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Meet Imani Rupert-Gordon, NCLR’s new leader

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Laughter. Full-throated, hesitancy-clearing, energetic laughter. Thirty seconds into Imani Rupert-Gordon’s inaugural phone interview with the Los Angeles Blade, the new executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights poofs away old ideas of protocol and power differentials and launches into a conversation between two humans living in a shared space.

Kate Kendell, the LGBTQ icon Rupert-Gordon is replacing at the helm of NCLR after Kendell’s 22 years of service, had a similar experience.

“Apart from her substantial resume, experience and gravitas, the thing I most remember when I first met Imani in San Jose was a smile that had a wattage unlike most I had ever seen and an open heartedness that made me feel like we had been friends for years, rather than this being our first meeting,” Kendell tells the Los Angeles Blade. “You cannot teach that kind of openness and generosity of spirit. It is something one either possesses or never gets. And she had it and that quality is one of those intangibles that marks a leader for the ages.”

Rupert-Gordon’s humor and humility are evident immediately, disarming in a context where leadership generally implies an air of assumed arrogance. But her way of being reflects an apparent larger trend in new leadership at other national LGBTQ organizations, where the character derived from lived experience is as important as a resume packed with prestigious degrees and power-punch relationships.

“Do they know that I’m a social worker?” Rupert-Gordon asked when told NCLR’s head-hunters wanted to meet her. “I went into this thinking OK, obviously they’re looking for something different and I said, so I’m just going to talk about where I think the movement is, where I think the movement should go next, and NCLR’s place in that,” she tells the Los Angeles Blade.

“I think what really stood out to them was my understanding of intersectional issues and the way that I look at the movement. I think it probably provided a unique perspective, as well as someone that’s not a lawyer. Something that I’ve been telling people over and over again — they have a lot of lawyers at NCLR and they are at the top of their fields. Perhaps they don’t need another lawyer. I think that they really saw and appreciated my vision. I’ve always been very impressed by the work at NCLR. NCLR was created to be intersectional. That’s something I really value in the movement, and so, I feel really good about moving to this organization.”

Imani Rupert-Gordon with sister Maya Rupert (Photo from Maya Rupert’s Facebook page, Jan. 19, 2017)

In fact, NCLR is kind of a family thing. Rupert-Gordon’s straight sister Maya Rupert, a 2006 graduate of Berkley Law School, joined NCLR in 2010 as federal policy director because of her sister.

“My work for the LGBT community came from my sister and wanting to do something that would be meaningful and impact a number of lives, hers included,” Rupert told Hello Beautiful. “The question that NCLR always asks is who’s being left out of the conversation, so this is an organization that’s specifically being active about being proactive for people who are a part of marginalized communities and so many other issues that we talk about and think about.”

Rupert took that fight against discrimination through an intersectional lens to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development where she became a Senior Policy Advisor to HUD Sec. Julian Castro. She pointed out, for instance, that while the seemingly neutral Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing based on race, color, religion and other categories, it does not include protection for people with a personal criminal background.

Rupert – a widely honored writer with such essays as “Imagining a Black Wonder Woman,” “This ‘cool black girl’ is gone,” and “Nothing defensible about DOMA” –subsequently became Castro’s campaign manager when he announced his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020.

When Rupert-Gordon settles into her new San Francisco-based job next March, she will be leaving Chicago and coming home to California. Born in Bedford Heights, Ohio 40 years ago last April 17, Rupert-Gordon grew up in Yucca Valley.

“My experience was very much in the Joshua Tree, Yucca Valley County where I grew up, went to elementary school and high school,” she says. Upon graduation, she went to school near San Diego until her sister went to UC Santa Barbara. “I transferred to UC Santa Barbara with her by the winter. My sister and I are very, very close,” she says.

After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in sociology, Rupert-Gordon went to the University of California, Santa Cruz, where she worked in residential life for almost eight years, lectured, and cofounded the Social Fiction Conference, which uses science fiction as a lens through which to view bias and injustice.

Though happy there, she started thinking about going to graduate school. “When I was thinking about what it is that I loved, I really enjoyed working with folks as they’re sort of working through things themselves,” something she experienced as a student navigating life without a cohesive bridge between her academic and non-academic worlds.

Rupert-Gordon intended to get her master’s degree in social work through an online program but her then-girlfriend, now wife Derah (38) encouraged her to go to graduate school and have a great experience as she had. Derah promised to move with her to a big city where advertising jobs were more readily available than in Santa Cruz.

