Thistlethwaite: Don’t let hate win
Hate speech against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people (LGBTQ+) by the right wing in this country has risen alarmingly, and violence against members of that community is often the result.
As most in Colorado and around the world now know, minutes into Transgender Day of Remembrance at Club Q in Colorado Springs, a shooter opened fire killing five and injuring 18. It would have been far worse without the heroism of two patrons who subdued the shooter.
Last week I wrote about the religious value of love and the imperative to support marriage equality for LGBTQ+ people.
Hate is love’s polar opposite, and its inevitable companion is violence, whether physical, psychological, or institutional.
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Please do not tell me I am “politicizing” this crime. This is our politics today. Hate has been politicized for political gain.
In the last few years, there has been a huge increase in anti-transgender bills around the country. In 2018, there were 19 such bills introduced into state houses; in 2022, there were 155.
The point of this legislation is to create fear and even disgust regarding a particular community. Stirring up disgust is a way to provoke anger and aggression at the targets. As an article examining the relationship between disgust and aggression in the Scientific American argues, “People who are trying to outlaw gender-affirming care for transgender kids and purge pro-gay books from library shelves have stirred up disgust by invoking the specter of sexual “grooming,” that is, pedophilia.”
Rep. Heather Scott, an Idaho Republican lawmaker, recently told an audience that drag queens and other LGBTQ supporters are waging a “war of perversion against our children.” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, always quick to add additional forms of hate speech to his political repertoire, said earlier this year he would consider sending child protective services to investigate parents who take their kids to drag shows.
This kind of rhetoric is a dog whistle for violent extremists in this country. Those who study extremism warn, “We can see a direct relationship between the spectrum of anti-LGBT rhetoric from statehouses into these extremist groups.” They find it an easy way to “build a broader coalition among the radical right.”
Club Q with its music, dancing and drag shows was not a den of iniquity as homophobes would have it. In fact, in many news reports, patrons said it served as a “safe space” in Colorado Springs, a city known for the presence of the conservative Christian group Focus on the Family and its history of anti-gay bigotry.
Club Q was, and I hope it will be again, what I would call a sacred space for LGBTQ+ people and their allies. Such spaces are crucial in the work of increasing safety and respect in this society. Such spaces must be protected and expanded because every human being is of infinite value and worth.
I encourage you to do something positive in response to this cruel violence. Please give to The Trevor Project, an organization that provides support, education and advocacy on behalf of LGBTQ+ youth. And, you can support The Colorado Healing Fund whose mission is to “assist local communities with the financial, emotional and physical needs of victims of mass tragedies that occur in the state of Colorado.”
Don’t let hate win.
Rev. Dr. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite is president emerita and professor emerita of Chicago Theological Seminary. She and her husband now make their home in the Vail Valley.