The realities of the Club Q shooting in Colorado Springs were close for many in Albuquerque, and people gathered in Morningside Park on Tuesday night to mourn the lives lost at the queer bar. Several people knew people at the club on Saturday, November 19, and many of the vigils attended in person.
“I spent all Sunday in a fog,” said Alex Mirabal, local organizer and burlesque performer. “It felt like a nightmare. It felt unreal. I kept expecting to wake up and be like, ‘Oh, none of this really happened.’ And then yesterday there was a lot of anger… And a lot of ‘It’s time to get active again.’”
After a moment of silence at the vigil, the space was open for everyone to share songs, prayers, or words. Mirabal co-organized the event with Judy Lopas, both members of the Albuquerque chapter of PFLAG, an organization that advocates for LGBTQ people and their families.
Mirabel also headlined Club Q herself, knows cast members in Colorado Springs, and had friends who performed at Club Q on the day of filming.
While everyone Mirabal knew survived, she said she still felt the loss and pain of others “because there were still five people who were dead. They weren’t my personal friends, but someone was missing,” she said. “And that was terrible.”
She said she felt the need to be able to grieve with others in her community.
“I knew I needed to be with other queer people. Because straight people love us and care about us. But they don’t always know firsthand what it feels like…” she said. “That’s why it’s important that we’re together because we understand each other. It’s important to be together because we’re all hurt.”
Bars have long been a heart of the LGBTQ community, a place to find sanctuary and be authentic without fear of judgement. For many who gathered in the park at sunset in the cold, Club Q was one of those places. Many said it felt like home, including D’Lite Deleon, the reigning monarch of the Imperial Sovereign Court of New Mexico, who had just taken a trip to Club Q.
“My husband and I were there with our family last week, and for those of you who didn’t know, that’s how they treated you,” Deleon said. “You are always welcome to be with them. They are never afraid of you. They have always accepted and welcomed you no matter who you were, what you do, what you wear. They were amazing people and we all know it.”
The gathering honoring those killed at Club Q was held in the same park that hosts a vigil for LGBTQ people who have died each June during the Pride events in Albuquerque. Kuveni Scanlan recalled the heartache of having to write more names every year.
“On this concrete we write the names of the people we lost. And every year I have to write a new name. Every year my list gets longer. And the period between the two dates just below the name is getting shorter,” Scanlan said. “I’m sick of 35-year-olds being queer elders.”
The Colorado shooting happened just before midnight on the eve of the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance, a commemoration of the hundreds of people killed each year around the world.
Tuesday’s vigil was also, for many, an act of continued queer resistance, a struggle many stressed did not end when gay marriage was legalized.
For Miss New Mexico Pride Sativa Rico Stratton, who has many friends who attend Club Q regularly, the shoot was also deeply personal.
“It won’t end with Club Q. So we have to make sure that we’re out in the community and helping and guiding each other, and that we’re supporting our youth and we’re singing,” Stratton said. “We teach them that the fight will never be over. It may get easier, but it won’t go away.”
After deaths like these, Mirabal said the violence changes what goes through her mind during the performance. She thinks about how she can try to protect others and herself in such a scenario.
That’s why, she said, it’s important to move forward with love: protecting one another.
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