Group of people on the city street with rainbow pride flag. Credit: iStock Credit: iStock

During Transgender Awareness Week, and on the eve of Transgender Day of Remembrance, a mass shooting took place at Club Q, an LGBTQ+ nightclub in Colorado Springs, leaving 5 people dead and dozens injured. The tragedy that occurred at Club Q is part of a growing trend of violence targeting members of the LGBTQ+ community.

The tragedy in Colorado Springs illuminates the many dangers escalating intolerance and gun violence pose to the health and safety of all people, particularly those from marginalized communities. “The shooting coincided with the time we honor transgender day of remembrance, and it shatters the safety many community members only feel in LGBTQ+ spaces”, said Sarah Senseman, Director of Racial and Health Equity Operations at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota. “Those spaces no longer feel safe. Nowhere feels safe for so many in Colorado Springs and around the globe to be who they are.”

Members of the LGBTQ+ community are disproportionately impacted by health inequities and violence. “This recent tragedy is a stark reminder that LGBTQ+ communities remain vulnerable, and in many places, completely unprotected from discrimination and harm,” said Sarah Senseman. “This takes a real toll on both our physical and mental well-being. LGBTQ+ communities deserve and demand an equitable existence.”

According to a study by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law, LGBTQ+ people are nearly four times more likely than non-LGBTQ+ people to experience violent victimization, including rape, sexual assault, and aggravated assault. Homophobia and misinformation make LGBTQ+ people particularly vulnerable to violence.

Photo credit: iStock

Rates of suicide and suicidal thoughts among LGBTQ+ youth are also on the rise, especially among queer and trans youth of color. The Trevor Project found that in 2022, 45% of LGBTQ+ youth have seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year. LGBTQ+ youth are at higher risk of suicide, primarily due to mistreatment, isolation, and homophobia in society.”

Days before the mass shooting in Colorado Springs, a GLAAD poll found that 48% of all LGBTQ respondents and 72% of transgender respondents fear for their personal safety in the current political environment. This year, at least 34 transgender and gender non-conforming people have been killed. While fatal violence impacts all transgender and gender non-conforming people, those from Black, Indigenous, and communities of color are disproportionately impacted. Black transgender women comprise 63% of all victims of fatal violence against transgender and gender non-conforming people. According to the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, since 2013, over 85% of victims of violence against transgender and gender non-conforming people were people of color.

2022 is on course to set a record number of anti-transgender bills passed by states, especially legislation targeting transgender youth. Homophobia, fearmongering, and misinformation have all contributed to the dramatic rise in anti-transgender legislation. Such policies and hateful rhetoric are harmful to member of the LGBTQ+ community, especially children, erasing their identities and ability to be themselves. They make them feel unwelcome and unsafe in their own communities— which has a significant impact on their health and the health of the community.

“I was 10 years old the first time someone told me I was in the wrong bathroom,” said Ani Koch, Principal Equity Systems Specialist at Blue Cross. “I was at school and the girls swore they saw me standing in the stall. They accused me of looking at them and told me to get out, I didn’t belong there. This remains true to my life today, regardless of what bathroom I go in, what sport I try to play, or what form I fill out. This is connected directly to what happened in Colorado Springs, in Florida at Pulse Nightclub in 2016, and in every piece of anti-trans legislation that has been introduced this year. Hundreds of bills were introduced this year in at least 36 states to limit healthcare access, restroom and locker room access, and enforce restrictions on sports participation.  Our social norms, public policy, and tolerance for violence and injustice set the scene to allow all of this to happen.”

At Blue Cross, we’ve taken a stand against the systematic discrimination that exists in our health care system. And we remain committed to serving communities who have been marginalized by systemic inequities, including transgender and non-binary individuals and their families. We do this through our ongoing Gender Care and Service initiative, working to eliminate barriers throughout the health care system and meet the needs of the transgender and nonbinary community. Ensuring equitable rights for the communities we serve is essential in our pursuit to eliminate health inequities and make Minnesota the healthiest state it can be.

Photo credit: iStock

“The false notion that being anti LGBTQ is somehow just a belief or an ‘opinion’ needs to be disrupted every day,” said Ani Koch. “We exist with or without your understanding, so I urge you, if not by your own moral compass than for the people who lost their lives and the hundreds and thousands more who will forever be changed by this horrific act, please interrupt subtle racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia when you hear and see it.”

It is imperative to support the mental health and wellbeing of the LGBTQ+ community, not only in the wake of tragedy, but year-round. “There are resources out there that can help if you are struggling with how to process this horrible event, and more broadly, the hate that is still felt by those in the LGBTQ+ community and their allies,” said Jason Lawton, Senior Talent Development Consultant and Co-Chair of Blue Pride at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota. “We need to continue to fight to move the needle forward to provide a more inclusive world for all of us.”

Mental Health Resources

NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) Minnesota

Provides LGBTQ support groups and counseling

(763) 267-5881

RECLAIM

Provides counseling services and support groups for LGBTQ youth ages 13-25 who are seeking therapeutic support related to sexual orientation and/or gender identity and expression.

(612) 235-6743

MN LGBTQ+ Therapists’ Network

Network of LGBTQ+ affirming mental health and social service workers and their allies in Minnesota.

Family Tree Clinic

A nonprofit clinic committed to improving the health of LGBTQ individuals through affordable, respectful sexual health care and education

651.645.0478

Prism Mental Health, LLC

LGBTQ specific counseling in Central Minnesota

(320) 217-9964

The Trevor Project

Crisis line and counseling for LGBTQ youth

24-hour crisis line: (866) 488-7386; Text “Trevor” to (202) 304-1200 or chat online

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