(edited to reflect new information; 11/21/22)
Once again, my people have been attacked. Several members of the queer community were shot and killed at Club Q in Colorado Springs, Colorado late Saturday night. On Sunday’s Transgender Day of Remembrance, news came out that at least one of the people killed in the mass shooting was a transgender man, so we add another name to the list of more than 30 transgender people killed in the United States so far this year. There is a month and a half to go. A day later it appears two of the victims were transgender, one was a gay man, and two were allies, so we will also add those names to the roll call of queer people killed by hate. Others are still in critical condition at area hospitals.
As a gay man I am filled with deep feelings of sadness today. Memories of the Pulse Nightclub massacre flash back into my head. Memories of my murdered friend, Earl, rise up. Memories of Matthew Shepard, Billy Jack Gaither, Harvey Milk all come back. We have seen this story. We have witnessed this hatred before. We live in a world where there are no safe spaces for queer people because hatred against us is tacitly, and oftentimes blatantly, encouraged, often by politicians and others who should be protecting the rights and dignity of all.
As a queer person in 2022, I should be afraid to be out and open about who I am. But I will not be cowed by cowards like the shooter in Colorado Springs. I will not–ever–go back in the closet out of fear. I kicked that door down and will not go backwards. I spent the first 21 years of my life living in fear of what other people might think, how it might affect my employment, how I might suffer violence by being open. I will not go back. This is who I am and if you don’t like it that is your problem, not mine. A big fuck you to pretend Christians who say I should die, to anyone who says I can’t bring it out of my house, and onto the street. That’s where I differ.
Instead, I demand better of our supposed leaders. I demand common sense gun laws. I demand the equality that is promised in our Constitution, and I will fight to my last breath to get it. On this day of another mass shooting and on this Transgender Day of Remembrance, I recommit myself to continue working toward equality, dignity, and safety for all.
About Callen Harty
Originally from Shullsburg, Wisconsin Callen Harty is the author of four books and numerous published essays, poems, and articles. His most recent book is The Stronger Pull, a memoir about coming out in a small town in Wisconsin. His first book was My Queer Life, a compilation of over 30 years worth of writing on living life as a queer man. It includes essays, poems, speeches, monologues, and more. Empty Playground: A Survivor's Story, is a memoir about surviving childhood sex abuse. His play, Invisible Boy, is a narrative with poetic elements and is also an autobiographical look as surviving child sex abuse. All are available on Amazon.com (and three of them on Kindle) or can be ordered through local bookstores,
He has written almost two dozen plays and 50 monologues that have been produced. Most of them have been produced at Broom Street Theater in Madison, Wisconsin where he started as an actor, writer, and director in 1983. He served as the Artistic Director of the theater from 2005-2010. Monologues he wrote for the Wisconsin Veterans’ Museum won him awards from the Wisconsin Historical Society and the American Association of State and Local History.
He has also had essays, poems, and articles published in newspapers and magazines around the country and has taken the top prize in several photo contests. His writing has appeared in Out!, James White Review, Scott Stamp Monthly, Wisconsin State Journal, and elsewhere. He has had several essays published online for Forward Seeking, Life After Hate, and The Progressive.
Callen has also been a community activist for many years. He was the co-founder of Young People Caring, UW-Madison’s 10% Society, and Proud Theater. He served as the first President of Young People Caring and as the Artistic Director for Proud Theater for its first five years. He is still an adult mentor for the group. In 2003 he won OutReach’s Man of the Year award for his queer community activism. OutReach is Madison, Wisconsin’s lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender community center. He also won a Community Shares of Wisconsin Backyard Hero award for his sex abuse survivor activism work. He has been invited to speak before many community groups, at a roundtable on queer community theater in New York City, and has emceed several events. In 2016, Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault named him their annual Courage Award winner for his activism, writing, and speaking on sexual assault.