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Op-Ed: They Were Stars, and We Are Too

Alana Matthew | 101 Magazine (From Left to Right) The victims, Kelly Loving, Derrick Rump, Ashley Paugh, Raymond Green Vance, and Daniel Aston. Photos by Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite.

Daniel Aston and Derrick Rump were working that fateful Saturday night. Ashley Paugh had driven from La Junta, Calif., to watch a comedy performance. Kelly Loving was visiting from Denver hoping for a fun night out. Raymond Green Vance was celebrating a friend’s birthday with family. It was his first time visiting Club Q. 

For the people of Colorado Springs, especially the LGBTQ+ community, Club Q served as a  physical embodiment of life for decades. The music gave the dance floor breath, while laughter, lights, smiles, and kisses gave the space a heartbeat. 

Julia Kissing, Rump’s sister, told WFMZ that “he felt that he could shine there.” This ability to make people “shine,” is what’s so special about LGBTQ+ spaces. It is what brought Aston and Rump to work every day, and Paugh, Loving, and Vance to the club that night. It is what makes LGBTQ+ people across the country seek out the safe havens close to them. 

But it is the source of hatred, that brought a gunman into the club just before midnight and killed five people and wounded more than a dozen.

I woke up Sunday morning to news of the shooting. Scrolling through Twitter, I came across a video of Joshua Thurman, a survivor of the shooting, giving his testimony to reporters. With a tear-stained face, he described hearing the popping sounds of gunshots but thought they were a part of the music. He kept dancing–he was there to celebrate his birthday. It was not until he realized what was going on, that he ran into the dressing room of drag performer, Del Luisional, with another patron. 

At multiple points throughout the video, Thurman breaks down. You can see him tremble when he says what was going through his mind, and my only response was to tremble with him. You can hear him choke up when he asks, “What are we gonna do now? Where are we gonna go?” And all I can do is wonder the same. 

Queer people are not asking for much. We just want to live and dance without the fear that we can be dispossessed of the only things we have to hold on to–our community, our spaces, and our bodies. We are begging that you see us as human, too. Yet, when all you hear on the news is how our existence, places of refuge, survival tactics, and armor like glitter, sequins, wigs, and color is somehow a moral crusade coming to destroy the sanctity of this country, it makes you wonder will LGBTQ+ Americans ever find a place safe enough for them to shine? 

Maybe we should try the stars.

Juan Benn

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