INDIANAPOLIS — November 20 is recognized as Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR).
Just before midnight Saturday, a 22-year-old gunman opened fire in a gay nightclub in Colorado Springs, Colorado, killing five people and injuring 25.
The Damien Center, Indiana’s oldest and largest AIDS service organization, says it condemns "this senseless act of hate and violence, and those that stoke hatred and divide toward LGBTQ+ populations."
"It's so hard because we see this in the news all the time - all these shootings and violence, but it was so much more personal to me this morning as a gay man seeing this attack on my community," Alan Witchey, president and CEO at the Damien Center, told WRTV. "It just made me feel unsafe, it made me feel uncertain about life and about my safety. I hated feeling that way; I hated thinking I might not be safe and that's how you feel when your community is attacked."
Witchey says TDOR is about celebrating and remembering those who are no longer here, but also about recognizing the uncertainty people face.
"I don't know if this person targeted this day specifically ... having a very violent incident makes you feel less safe for sure," he said.
The Indiana Youth Group (IYG), which provides programming that empowers LGBTQ+ youth ages 12-24, says they "remain available to support all young people and provide them a safer place to process their emotions as they reel from the reminder that queer people remain the target of violence at a disproportional rate."
"We need to educate ourselves, educate our community that LGBTQ people are just trying to live like everyone else is," Chris Paulsen, IYG CEO, told WRTV. "The hate speech that happens against us every day just continues to make these events occur."
Paulsen says the shooting is a reminder that violence can happen anywhere.
"We have seen an increase in the number of people we're serving. We also see a increase in the number of people who are seeking out mental health services because of the rhetoric that they're hearing," Paulsen said. "We are working hard to provide services and case management to help those youth know that they are valued and they can be their true, authentic selves."
IYG is open during the week for youth who want a safe space to come in and talk. Youth do not need to have previously interacted with IYG and the services are free.
IYG is open:
- For youth ages 12-20 on Monday, Wednesday, Friday from 3-8 p.m.
- For youth ages 18-24 on Thursday from 4-8:30 p.m.
Indy Pride, Inc. released a statement on Twitter saying in part "waking up to the news of another mass shooting at a local LGBTQ+ gathering space, reminds us how sacred our love, lives and safe spaces are."
"To the Indianapolis LGBTQ+ community, it’s okay to be heartbroken, sad, and angry. We see you and remain committed to creating safe, affirming, and joyful spaces for you. We will not be shaken by those threatened by our ability to live openly as our truest and most beautiful selves. Take care of each other, we love you," Indy Pride Board President Jenny Boyts said in a statement to WRTV.
You can read the full statements from each organization below.
On behalf of the entire Indy Pride team, I am not only saddened and heartbroken by this horrible attack on our Colorado Springs LGBTQ+ family I am also enraged and angry.
It is easy to see the direct correlation between the false and awful rhetoric about LGBTQ+ people spread by extremists and the nearly 300 anti-LGBTQ bills introduced this year, including in our own Hoosier state, and the dozens of attacks on our queer community just like this one.
It is not lost on me that this mass shooting took place on the eve of Trans Day of Remembrance, when we honor the memory of our trans friends and family killed, this attack only deepens the trauma and tragedy for all in the LGBTQ+ community.
While we quickly organize gunshot wound training and reassess safety plans in partnership with our queer establishments and safe places to ensure we are doing everything we can to protect the Indianapolis LGBTQ+ community; we challenge and will hold accountable our allies, community leaders, and lawmakers to condemn the hateful rhetoric against our beautiful, bright, and vibrant community. This attack in Colorado Springs is exactly what happens when hateful propaganda is amplified and goes unchecked.
And to the Indianapolis LGBTQ+ community, it’s okay to be heartbroken, sad, and angry. We see you and remain committed to creating safe, affirming, and joyful spaces for you. We will not be shaken by those threatened by our ability to live openly as our truest and most beautiful selves. Take care of each other, we love you.
Indiana Youth Group (IYG) is heartbroken to hear of the shooting that took place at Club Q in Colorado Springs last night. As devastating at this news is, it is unfortunately an all-too-common occurrence. The risk of violence and hate crimes are always at the back of the mind for LGBTQ+ individuals. These risks are even more prevalent for members of our community who are of color and/or transgender, nonbinary, or otherwise gender divergent.
As far as we often feel we’ve come as a nation, hate and violence aimed at the LGBTQ+ unfortunately seem to remain constant. Tragedies such as the one that occurred last night are often fueled by hateful and defaming rhetoric aimed at the queer community in politics, the media, and everyday life. Whether intentional or not, queerphobic language and political action have a devastatingly harmful and even deadly impact. Until such hateful speech is halted and federal hate crime laws are passed to protect LGBTQ+ citizens, these tragedies will continue to occur.
It is worth noting that this shooting took place minutes before Transgender Day of Remembrance, a date when our community remembers and honors our transgender friends, family, and loved ones who have been lost to senseless violence fueled by hate and ignorance. We also recognize that these events can have a severely negative impact on LGBTQ+ young people who are already struggling and fearful to be themselves in the face of hatred and hostility. IYG is here for the young people of Indiana and encourage any who may be struggling or fearful to reach out to us or a trusted individual for support.
IYG will continue to advocate for LGBTQ+ people and fight back against discrimination and hate to make Indiana and the rest of the country a safer place for all queer people. Our hearts go out to the victims and survivors of last night’s tragedy, as well as their families, friends, and loved ones. We vow to do everything in our power to help put an end to senseless violence against our community."
“Our hearts are broken for those who lost their lives and who were injured last night during another senseless mass shooting, this time targeting the LGBTQ+ community in Colorado Springs. Damien Center condemns this senseless act of hate and violence, and those that stoke hatred and divide toward LGBTQ+ populations.
This mass shooting happened just minutes before Transgender Day of Remembrance, an annual day that celebrates and honors transgender and gender-diverse people who have lost their lives to violence. It also recognizes the countless community members who face discrimination and violence on an ongoing basis in our country and around the world.
No one should fear for their life based on who they are, yet violence and hate crimes against LGBTQ+ populations continue to be on the rise in our country. Damien Center is dedicated to being a trusted partner in providing services, education, and advocacy to anyone seeking a safe and welcoming home for care by offering support groups for transgender and nonbinary individuals, free mental health services for LGBTQ+ individuals, and gender affirming medical care. We will also continue to support and expand our services for people who identify as LGBTQ+, particularly those that identify as transgender, nonbinary, or gender diverse.
We know that according to the American Psychiatric Association, LGBTQ+ individuals are 2.5 times more likely to experience depression, anxiety, and substance misuse compared with heterosexual individuals, and violent hate crimes like the shooting at Club Q only exacerbate these issues. We encourage anyone facing anxiety, fear, or other feelings to reach out to Damien Center for assistance.”