An attendee at a candlelight vigil for victims of the Club Q nightclub shooting at DuPont Circle, NW, Washington, D.C., on Nov. 21, 2022. (Photo: Elvert Barnes Protest Photography/Flickr via Creative Commons)

Topics: Justice | Opinion

Club Q shooting should spur Canadians and Christians to take action

Many people believe Canada is a safe place for queer and trans people, but this is far from the truth


I remember the first time I went to a queer bar 15 years ago. My best friend, who was straight and Christian, invited a few friends and I to support her friend’s drag show. As I walked up the steps to enter, I was filled with fear, shame and curiosity.

What if someone saw me and thought I was gay? What if my distress of being queer was true? Would people still love and accept me? 

As I came out as queer and became more comfortable in my skin, queer bars and communities became like church to me. I was seen, accepted and could hold my partner’s hand without fear. I could be my authentic self and imagine what was possible. 

These sanctuaries have been healing and full of beautiful queer and trans joy, a vast difference from the evangelical Christian communities I grew up in.

My heart broke when I woke up to news of the shooting at Club Q in Colorado Springs, Colo., on the eve of Transgender Day of Remembrance, a day to honour those killed by violence. I was angry and upset, but unsurprised that a shooter would target us in our own sanctuary, killing five people and injuring 18.

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It hasn’t been the first time and I know it won’t be the last.

It’s impossible to detach this violence from the rise of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation in the U.S. – specifically anti-trans laws – and the harmful rhetoric spewed by Christian communities, politicians and the media. This isn’t only a problem in the U.S.

Many people believe Canada is a safe place for queer and trans people, but this is far from the truth. Homophobia, biphobia and transphobia exist everywhere we go, from schools and workplaces to health care and even the bathroom. Almost 60 percent of trans Ontarians have avoided public washrooms due to safety fears.

Anti-LGBTQ+ violence is legitimized and upheld by many institutions, including some governments, media and churches that spew “family values.”

Right-wing groups have protested family-friendly drag events across Canada this past year with hate and threats. There have been multiple threats of violence at an Oakville, Ont., high school this month, after some conservative media disseminated photos of a trans teacher wearing large prosthetic breasts to class.

Furthermore, there were more than 50 candidates for trustee positions that ran on anti-trans promises in recent Ontario school board elections. Conversion therapy, an attempt to change someone’s gender identity, sexuality and gender expression, was only banned less than a year ago.

We have seen sex-education curriculums and bills cause uproar. In 2019, Alberta passed Bill 8 that scaled back protections for LGBTQ+ students, allowing schools to contact parents when their child joins a queer support group. In Ontario, there were many debates about the 2015 sex-education curriculum going against religious beliefs, citing LGBTQ+ identities and relationships as controversial issues.

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It also wouldn’t be a Pride parade without Christian protestors holding signs of anti-LGBTQ+ hate. 

This rhetoric leads to discrimination and violence towards LGBTQ+ communities, and is compounded for LGBTQ+ people of colour. LGBTQ+ youth are more at risk for verbal, physical and sexual harassment than their cisgender, straight peers. This can lead to mental health challenges, substance misuse, homelessness and suicidality.

Many people, including Christians, wonder how this could happen to our community. Don’t be surprised by this violence. We are called vile names, blamed for society’s degradation and told we shouldn’t exist. Take a moment to imagine what that does to people.

Listen to our stories and educate yourself on the ways homophobia, biphobia and transphobia is institutionalized and exists in your communities. Speak up at work, social gatherings and with your family. Donate to queer and trans-led organizations, especially those that centre Black, Indigenous and other racialized communities.

Question who is in leadership at your churches and workplaces. Many conservative churches don’t allow LGBTQ+ people to be in leadership. Instead of marginalizing us, these churches need to look at their own leadership – often white men – who are harming their own congregants.

For queer-affirming Christian communities, are queer and trans racialized people in leadership? How are you amplifying disabled voices? We need to ensure our allyship is intersectional and anti-oppressive.

Your thoughts and prayers aren’t enough. Take action and seek out ways you can tangibly support us to help keep us safe and alive.

If we can’t be safe in our own sanctuaries, including queer bars and communities, where can we be safe?


Jenna Tenn-Yuk is a writer and speaker in Toronto.

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