Since Trump took hold of the presidency, violence and harassment against marginalized communities, including LGBTQ people, have gone up exponentially. But an organization called Trigger Warning: Queer and Trans Gun Club has been created in response, and it’s determined to push back and focus on self-protection.
Beverly Tillery, executive director of the New York City Anti-Violence Project (NCAVP), told NBC News, “Right now, where we’re at in August, we’ve already surpassed the number of homicides that were hate-violence-related for all of last year, excluding Pulse. I think we can go back to the presidential election cycle, where people have become emboldened about expressing racist, homophobic and anti-Semitic views.”
Yearly, the NCAVP tracks the number of homicides and hate crimes committed against LGBTQ people in the United States. Last year, there were 28 hate-violence-related homicides of LGBTQ people, excluding the 49 who were killed at Pulse. This means an LGBTQ person was killed for being queer roughly one out of every 13 days in 2016. So far, in 2017, the number is at 33, a rate of about one every six days.
These increased statistics of hatred, violence, discrimination and murder involving LGBTQ individuals are what inspired the creation of Trigger Warning, which currently boasts around 30 members in its two chapters and is growing. Queer people felt they were not safe under the Trump administration and thus decided they should be prepared to protect themselves.
We spoke with Jake Allen, the elected secretary of the Rochester chapter of Trigger Warning — consisting of 20 of the group’s 30 total members, the others being in Atlanta — to discuss not only why the group was created but also what Trigger Warning hopes to achieve.
“Immediately after Trump’s election nationwide, we saw rates of violence against marginalized communities skyrocket, both at national and local levels,” he says. “Locally we saw someone go up and up down a street in Rochester burning Pride flags off of people’s houses. This was within 24 hours of Trump’s inauguration. Within a few days of that, a KKK sign appeared right off the local highways. We wanted to explore options of self-defense.”
Trigger Warning isn’t comprised of people who were gun lovers prior to the election. In fact, Allen tells us the majority of members had never touched a firearm prior to joining. Allen even describes one member of the group who identified as a pacifist prior to the election. Now, however, with the current political climate, this individual feels it necessary to protect himself.
The goal of the group is simple: “To empower LGBT people and to push back against stereotypes of queer and trans people as being weak, fragile and defenseless. We want to start to really engage in the question of what it means to protect ourselves,” Allen says.
The group has three get-togethers each month. One in which they go to the range and practice shooting firearms. One is an organizing day, during which everyone gets together to discuss the logistics of the group. The third is a gun maintenance day, which involves gun cleaning and upkeep.
The day at the shooting range is led primarily by one instructor. Allen tells me, “Our elected instructor is not only a member of the queer community, but he is eminently qualified. He is a military veteran and was taught firearm instruction at I believe four different military bases around the world. He graciously offered his expertise free of charge.”
We asked various members of the group why they joined Trigger Warning, and what their experience has been thus far. One member, Jess, had a response that echoed those of many other members:
I decided to join Trigger Warning because I view guns as a tool, and I think it’s important to know how to use them, disarm them and be around them without feeling nervous or scared. Whether or not we ideologically agree with guns or the legislation surrounding them, they exist, and it’s naïve to just want them to go away. It’s important for me to learn about things that scare me or make me nervous, to overcome fear and learn from it.
Many of my friends have told me they feel helpless in this post-election era, and when I heard about Trigger Warning Gun Club I decided it would be a productive way for me to feel empowered and educated in an environment that encourages personal responsibility, safety and community.
Being comfortable around guns is a lot like being comfortable driving a manual transmission car. I want to know how to do it if I need to! I want to feel like I could keep myself or someone else safe in any situation that comes my way. It’s also a lot of fun!
As another member of the group explains, “Learning how to handle and be around guns with Trigger Warning has helped me feel more confident and safe in a world that doesn’t promise either of those things. I’m more comfortable around guns, and while I feel less afraid handling and firing them myself, I have even more awareness for how dangerous of a tool they are, and that they require a learned respect.”
At the end of the day, Trigger Warning is about queer folks gaining a sense of security and safety in a world where hatred, violence and gun-related murders have become commonplace. It’s about feeling empowered, so they no longer walk down the street afraid. The goal isn’t to use guns to instigate acts of violence, but to be comforted in knowing they have the means to protect themselves.
For more info, head to the Trigger Warning Facebook page.
Zachary Zane is a Brooklyn-based writer, speaker and activist whose work focuses on (bi)sexuality, gender, identity politics, relationships and culture. He’s written for a number of publications, including the Washington Post, Cosmopolitan, Slate and more. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram @
Featured image by Allexxandar via iStock