Fears of another targeted attack on the LGBTQ community have been on Tiara Latrice Kelley’s mind ever since 2016, when a gunman killed 49 people at the Pulse nightclub in her hometown of Orlando, Florida.
In 2018, Kelley moved to Colorado and began producing and hosting LGBTQ events at Club Q in Colorado Springs. Last month, her fears of further bloodshed came true.
“This is kinda deja vu, reliving it all over again,” Kelley said of the Nov. 19 shooting at her workplace that left five people dead and at least 19 others injured. Kelley had hosted a drag show at Club Q the day before the attack.
“Pulse is a club that I grew up at,” she said. “It was one of the first clubs I ever performed at. I was heavily involved with the aftermath of Pulse.”
For the second time now, Kelley said she is working to raise money for LGBTQ people who have been victimized by gun violence. She’s raised more than $15,000 for former Club Q staffers, including herself, who have lost some or all of their livelihood due to the club’s closure.
Kelley and other fundraisers are “making sure that bills are taken care of, in that none of the people ... affected by this will have to suffer more loss due to not having income,” she said. She’s raising money through a GoFundMe page and via in-person charity events, including a benefit show last week. Ads for the show noted that it would feature armed security for attendees.
“I think healing together is what’s going to be the key here,” Kelley said. “That’s what’s definitely been key for me, being able to give back to my community and help my community and just be there. Love one another.”
Her GoFundMe page is one of 16 verified pages for Club Q victims that, as of Tuesday, had collectively amassed $1.16 million in donations. These pages include fundraisers set up by family members of people who were killed or injured, as well as opportunities to donate toward victim memorials and toward the creation of a Pride Center for LGBTQ community members in Colorado Springs.
The nonprofit Colorado Healing Fund, which is a recipient of some of those pages’ donations, said last week that it has raised $1.8 million for the Club Q community and that $345,000 has already been distributed. This money is intended to assist with immediate expenses like funeral payments, travel, rent, lost wages, utilities and car payments.
However, it takes time for the money donated through online fundraisers to be transferred to bank accounts, so the money currently being released is from the organization’s “seed fund,” the Colorado Healing Fund’s executive director, Jordan Finegan, told reporters last week.
It’s because of this delay that Kelley said she’s been helping organize in-person fundraisers, so cash can immediately be made available to those in need.
“Bills are due, rent’s due, car payments are due, you know?” she said. “Our bartender, or front door person, you know, the people behind the scenes, that was their job. That was their income.”
Paying the bills should be the last thing anyone has to worry about as they grieve and rebuild amid an already uncertain and worrying future, she said.
“That was our safe space, and it’s been invaded and taken away. And now that is something that I worry about, my community having that space and having the ability to be around their community, especially in an environment like Colorado Springs where all we have is one another,” Kelley said, referring to the city’s conservative leanings.
“When things like this happen, and things like Pulse happens, then we can’t help but feel that we’re disposable, we’re not human beings,” she said. “No one should feel that way simply for being who they are.”
Kelley placed blame for the ongoing attacks on those in office, at the local and national level, who she said have helped amplify hatred toward the LGBTQ community.
“Their rhetoric and their words and their constant refusal to step into 2022 and realize that the LGBTQ people are here, we exist, and we should be here,” she said. “But instead we have this rhetoric that is harmful and damaging. And so I do believe that our lawmakers need to take a look on the inside and realize that we need to make some changes.”