Community advocates and political officials were among those who gathered for a candlelight vigil outside Nobody's Darling, 1744 W. Balmoral Ave., the evening of Nov. 20 to remember the LGBTQ+ individuals killed and injured the previous night at the Club Q bar in Colorado Springs.
Dawn Valenti, who advocates on behalf of Chicago families who are impacted by violence, said that waking up the morning of Nov. 20 felt eerily like the morning in 2016 when she learned of the violence at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida.
"I'm don't know if I'm enraged, sad, or both," added Valenti, who said that the vigil was organized so LGBTQ+ folks in Colorado Springs "know that we stand with them."
The Colorado Springs incident took place the day before the Transgender Day of Remembrance, a day when community members normally pay tribute to transgender individuals lost to violence.
"We knew today was going to be hard," said Illinois Department of Human Rights Director Jim Bennett, adding he never expected that the day would bring news of such a world-shattering event. "Bars are our community centers," he said, calling Nobody's Perfect a "beautiful, beautiful sacred space."
To have the sanctity of an LGBTQ+ safe space shattered, Bennett added, "is heartbreaking." He noted that the state has numerous protections in place protecting LGBTQ+ rights, but those protection are constantly under assault from right-wing elements. Nevertheless, he added, "We are awake to them and we are going to stop them."
Equality Illinois CEO Brian Johnson said that there was a direct line from the anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric in the political arena to these events that have wreaked havoc in the community. To those politicians and media members who perpetuate such rhetoric, he said: "You are complicit in the violence."
Ald. Andre Vasquez (40th Ward) added, "It should not be an act of courage to be yourself at all." He said that the time had come for difficult conversations, and hoped community members would not be afraid to call out intolerance and bigotry in the months ahead.
"Take the riskhave that conversation," he said.
Chicagoans Millie and Rafael Burgos also spoke at the vigil. They lost their daughter to several years ago to gun violence.
"These guns are out of control," Rafael said.
Society "failed my daughter," Millie said. She recalled she and her husband taking their daughter to Pride parades "to show her what love is."
But she said the community must continue to stand against gun violence: "We're going to fight. We're going to go to Springfield. We're going to do this together."
Finally, Noah, a 14-year-old Chicagoan who said they were a member of the LGBTQ+ community, described how overwhelming the news about Club Q felt, and how disturbing it was to contemplate that the club-goers fell victim to violence "just for being who they are."
"All the bad words you can think ofthat's how it made me feel," said Noah, who said this and pervasive anti-LGBTQ rhetoric makes them question how safe they and the community actually are.
"I want this world to be a place where I don't have to hide anymore," said Noah.
Rev. Beth Brown of Lincoln Park Presbyterian Church also spoke at the Nov. 20 event.