Hannah Rigdon spoke through tears as she looked up at the 25-foot Pride flag hanging outside City Hall on Wednesday.
Its significance can’t be understated, she said, in a conservative city that for so long failed to recognize Colorado Springs’ diversity.
“Growing up in this community was hard,” said Rigdon, a member of the LGBTQ+ community. “It’s improved so much, and yet we just still have so far to go.”
Rigdon was among the hundreds of people who crowded North Nevada Avenue Wednesday to mourn the Club Q shooting victims — Daniel Aston, Raymond Green Vance, Kelly Loving, Ashley Paugh and Derrick Rump — and to look forward in healing and solidarity as the flag unfurled above the City Hall steps. The flag will remain in Colorado Springs for two weeks.
The massive flag was created by Gilbert Baker, the designer of the original rainbow Pride flag. It once stretched 1.25 miles long before being cut into 25-foot sections displayed in cities across the world.
This section, on loan from the Sacred Cloth Project, has observed several major historic events in the LGBTQ+ community. It appeared at the Supreme Court for its 2015 decision in support of marriage equality, and it hung in downtown Orlando for the memorial ceremony honoring the 49 lives lost during a 2016 shooting at Pulse, a gay nightclub. It returns each June on the mass shooting’s anniversary.
Its arrival in Colorado Springs in the wake of the Club Q shooting is an important milestone of recognition, but according to state Rep. Leslie Herod, LGBTQ+ representation on City Hall grounds is far overdue. Herod is the first queer Black woman elected to Colorado’s legislature.
“As I see this flag above me, what I remember is the many times that this building chose to deny the existence of LGBTQ people,” Herod said. “That it takes a tragedy like this to have a LGBTQ rainbow flag in this building is wrong.”
Other leaders, including state Sen. Pete Lee and state Rep. Stephanie Vigil, joined Herod’s call for all elected officials to condemn bigotry, bias, hate speech and violence. That, Lee said, is how we honor the victims.
Dozens of community members who frequented Club Q joined Herod on the steps in an acknowledgement that they will “no longer be in the shadows” and that the ceremony was for them and for their loved ones’ memory.
Jimmy Gomez-Beisch, perhaps known best as the “Dancing Storm Trooper of Colorado Springs,” is continuing to spread the light of Rump, his close friend. That’s what he would have wanted in the face of tragedy, Gomez-Beisch said.
“I have a lot of faith in my people that we’re gonna be able to overcome this, come together, shine brighter,” Gomez-Beisch said. “I’m gonna be doing dance moves. We’re gonna get the music going, we’re going to start dancing again, we’re going to start loving life again.”
As the city’s LGBTQ+ community prepares for Thanksgiving — a time Herod said is especially difficult, given tough dinner table conversations — Club Q’s loss as a place of solace and refuge will be especially felt. But even in light of the tragic loss, their family remains. And it’s not going anywhere.
“We are gay, we are queer, we are trans, and we are here,” Herod said. “We will not be moved.”