Content Warning: This article contains mention of gun violence, homophobia, transphobia, and death.
A shooting at the Colorado Springs LGBTQ+ nightclub Club Q killed five people and injured another 17 on Saturday, Nov. 19. Just before midnight, a shooter entered the room and a place of music and dancing became the site of hateful violence.
In the wake of this tragedy, the Princeton Graduate Student Government (GSG) and Intersecting Queer Identities (IQI)/Queer Graduate Caucus (QGC) hosted a vigil behind the Fountain of Freedom on Thursday, Dec. 1 in remembrance of the victims. Attendees expressed distress over the events that occurred and emphasized the message that the LGBTQ+ community is one of inclusion and love.
Amari Tankard, the GSG Diversity Equity and Inclusion chair, organized the vigil.
“Our hearts are with family and friends and loved ones who are grieving,” Tankard said on behalf of GSG. “But our hearts are also sorry and sad for [those] who are here to remember their memories.”
Tankard emphasized the need for equality and hope to persist, especially amid tragedy and violence.
“Our community deserves to live, our community deserves joy, and that was stolen from many of us,” she continued. “What we are trying to say now is that hope doesn’t die.”
The person suspected of the attack faces preliminary charges including five counts of first-degree murder and five counts of hate crime. Formal charges will be established at the next court hearing, which is scheduled for Tuesday, Dec. 6.
Tankard mourned the incident in Colorado that represents the continued discrimination against LGBTQ+ people and she encouraged audience members to process their grief in ways that make sense for them.
“We will try our best to remember the people who are lost with a smile on our faces,“ she said. “Because you will be lost but never really forgotten if people are smiling for you.”
Graduate student Glen Chua shared a statement with the audience from the IQI/QGC that expressed a similar outlook.
“Give yourself some grace and take the time you need,” he said. “We stand firmly against those that propagate hate and violence towards marginalized groups.”
Tankard and Chua invited everyone to participate in singing the first and last verse of Amazing Grace.
At the end of the event, audience members spoke in an “open-mic” style about their own experiences as people who identify as LGBTQ+ and their thoughts regarding this incident.
The Daily Princetonian granted these individuals anonymity due to the private, personal, and sensitive nature of the accounts.
“When I was 16, I came out and for a year I was homeless,” one student said. “I didn’t have a community in the place I grew up, and then I found the queer community. Every time I’m down they bring me up, and that’s what I’m most proud of.”
This student described their immediate reactions to the tragedy in an interview with the ‘Prince.’ They cited both lax gun laws and hesitation to accept the LGBTQ+ community as the root causes.
“To me it was just another example that we need to keep this conversation [going] until action happens,” they said. “Until we don’t have these incidents anymore.”
This individual also conveyed their gratitude for their positive experience with the queer community at the University.
“I feel very supported,” they said. “For the first few years I was here, I met the love of my life, and I have made lifelong friends that I know will be in my life after I graduate.”
Queer clubs that exist around the country serve as safe spaces for queer people to gather. A second audience member recalled a recent visit to a queer club in New York.
“Those spaces are so special and important, and I am so incredibly grateful for the[se] spaces and the community,” they said. “Things like this are really hard to see and accept.”
“I am honored to be part of the queer community, because more than any other group on the planet, we fight hate and negativity with joy and laughter,” another attendee said.
Rebecca Cunningham is a news and podcast contributor for the ‘Prince.’
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