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Q&A: Local LGBTQ leader reflects on Club Q shooting

San Diego Pride 2022 8
Matthew Bowler
/
KPBS
San Diego Pride Parade attendees sit on the sideline of the parade to cheer marchers on, July 16, 2022.

In the wake of the mass shooting Saturday night at a Colorado Springs nightclub that left five people dead and 25 injured, local LGBTQ leaders are speaking out. San Diego Pride executive director Fernando Lopez joined Midday Edition on Monday to share his thoughts in the wake of the shooting. The interview below has been lightly edited for clarity.

This latest attack happened at what was suppose to be in a safe space — how did we get here?

Lopez: None of us are surprised. I think it's the first reaction we have seen over the last several years. Our LGBTQ community is increasingly being under threat, driven by anti-LGBTQ, anti-trans political rhetoric, and in particular, our family-friendly events have been targeted. Our drag events have been targeted, and even when you and I spoke last, there were issues happening like this all across the country. In Georgia and California, in Idaho, Texas, Indiana, Florida and — of course — we just saw a few weeks ago, one of our family-friendly youth events, LGBTQ youth events, Boo Bash, was targeted by these same sorts of groups. So, it's not surprising to our community — the rise in violence and hate speech — it has dire consequences, as we've seen.

So many people enjoy socializing at local gay bars. What do you say to them after an attack like this?

Lopez: LGBTQ bars have been a safe space and a sanctuary for our community for so long, and so the fear and the violation that we all feel is so palpable and hurtful, and it just feels like an absolute violation. So to my community, I feel you. I understand, but we're going to get through this. We can't let fear and hate win, and we are just going to keep showing up and showing up and staying in this fight, and we're going to fight for those inclusive spaces. It's not about necessarily us continuing to confront fear head on, it's also about the work of our allies. It's time that our allies step up to the forefront and stop this hateful, divisive political rhetoric that obviously has dire consequences. I think we see corporations continuing to invest in anti-LGBTQ, anti-trans legislators, and it's time for those corporations to be held accountable. Media outlets who continue to uplift the voices of extreme right wing individuals and organizations who are the same folks who are pushing these abortion bans, who are pushing anti-immigrant sentiment and xenophobia. The same folks who are fighting against critical race theory and just trying to teach about the history of our country; there is so much on the line, and our fight is the same. So if we're going to continue to have these safe spaces, if women are going to be able to continue to be able to have safe access to abortion, if we're going to be able to maintain a functioning multiethnic democracy, there is so much more work that we need to do together to confront this. It's so much bigger than just one issue.

Sunday was Trans Day of Remembrance. Tell us about that — what is the significance of the event?

Lopez: Trans Day of Remembrance is a moment to honor and remember the all too frequently ignored members of our community or our trans community. The folks who are most at risk of hate and violence and death in the LGBTQ community is our trans community, and at the intersection of the most vulnerable is our Black trans women who are killed at disproportionate rates. So Trans Day of Remembrance is an opportunity for us to honor their names, their lives, their legacy, and to recommit ourselves to the work and the road ahead to make sure that we're ending this type of hate and violence.

It's also important to know that this is also happening: We've had hundreds of pieces of anti-LGBTQ, anti-trans pieces of legislation entered into legislative bodies all across the country. Every single year has set new records for anti-trans and anti-LGBTQ pieces of legislation. That has real harm. It impacts the way we talk about each other in our classrooms and our churches and our dinner tables.

How do you personally protect yourself when you go out in public areas and events?

Lopez: I do my best, like any of us, to stay safe and stay vigilant. I'm still going to go out, I'm still going to celebrate, I'm still going to support our LGBTQ small businesses here in the heart of Hillcrest. I'm not going to live in fear, but I know that everyone's just that much more on edge, a little more cautious as we go out. You stick together and you hope for the best. You're vigilant of exits and you try to look for any sort of suspicious behavior, but at the end of the day, you're out having a drink with your friends, you're letting your guard down. That's your safe space. You're not supposed to worry about those things. Orlando didn't stop us, and this isn't going to stop us either. I know we're going to stick together and continue to go out and support one another.

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