Transmissions: No more

  • by Gwendolyn Ann Smith
  • Wednesday November 30, 2022
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Shock and horror accompanied the shooting at Club Q in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Illustration: Christine Smith
Shock and horror accompanied the shooting at Club Q in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Illustration: Christine Smith

It was late in the evening of November 19 at Club Q, an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Tending the bar were Derrick Rump and Daniel Aston. DJ T BEATZ was performing in the hours following the "Delusions" drag show, featuring a local drag artist called Del Lusional.

In the crowd that night were Kelly Loving, Ashley Paugh, and Raymond Green Vance. Vance was at the club for the first time, attending with his girlfriend, her parents, and some of her parent's family.

That night, someone else would enter the club and open fire. In the aftermath, Aston, Loving, Paugh, Rump, and Vance would be killed. Eighteen others, including DJ T BEATZ, would be injured.

The club was planning to host an all-ages "Musical Drag Brunch" the next day. Hours after that was to be its regular Sunday show, "Let's Do Drag," which for that day intended to offer a "variety of gender identities and performance styles" as part of its observance of Transgender Day of Remembrance.

This is where the story becomes a bit personal. I founded the Remembering Our Dead project, which helped fuel the creation of the Transgender Day of Remembrance. I have grown increasingly worried over the past several years that a TDOR event would turn into exactly this sort of very American mass shooting event.

Two of the five who were killed were trans — Aston and Loving — though I don't know that they were specifically targeted because of their identity. I don't really think it would matter to the shooter, who seemed only to want to kill.

While we do not know the whole story as to what was going through their mind, we do know that the shooter who allegedly killed Aston, Loving, Paugh, Rump, and Vance had a history.

I don't think it is a coincidence that the shooter went to a LGBTQ club for their rampage — let alone one hosting multiple drag events, including an all-ages event. This is precisely what the right wing has been focused on — ginning up ignorant and false narratives that drag is dangerous for kids.

As we've seen a political landscape that uses queer lives as a weapon, we've also seen an increase of transphobic and homophobic violence. This comes as right-wing groups such as the Proud Boys have harassed numerous drag events; Boston Children's Hospital has had to field bomb threats merely for providing gender-affirming care.

Politicians, such as Republican Governors Greg Abbott in Texas and Ron DeSantis in Florida, as well as plenty of others, have cast LGBTQ people — primarily transgender people as well as drag performers — as the cause of so-called societal decay in this country. They, too, have painted us as less than human.

It only follows that someone would use the kindling they provided to set a fire.

Anderson Lee Aldrich is the shooter's name. You will note that I am using they/them pronouns for Aldrich: their lawyers have stated in a footnote in a legal filing that is their preference, though there is a mountain of evidence that this may simply be a bit of clever trolling on their part, or possibly a dodge to avoid hate crime enhancements.

Certainly, a lot of other online trolls rose to this bait, arguing that we have no room to speak of violence, given that the shooter supposedly uses they/them pronouns. As if that would make any difference when one allegedly has the blood of five victims on their hands.

At any rate, this isn't the first incident in which Aldrich has allegedly been involved. According to media reports, they had a run-in with police last year after threatening to blow up their mother's home, and harm her in the process.

Even though this led to a seven-hour standoff with police, the local district attorney filed no charges, and they were able to avoid Colorado's "red-flag" law preventing access to firearms. It is speculated that this may be, in part, due to influence from their grandfather — outgoing right-wing California Assemblymember Randy Voepel (R-Santee). Television station KCRA reported that Voepel, who lost his reelection bid in the November 8 election, had not had a relationship with Aldrich in 10 years. So far, Voepel has not commented on the matter.

A neighbor of Aldrich's, Xavier Kraus, told the Daily Beast that Aldrich had a history of homophobia, often using the F slur "from a place of anger." This reminds me of Aldrich's father, Aaron Franklin Brink, who, when he found out that his child had shot up "a gay bar," worried that Aldrich themself was gay.

"They started telling me about the incident, a shooting involving multiple people," said Brink in an interview with KFMB-TV. "And then I go on to find out it's a gay bar. I said, 'God, is he gay?' I got scared, 'Shit, is he gay?' And he's not gay, so I said, 'Phew.'"

No compassion for the victims of his child's alleged rampage, just a worry that his own child could have been gay.

In a sane world, this mass shooting incident would cause a change in tone, but less than 24 hours later, right-wing pundits like Fox News' Tucker Carlson were once again pushing the false notion that LGBTQ people were "sexualizing" children while talking with Jaimee Michell, the founder of a group called Gays Against Groomers, who said that shootings like this would continue to occur, "until we end this evil agenda that is attacking children."

Podcaster Tim Pool spoke along similar lines.

"We shouldn't tolerate pedophiles grooming kids. Club Q had a grooming event," said Pool, presumably referring to the all-ages drag brunch. "How do you prevent the violence and stop the grooming?"

This event should be our wake-up call: we cannot be complacent as the right seeks even more of our blood and will wait for the next Aldrich to do more of its dirty work.

Gwen Smith hopes you will stay as safe as you can. You'll find her at

The State of California offers help for victims or witnesses to a hate crime or hate incident. This resource is supported in whole or in part by funding provided by the State of California, administered by the California State Library in partnership with the California Department of Social Services and the California Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander American Affairs as part of the Stop the Hate program. To report a hate incident or hate crime and get support, go to CA vs Hate.

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