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How to process grief and find support in the wake of the Club Q shooting

Maeve Conran
Rocky Mountain Community Radio
Dr. Glenda Russell says after the shooting at Club Q the LGBTQ community needs to embrace one another and ask allies to step up.

The mass shooting at Club Q in Colorado Springs struck at the very heart of the LGBTQ community.

The shooting happened on the eve of Transgender Day of Remembrance in one of the few safe spaces for LGBTQ people in Colorado Springs.

Sean Kenney from KGNU spoke with Dr. Glenda Russell, a psychologist from Boulder, on how to process grief while taking care of each other.

Dr. Glenda Russell:  Every event occurs in some kind of a context, and the present context has been full of a lot of challenges for an awful lot of people.

Broadly speaking, it's been a difficult time in terms of things like economics, our changing understandings of racial injustice, and what to do about that, the pandemic and its accompanying uncertainty, and for many physical isolation and even fundamental questions about where's democracy going and are we going to, you know, sustain it?

By most indicators, there's a fair amount of depression and anxiety going on in the United States, so we're already kind of in not ideal circumstances.

More specifically when it comes to LGBTQ people, the entire community has been the target of anti-queer, especially anti-trans rhetoric in policies for forever, but especially so in the last few years.

We see it in public discourse about our lives.

We see it in local, state and institutional policies, and judicial decisions that are meant to constrain our lives.

And beneath all of that rhetoric and all of those policies runs a clear message, we are not okay and we are not safe.

Both those broader stresses and the anti-queer and anti-trans messages may leave us in an already disempowered position, and potentially all the more so if we are at the same time members of other marginalized groups.

So we need to be especially diligent about using our community, using our history, tapping into the movement perspective, calling upon allies and taking good care of ourselves and one another.

We'll get through this.

We'll keep making positive change, but we need to allow ourselves to have our feelings and to move through them.

We also need to hold onto one another.

And I think it's really important to remember this is not primarily a mental health problem, this is a community problem.

It's a problem where our queer community and our queer culture will be every bit as helpful as any kind of mental health intervention.

We want to do those things that are good for us at all times, you know, sleep, get exercise, don't take too many substances, stuff like that.

But we really want to embrace community and embrace one another and take care of one another and ask our allies to step up right now.

Sean Kenney: Another thing that comes to mind is as we find ourselves coming out of the wake of COVID, of particular stressors around being able to make those connections and find that community, we've had a few years now to wade through that difficulty.

I wonder if there are any other things that are standing out to you in terms of resources, support, things that you found in your own work as you think a lot about this, that, you know what, even in how we take care of ourselves or one another, a lot's changed in the past few years about that.

Dr. Glenda Russell: Yeah, a lot has changed and I think one of the things that's changed is we have so much more queer culture than we've had before, and this is a great time to use that queer culture, whether it's more contemporaneous stuff or earlier stuff.

I found myself pulling out some music this morning from a long time ago, from Holly Near.

There are go-to things that we all have that are useful for us in difficult times, and I really recommend people think about what those things are and use them, share them with other people.

I think it's also really important to look at what has happened.

You know, Pulse (mass shooting) happened in 2016, it's been a long time.

Look at all the changes that have happened since then.

The current anti-LGBTQ rhetoric, it's partly a political game, we know that.

It's also partly a backlash because we had made so much progress and if we forget that progress, we do it at our own peril.

We really need to be thinking about how much has changed over the course of our lives and how much has changed over the course of the time since the Pulse (shooting), and understand that the movement, the large movement, continues to go forward despite tragedies like the one that happened, despite tragedies, despite backlash, despite, you know, creepy rhetoric and creepy policies, we are not going back.

We are moving forward and we'll continue to do that.

Sean Kenney: Dr. Glenda Russell, thank you so much.

Dr. Glenda Russell: Thank you for inviting me.

Bring me back when there's something good to celebrate, because it's so important to celebrate the good stuff, it really is.

This story from KGNU was shared with Aspen Public Radio via Rocky Mountain Community Radio, a network of public media stations in Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and New Mexico including Aspen Public Radio.

Sean Kenney is one of the hosts and producers of Outsources, a weekly LGBTQ radio show, produced at KGNU community radio in Boulder and Denver.