Imani Rupert-Gordon with wife Derah Rupert-Gordon (Photo courtesy Rupert-Gordon)

“When there’s this person you want to spend your life with who just wants more for you than you do with yourself in that moment — and that’s how I really thought of that — we went to Chicago,” where she earned her master’s degree from the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration.

But upon graduation, Rupert-Gordon found it hard to find a job. She landed at Broadway Youth Center providing therapy to LGBTQ youth. But she grew restless. “I felt like I still had things to give, but I didn’t feel like the things that I had to give were as unique in such a way that no one else could do that,” she says.

Fortuitously, the executive director of Affinity Community Services — the nation’s oldest Black LGBTQ social justice organization — was leaving and encouraged her to take the job. She’s been there for four years.

Now Rupert-Gordon thinks she has something to give the national movement.

“I think that as we’re working to do more inclusive and more intersectional work, that I have something to provide here,” she says. “I’m really excited about working specifically at a law firm where we’re going to be integrating litigation and legislation and policies and public education. I think working to create an integrative approach is something that social workers do often. So, I’m excited to bring that perspective to NCLR.”

That includes frank discussions about social justice issues.

“I’ve experienced overt racism before,” though that experience is not always as relevant to the way she approaches race politics, Rupert-Gordon says. “Overt racism is sometimes easier to confront because most people understand overt racism as racism. For instance, if someone says ‘the N-word,’ most people recognize that as racism.

“What I experienced growing up,” she continues, “is people explaining that ‘You’re not like other Black people, you’re cool,’ or saying something like, ‘You don’t sound Black.’ I knew that these people were trying to compliment me, but it didn’t feel like a compliment. What they were saying hurt and I didn’t always have the language to explain why it hurt.

“Systemic and institutional oppression often requires a more thoughtful and nuanced analysis because not everyone recognizes it as oppression,” Rupert-Gordon says. “I’m interested in the systems in place that support oppression. For example, the G.I. Bill made it possible for folks to really buy homes for the first time, but loans from the FHA were given to people based on race and subsequently the equity in those homes were then attached to race—and that is just one example of how generational economic mobility is attached to race in this country.

“So when people talk about people with low incomes being ‘lazy,’ I’m frustrated because there is something systemic being ignored —and that is not a little thing. That’s a big thing. And that narrative is untrue, and dangerous,” she says. “So when I think of racism, or any oppression, I don’t necessarily think about individual events that happened to me but systematic ways that people experience oppression based on identity. I’m not saying that racism is the exact same as heterosexism or sexism. I’m saying that we are missing something if we don’t think about the institutional, systemic dynamic.”

And, says Rupert-Gordon, “if we don’t consider institutional oppression within the LGBTQ movement, then folks that experience multiple jeopardy or oppression because of multiple parts of our identity, will not be able to fully benefit from the wins of the LGBTQ movement. Our movement has to be intersectional if we are going to achieve equality.”

Rupert-Gordon had to use her own critical thinking to grasp the concept of “intersectionality.”

“It’s an experience I had growing up [in Yucca Valley] that I didn’t have a word for. When I think about my first understanding of intersectionality,” she says, “it was when we were talking about the Constitution,” and the different times Black people and women were given the right to vote. “They had this conversation as if there were no Black people that were women, and I was the only one, and I think that’s how my teacher at the time was just talking about that.

“I remember being incredibly confused — when does that mean that I would be able to vote?” Rupert-Gordon continues. “I just realized that I didn’t know how to ask the question, and I was the only one that would’ve asked the question. I knew that I was the only one that was having this experience.”

Later, she learned the term “intersectional,” a term developed in 1989, that became “really everywhere for me,” and still is.

People under-represented identities are talked about “as if we can segment the parts of our identity and we can talk about it, just one thing,” Rupert-Gordon says. “The thing is — I can’t talk about being a queer person without my experience being a Black woman. All of those things happen together. And so, when the expectation is for me to separate it, that’s not something I can do.” She wants to talk about “how someone can bring their entire self, their entire experience and be represented in this movement.”

But, Rupert-Gordon adds, “representation is important, but representation doesn’t shift cultures. It doesn’t change institutions. It doesn’t shift the power dynamic. And so, it would mean putting the education in schools [and] changing the culture fundamentally,” realizing, for instance, that while history is a mandatory course, Black history is an elective.

