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Colorado State Rep. says the Club Q shooting shows the impact of anti-LGBTQ actions

JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

Vigils are being held across the state of Colorado this week after the deadly shooting at Club Q in Colorado Springs. Club Q was a safe space for queer people in a country and at a time that can feel very threatening. Just this year, more than 300 bills targeting the LGBTQ community have been introduced across the country, and candidates in this year's midterm elections used hateful and discriminatory language when referring to LGBTQ people. This is something that Colorado State Representative Brianna Titone has been talking a lot about. She's the state's first openly trans legislator and joins me now. Welcome.

BRIANNA TITONE: Thank you, Juana.

SUMMERS: First, I just want to start by saying I'm really sorry for what you and your community are going through.

TITONE: Yeah, I appreciate that. It's been a process feeling in the community, but we've had a lot of really positive gatherings and remembrances. It's kind of helping us get through. And we're going to try to get on the other side of this stronger.

SUMMERS: I want to start by asking you about Club Q and spaces like it that exist in communities big and small across this country. What is the value of a queer club in a place like Colorado Springs? And what happens when the sanctity of that kind of space is violated?

TITONE: Well, Colorado Springs has a very long history of very conservative roots, lots of military installations, the Air Force Academy, and there's a lot of other very strong Christian organizations that are based out of there. So when most people think about Colorado Springs, they think about those really strong Christian values. And that really conflicts with the LGBT community. So having a place like Club Q and other places like this in a place where there's a lot of discontent for the LGBT community, having a place where you can go and be yourself and express yourself the way you want and enjoy the drag performances and things like that is so important. And that sanctity was violated.

SUMMERS: I want to ask you about a tweet that you posted the day after the shooting, and it reads - I'm going to quote it here - "when politicians and pundits keep perpetuating tropes, insults and misinformation about the trans and LGBTQ community, this is a result." Tell us what you see happening in your state.

TITONE: Well, you know, that was directed at our congresswoman, Lauren Boebert. She has been spouting out a lot of different, very strong and targeted language against the LGBT community ever since she got into office. And, you know, we see a lot of other places around Colorado doing the same thing - Florida and Texas, for example. We're seeing a lot of this rhetoric that's been happening, and people are afraid. They're nervous about being themselves, and they feel like they're being pushed back into the closet. And that's what we really need to try to really, you know, take stock of what we're saying to people and how we're making people feel. And she represents people like that. And she's doing a disservice to them by not supporting them and just making fun of them and just being a jerk about it. It's not good.

SUMMERS: In the days since this tragedy, what have you been hearing from people in your community?

TITONE: You know, I've heard a lot of people just express a lot of fear and just devastation. But we've been through this before, through other events like this. And we come together as a community. We support each other. And the LGBT community is really supportive. And there was a really big event in Denver that happened, a vigil for the club. And there were so many people that they had to start late because they couldn't get in the building fast enough. And that support network is super important right now for everyone.

SUMMERS: And the about 30 seconds that we have left, I'd like to ask you, as a lawmaker, what do you think needs to happen now to help ensure that queer people in your community and elsewhere, that they feel safe, that they are safe?

TITONE: We are going to do everything that we can to reinforce the policies that we have, examine this situation and what went wrong and what went right and understand how we can change our policies to make sure that these kinds of things can be prevented. Because that's what we really need to focus on is how we can stop this from happening in the first place.

SUMMERS: That is Colorado State Representative Brianna Titone. Thank you for being here.

TITONE: Thank you so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Sarah Handel
Juana Summers is a political correspondent for NPR covering race, justice and politics. She has covered politics since 2010 for publications including Politico, CNN and The Associated Press. She got her start in public radio at KBIA in Columbia, Mo., and also previously covered Congress for NPR.