In early November, students, faculty, and staff received an email from university President Jean-Paul Boudreau expressing condolences and sympathies to students affected by the crowd surge in South Korea and bridge collapse in India. He noted that “each year the University welcomes many students from these parts of the world, for both regular studies and those on exchange.” President Boudreau reminded students that the Wellness Centre was open for regular drop-in counselling and that the Multi-faith Chaplain and Spiritual Care Coordinator Rev. Ellie Hummel was available to meet with students who needed a listening ear. Finally, he discussed the weekly program, “GIC – Gratitude, Intentions, Concerns,” at the Chapel and that the next gathering would “include a time to share our concerns for these recent international tragedies.”
With this in mind, I anticipated an email in my inbox last Monday morning addressing the shooting at an LGBTQ+ nightclub in Colorado Springs late Saturday that left five dead and nineteen others injured. I figured perhaps there would be an opportunity for the university community to gather to mourn the lives lost and discuss the dangers of anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric.
It is not that we are searching for solace in the words of Jean-Paul Boudreau, it is that events like this demand recognition. Mount Allison has a large queer community on campus and though we may not have known the victims personally, we can see ourselves in their stories.
Though this attack took place thousands of kilometers away in another country, it impacts the queer community across the globe as our identities have no borders. However, no such email materialized on Monday or any of the days following as the identities of victims were made public and queer people all over the world grappled with this clear, violent demonstration of hatred and bigotry towards our community.
The gay bar is a safe space, it is a place to be yourself, to see yourself reflected by your peers, to find community. It is clear to me that the assailant’s goal that night was to shatter any semblance of safety felt by the people at Club Q and strike fear in the hearts of all queer people, demonstrating how safe spaces can quickly become scenes of horror. I will not speculate as to whether the obsession with drag events and the groomer narrative among conservative commentators and politicians in the United States played a role in this attack, however, it is important to acknowledge the dangerous implications of such sentiments.
I am eternally grateful to past generations of queer people who fought to get us where we are today. However, despite marriage equality and Pride Month, despite rainbow crosswalks and pronouns in email signatures, we are still far from a place of true acceptance and equality. You cannot legislate acceptance and love, that’s a matter of changing hearts and minds. This starts with acknowledging tragic events like the Club Q shooting and committing to dismantling hate and ignorance. I think the university missed an opportunity to demonstrate its commitment to the queer community on campus by failing to comment on this attack.