“I’m a Black, queer woman. There was definitely a time in the feminist movement that I wasn’t included in that. When we looked back on the first and second waves of feminism, many of us are ashamed that it looked the way that it did, and when we think about being inclusive about what our feminism looks like, we have an opportunity to mention that are learning from the past, and we are including more,” says Rupert-Gordon. “I’m sympathetic when folks explain that they feel like they’re going to be left out of the movement because, the thing is — many of us have been left out of a movement, and we are sometimes just terrified that that will happen again, that we would be ignored in the movement.

Rupert-Gordon is blunt. “There is enough equality to go around, and that’s what I want to make sure that we are paying attention to — that we’re all going to be better when we’re all better,” she says. “Once upon a time, my Blackness made someone question how much of a woman I could be. Any time you’re in a situation where you’re having people question your gender or if you belong somewhere, then that hurts all of us. Our feminism and our movement has to be thoughtful around that.”

The “future core for our movement,” she says, “absolutely has to become a racial justice movement. It has to become an economic justice movement. It has to become a gender justice movement. It doesn’t help when we are working to fight for protection and to provide support and liberation for all LGBTQ folks if people aren’t able to fully access them because they experience racism or they don’t have the economic power to utilize or appreciate what’s happening. We have to work with folks that are at the margins, people that are experiencing discrimination at multiple levels. Because when we start working with folks that are experiencing the most amount of discrimination, if we start from those folks, everyone will benefit from what we do.”

Rupert-Gordon says she doesn’t have all the answers but she knows it starts with working in coalition, with everyone working to achieve the same goal. But it’s more, going beyond inclusion.

“Inclusion is getting everyone to the table,” she says. “It’s providing perspective. But it doesn’t get that power shift. That is what’s going to need to happen. We’re going to need to shift power” to create a movement that’s more economically just, more gender inclusive and picks leaders who “can actually lift up our entire movement.”

Rupert-Gordon says she’s already having discussions about this transformation, including with NCLR’s renowned legal director, Shannon Minter.

“Shannon is also an icon, so I definitely have had conversations with Shannon about this — about sort of what’s next and being really thoughtful, really strategic in finding new ways to be successful in supporting this community,” especially since President Donald Trump has remade the judiciary to be more conservative and anti-LGBTQ.

“When we think about being more inclusive, we’re looking at a variety of things that keep folks in places of oppression,” she says. “We’re thinking about issues that people don’t necessarily think about being LGBTQ issues — things like voter suppression and criminalization of sex work. When we think about prison systems in juvenile justice and folks in foster care systems, there are many things that are keeping folks from being free.”

Kendell is “over the moon” about Rupert-Gordon leading NCLR into the future.

“What she brings is a lived experience of what we popularly call ‘intersectionality.’ It’s not an experience that is intellectual, although it might have pieces of that. It’s not an experience that is scholarly, although it likely has that. It’s not an experience that is born of empathy, although certainly there will be some of that, too,” Kendell tells the Los Angeles Blade, as if rhetorically handing off the mantle.

“It is an experience as a Black lesbian, of understanding that the world every LGBTQ person deserves is a world where every piece of themselves is integrated, seen, valued and acknowledged and appreciated,” says Kendell. “And it is a unique life experience that queer people of color possess and that is so much about where the movement is headed next that will make Imani exactly the kind of leader to keep NCLR current and relevant and to assure that the movement is a movement for the entire queer community, not just certain segments.”

Rupert-Gordon is not cavalier about the work ahead. “Trust is not something I take for granted. It’s something you have to work for,” she says. “I have a commitment to radical transparency. I want to be part of transforming our movement so that it includes more of us.”

 

 

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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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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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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Colorado

Colorado Springs mayor grateful for support, Biden offers help

Biden committed to continuing to press Congress for an assault weapons ban because “thoughts and prayers are just not enough”

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Screenshot/YouTube NBC News

COLORADO SPRINGS – In a late afternoon press briefing, law enforcement and the civic leadership of Colorado Springs spoke to reporters updating the investigation into the mass shooting at the LGBTQ+ community space Club Q late Saturday.

Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers, the state’s former Attorney General, expressed his and officials gratitude for the outpouring of sympathy and offers of support from his city’s residents and the entire Pikes Peak region.

Aboard Air Force One en route to U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters:

“Earlier this afternoon, President Biden had the opportunity to speak with Colorado Governor Jared Polis following the deadly shooting in Colorado Springs over the weekend.  The President extended his condolences and offered to provide support in any way that would be helpful. 
 
He committed to continuing to press Congress for an assault weapons ban because thoughts and prayers are just not enough,” Jean-Pierre said.

Police Hold Briefing on Colorado Springs Mass Shooting | NBC News:

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