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Hate Is No Match for a Drag Queen’s High Heel

Them. 11/22/2022 Samantha Allen

I’ve been thinking a lot these past two days about how weak hate is. How it hides behind computer keyboards and semi-automatic rifles. How it can’t imagine any other way to process the beautiful diversity of the world than through a politics of cruelty and elimination. 

Hate can roar, hate can lash out, hate can even kill, but underneath its bombastic veneer, it is a whimpering, ugly, and pathetic feeling. It is what cowards are made of.

I can’t pretend to know what exactly motivated the Club Q gunman, who killed five people in the Colorado Springs LGBTQ+ nightclub on Saturday night. That will be for a jury to decide. But I know that he was weak, and I know that the people who ended his spree displayed the kind of strength that opponents of LGBTQ+ rights will never have.

As more information emerges about how the suspect was taken down, it is hard not to find a certain poignancy in this fact: a drag queen’s high heel provided the punctuation mark on his terror after a brave veteran beat the shooter with his own pistol. Those details have emerged in an interview with Richard Fierro, a 45-year-old former Army major, gave to the New York Times about his experience helping to incapacitate the gunman. (Fierro’s account, the Times noted, has largely been corroborated by local authorities and security footage.)

“I don’t know exactly what I did, I just went into combat mode,” Fierro told the paper. “I just know I have to kill this guy before he kills us.”

Fierro, who was at the bar with his family, says he saw the gunman begin to move toward an outdoor patio, presumably to shoot at patrons who had fled, and knew that he had to act. He rushed the gunman, knocking the rifle out of his hands. Noticing that the gunman had a pistol, Fierro says he grabbed the secondary weapon and began beating the killer over the head with it. 

And then, in a stunning display of queer and trans bravery, Club Q patrons joined the fight, removing the rifle from the fracas. Amid Fierro’s firsthand account, he noted that a drag performer “stomped on the gunman with her high heels,” as the Times paraphrased. Other accounts, like those published in The Advocate describe all the “mini-heroes” who helped ensure the safety of the survivors as the scene unfolded.

For over a year now, we have been hearing an amplified message from far-right circles that is really just a recycled old canard: Drag performers are “groomers,” they say, and so are LGBTQ+ school teachers. They believe that trans people, like those who died Saturday night in Colorado, are a sign of cultural degradation. They croak and they crow that queer inclusion is decaying American greatness, undermining and perverting our cultural values. All of it is false. In truth, they are afraid of a world where they are made to feel ashamed, even for a moment, of the hate in their hearts.

I am only ashamed that we let this hate persist in our country. That semi-automatic rifles can be obtained so easily. That the media doesn’t call this anti-LGBTQ+ moral panic what it is, and too often lends credence to its venomous talking points.

But in the meantime, I can think of no greater testament to American greatness than this: that in the face of death, an Army veteran, a drag queen, and a bar full of queer people teamed up to fight. Even as presumable strangers, their commitment to each other was more powerful than any bullet could ever be.

As I look over the names and photographs of the victims — Kelly LovingDaniel Aston, Derrick RumpAshley Paugh, and Raymond Green Vance — I am not just thinking about how weak hate is; I am thinking more and more about how strong love is. I am thinking about how these queer, trans, and allied folks are all being remembered for their smiles, their laughter, and their generosity.

Love doesn’t rage; it comforts and protects. Love doesn’t hide; it reveals itself, endlessly and freely, even in unimaginable circumstances. And love greets difference with open arms.

The Colorado Springs gunman may have thought he could extinguish that love when he walked into Club Q. But hate is no match for a drag queen’s high heel.

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