Everything about the Club Q shooting is political

The shooting evokes conversations on LGBTQ+ acceptance and gun control


Courtesy of the 19th

Mourners gather in Colorado Springs to mourn the victims of the Club Q shooting.

Addison Schmidt, Assistant Environment Editor

On Sunday, Nov. 20, five families woke up for the first time without their relatives. While gun violence in all forms is abhorrent and devastating, the shooting at Club Q in Colorado Springs, CO, on the night of Nov. 19, was especially harmful to members of the LGBTQ+ community. Club Q is known as a safe space for the overwhelmingly conservative city’s queer community, leading many (including prosecutors who have now charged the 22-year-old suspect with both murder and hate crime charges) to believe that the motivations behind the shooting were anti-LGBTQ+ sentiments.

In the days following the shooting, however, many conservative pundits across media outlets expressed outrage at the mere suggestion that the anti-queer rhetoric frequently espoused by conservative politicians and media likely inflamed and motivated the shooter. In a society where 155 anti-transgender laws were introduced in state legislatures across the country in the first ten months of 2022 alone, the argument that a deadly mass shooting occurring at a queer nightclub could exist in a realm outside of conservative monsterization rhetoric is absurd.

Many of those who oppose gun control measures — especially on the right — explain the issue away as a “mental health problem.” It is ironic that many of those same politicians then do not support expanding access to mental health care in this country through measures such as universal health insurance policies. 

While the mental health of millions of Americans should be a top priority for politicians, especially after the rise in mental health issues as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the refusal of legislatures at all levels of government to pass mental health initiatives indicates what many of us already knew; conservatives use mental “mental health” as a straw man to distract from the fact that widespread access to weapons designed to kill leads to more death. 

Policy choices are directly responsible for the continuation of the United States’ gun violence epidemic. 

When it comes to the shooting at Club Q, however, anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric exists amongst many conservatives. Just two weeks ago, 8 days before the shooting on the night of Friday, Nov. 19, Fox News host Tucker Carlson had a teenager that is suing the doctors who performed gender-affirming surgery on her before she chose to de-transition on his prime time show. The conservative fear-mongering surrounding “trans ideology” and “mutilation” (in Carlson’s own words) is a textbook example of a moral panic given that studies have shown less than 3% of transgender people later de-transition. 

Carlson has doubled down on his demonization of doctors and parents who provide gender-affirming care to children mere days after the Club Q shooting. On Nov. 22, 3 days after the shooting, Carlson hosted Jaimee Michell of the anti-trans group “Gays Against Groomers” on his show, where she claimed that gender-affirming care is the culprit of the shooting. This accusation is absurd and Fox News’s choice to platform such claims only further elevates the argument that anti-trans rhetoric is to blame for violence against queer people.

Aside from Carlson’s frequent showcase of anti-trans voices, other conservative pundits appear to devote their entire livelihoods to ensuring that trans people are as miserable as possible. 

One of those people is Daily Wire reporter and podcast host Matt Walsh who has 1.1 million followers on Twitter. Walsh is so notorious for his hatred of trans people that his Wikipedia page includes an entire section on the subject. 

The day before the Club Q shooting occurred, Walsh tweeted this on Nov. 18 in response to Elon Musk’s Twitter takeover:

“The only new Twitter policy I’m interested in is one where your phone automatically explodes if you put pronouns or a Ukraine flag in your bio.” 

Aside from Walsh’s bizarre hatred of those showing support to Ukrainians currently in the midst of a war against Russia, his association of violence with gender queerness is evident given the fact that the inclusion of pronouns in a social media bio is an attempt to normalize the practice and reduce the alienation of trans people. 

I could continue to list examples of conservative media personalities and politicians who demonize trans people in particular with their words and policy goals, but the idea remains the same regardless of the specifics: many conservative politicians believe that queer people, and trans children, in particular, should not exist. 

Further evidence of the deep-rootedness of anti-trans sentiment around the country can be seen via the New York Times, a typically left-leaning newspaper, which initially published a story claiming that the trans woman who helped a veteran take down the shooter was a drag performer. While this was likely an honest mistake, the New York Times’ reliance on the account of only the veteran and their failure to appropriately fact-check his claim about the woman’s identity indicates a society that values the perspective of straight, cis men above all else.  

The term that many have used to describe violence like the Club Q shooting is stochastic terrorism. Stochastic terrorism is defined as violence that occurs likely as a result of the demonization of a particular group by another. In this case, the demonization of queer people by the right-wing media has likely resulted in the incidence of a mass shooting, although the link cannot necessarily be proven. 

Regardless of the egalitarian utopia we wish we lived in, the reality of modern American society is that gun violence is political. Mental health is political. Queer people are political. If these issues weren’t political, politicians and political commentators wouldn’t talk about them. Entire platforms wouldn’t be based around them. 

We may never know if the deplorable actions of the Club Q shooter were directly motivated by Tucker Carlson, Matt Walsh, or any other high-profile anti-trans media personality. However, the suggestion that anti-queer rhetoric leads to violence against queer people is far from outlandish and the attack on those who claim so inherently proves that point by pitting those on the left and right against one another on yet another issue with life-or-death ramifications.