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A Latina, transgender pastor searches for hope after Club Q attack
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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Nicole Garcia won’t give up hope.

As a transgender, Latina pastor, Garcia stood on the sidewalk at North Academy Boulevard giving hugs, handshakes and placing flowers at a memorial honoring the five who died and 18 who were injured after a gunman opened fire Saturday night at Club Q, an LGBTQ bar in Colorado Springs.

Daniel Aston and Kelly Loving — two of the deceased victims from the shooting — were transgender. Garcia said she mourns for the loved ones of all victims, and particularly the two who were openly transgender.

“This shooting this weekend here in Colorado Springs just broke my heart,” Garcia said. “As a trans Latina, my heart just shattered.”

Garcia is a pastor at Christ the Servant Lutheran Church in Louisville, Colorado. She came out as transgender at 42 years old and said she wished more people loved and understood the transgender community.

“That's all we really want in the trans and non-binary community is to be given that opportunity to live our lives, to flourish, to grow and to maximize our potentials as human beings,” Garcia said. 

Colorado Voices

Community Strength at Club Q

When the “gay revolution,” took off in the 1970’s, Garcia said bars were a safe haven for LGBTQ+ people to gather authentically, as churches, jobs and schools had harassed them, forced them out and pushed them back into hiding.

“The greatest fear in an event like this is that it could set us back. That people who are afraid to go out and afraid to come out, won’t come out because of the fear that is instilled,” Garcia said. “Because realistically, where is safe anymore?”

The suspect from Saturday is still in police custody at the hospital and charges will likely be brought soon. 

The shooting took place minutes before Transgender Day of Remembrance began, which Garcia said was particularly harrowing.

“Now a place where people felt comfort and solace has been taken away,” Garcia said. “I just am so afraid that people are going to be afraid to come out because of incidents like this.”

Colorado Springs held a Transgender Day of Remembrance ceremony at Temple Beit Tora, where several religious leaders and transgender community members spoke to the pain and trauma that Saturday’s shooting brought on the community.

“For this to culminate right after such violence was committed against our community, it's just that much more of a visceral reminder of what we have to face every single day right now,” said Aurora Autumn Goodno.

[Related: A Transgender Day of Remembrance ceremony takes on added significance after Club Q shooting]

Garcia is also a mental health counselor who works primarily with the transgender community and said most find immense joy in expressing themselves, but the cruelty of a transphobic society makes the process painful.

“The hard part isn’t being trans,” Garcia said. “The hard part is being believed and accepted for who you are.”

Though the event was devastating, Garcia also hopes her community will not lose help and slide backwards into a time of less acceptance and more hiding.

“Our community needs to hear words of hope. Our community needs to hear messages of love,” Garcia said. “We have to keep moving forward and make sure that all god’s people are given what they need.”


Alison Berg is a multimedia journalist at Rocky Mountain PBS. You can reach her at alisonberg@rmpbs.org.

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