s Red Flag Gun Law, HB19-1177, which  Gov. Jared Polis signed into law in April 2019. But since the bill went into effect in January 2020, Herod says it hasn’t been enforced. 

“We have local law enforcement that have said very publicly they refuse to enforce it,” Herod said.

Because the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office refuses to enforce the state’s red flag law, Herod hopes the Department of Justice and federal law enforcement will step in.

It is El Paso County Sheriff’s Office’s explicit policy not to petition for an Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO) or Temporary Risk Protection Order (TRPO) to remove firearms from at-risk people. A 2021 Colorado Department of Law report found that ERPO petitions filed by law enforcement are granted 85% of the time, while only 15% of petitions filed by others are granted. 

Only seven petitions for ERPOs were filed in El Paso county in fiscal year 2020 according to the Colorado Judicial Branch Annual Statistical Report.

“I hope that those law enforcement agencies that refuse to do anything and to implement the red flag law get sued,” Herod told the Blade. 

Recovery for Club Q, which is closed indefinitely, and the LGBTQ community, both in Colorado Springs and nationwide, lies ahead. Only time will tell when that healing will begin. Herod continues to support the LGBTQ community throughout Colorado, the families of the victims, and those who survived.

“My hope is that we use this moment to continue to be ourselves, continue to speak out, continue to live our lives as fully as we want and can imagine. And when we’re ready, I hope we rebuild.”

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