Club Q: A Plea from a Colorado Queer Punk'
by Wendy Ringie
After more than 25 years of living in Colorado as an out queer person, the more I realize that it’s true. “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”
My coming out in 1997 wasn’t a process or event; it was a declaration of war. I knew full well what kind of potential for violence or death I was facing. In 1995, when I was turning twelve and getting an inkling that I wanted to kiss girls and boys, Scott Armedure was murdered by the straight guy he’d been crushing on. Later that year, an Oregon lesbian couple were murdered in their home who said he had “no compassion” for queer people. The month I turned thirteen, two queer women were found at their campsite on the Appelachian trial – bound, gagged, and with their throats slit. The case remains unsolved. A week after I spent Valentine’s Day praying that my 8th grade girl-crush would ask me out and terrified it would actually happen, the Olympic Park Bomber targeted a lesbian nightclub in Atlanta.
Almost a year to the day after I told my parents I was bisexual, Matthew Shepherd was tortured to death. He was murdered just a little over a two hour drive from my hometown.
To top it off, Colorado has been a historically Republican State until very recently. Amendment 2, a bill that made it legal to discriminate against the queer community, took 4 years to overturn. It took another 12 years for it to become illegal to discriminate against queer people in employment, housing, and “public accommodation.” Which is just a fancy way of saying legally, until I was in out of college, I could get kicked out of my local park or a local coffee shop for being queer.
I have never questioned my safety as a queer person living in Colorado. I know there isn’t any.
When people hear that I came out at 14, they call me brave. When they hear that I had, shortly after, had DYKE sharpied on my locker and had full two liter bottles of soda dumped on me in the bathroom and transferred schools to get away from the bullying, they call me brave. When they hear that I organized a GLBT Awareness Week at my new school my senior year, they call me brave. When they hear that I’ve been going to Denver Pride every year since college, except when during Covid and when I lived in Bumfuck, Nebraska – well, there’s a theme to their response.
What people don’t grasp is that I have been scared every day of my life since I was twelve. The difference is my brain works differently, so my flight or flight response is both elevated and almost permanently set to “Fight.” I’m not brave. I am terrified and I am unfathomably pissed.
But I thought we were getting better about queerness, both societally and politically, in Colorado. I mean, Colorado passed marriage equality before it was legal federally. Gay adoption rights were signed into law in 2007. We made the gay panic defense, the whole reason Scott Armedure died in 1995 and the defense strategy his murderer used during trial, illegal in 2020. For mean, for fuck’s sake, we elected a gay Governor!
And then Club Q happened. And of course, I thought, it happened here. Colorado has the 4th highest rate of mass shootings in the nation, and a long, deep history of queer-targeted hatred. The more things change….
Well, my tears Sunday weren’t just for the senseless slaughter of human life. They were for the nail in the coffin where hope lies. I can safely say that I did not know anyone personally at Club Q that night. But I knew why my buddy, a gay man living in Colorado Springs, took Monday off work.
Folx, I’m tired of being the brave queer. I have been fighting this fight for 25 years, terrified the entire time. It’s just a constant, subconscious dread that next time I’m targeted, it won’t be a full two liter of coke in the girl’s bathroom – it’ll be a hail of bullets when I walk down the street holding my sweetheart’s hand, or a tire iron to the skull if I wear my Pride bracelet in the wrong Uber. The fear doesn’t stop me, it never has, but that doesn’t mean I want to wind up having my own Wikipedia entry because of someone else’s hate.
Here’s a couple of statistics for you to chew on. In a 2022 Gallup poll, two thirds of Americans support queer marriage and think that same-sex relationships are morally acceptable. The PEW research center released a study this June that 64% of the U.S. support transgender rights, even if they think gender is determined by biological sex. Conversely, less than 5% of U.S. population identifies as some flavor of queer.
That means, my straight and cisgendered friends, it is time for you to be brave for us. If almost everybody who is cool with queer people are straight people, then go fight for us. Beyond voting, fight for us. Call your congressperson, and tell them you, as a straight and cisgendered person, want stronger anti-hate legislature. Go to city and county counter meetings and tell them you want criminal justice for hate crimes. Tell whatever social media company you use to shut down online hate groups. Picket the church where they preach poison disguised as “traditional morals.” Go to the PTA and say you want your kids access to books and education about queer people, by queer people, and for queer people. Give money, regularly, to groups that will support us. The queer community cannot, and should not, fight for our existence alone.
I’m going to lay down now, and cry some more. I’ll join you on the front lines in a little while.