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Utah’s LGBTQ community mourns on Transgender Day of Remembrance, made heavier by Colorado shooting

323 flags represented a transgender person who was murdered or died by suicide in the past year

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Project Rainbow’s Transgender Day of Remembrance 2022 program and display takes place Sunday, Nov. 20, 2022, outside the city-county building in Salt Lake City.

Lauren Steinbrecher, KSL-TV

For some Utahns, the news of a mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Colorado came on an already emotional day of paying tribute to transgender people who lost their lives to violence.

Outside of the City-County Building in downtown Salt Lake City on Sunday, people solemnly walked along a memorial display filled with a sea of white, pink and blue striped flags.

Each of the 323 flags represented a transgender person who was murdered or died by suicide in the past year.

Olivia Jaramillo, director of public outreach at Equality Utah, walked down one side of the display, looking at the laminated cards attached to each flag. She read the names aloud, followed by each person’s story.

“That is so sad,” she said. One of the stories talked about a woman in Turkey who was stabbed during an argument in a restaurant and then died after asking for help from people around her.

Another was a transgender high school teacher who was killed when a gunman followed her to work.

“Walking around and reading the stories, not only does it bring it home that this is still happening — even though we are living in some of the best times now for the LGBTQ community — we still need to keep going further, because we still have a long ways to go,” Jaramillo said.

Jaramillo and others who visited the memorial and attended Project Rainbow’s Transgender Day of Remembrance 2022 program Sunday expressed an added heaviness after hearing of more violence Saturday night with a mass shooting in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

A gunman opened fire in Club Q, an LGBTQ nightclub, killing five and injuring more than two dozen.

Sunday’s program inside the Salt Lake City Library started with a moment of silence for the five killed. Following that, people came up to the front and read every one of the 323 names of transgender people who died in the past year, many from similarly violent situations.

The group then walked to the flag display and laid out candles beneath each flag.

Project Rainbow board member Dallas Rivas said he wants everyone to be aware of what is happening, so they can do something to stop this. He expressed how situations like the mass shooting at Club Q can happen to anyone. It leads to a lot of outrage, he said.

“It’s super emotional because it’s just regular people and a lot of them are targeted,” Rivas said. “So, I worry about me. Is this going to happen to me or my friends?”

He said that Equality Utah provided police officers standing by on Sunday at the memorial.

“Here we are, right in the open — trans people with trans flags behind us. And anyone can come. ... There’s nothing stopping anyone from coming and just opening fire on all of us,” Rivas said. “So, it’s definitely scary.”

As bullets tore through a gay nightclub in Colorado Springs, killing five people and wounding many more, one patron who had been partying moments before rushed into action, grabbing a handgun from the suspect, hitting him with it and pinning him down until police arrived just minutes later.

On Saturday, Utah Gov. Spencer Cox and other local leaders across Utah called the shooting a “senseless tragedy.”

Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall and Salt Lake Police Chief Mike Brown also released statements about the shooting.

“To our Trans and gender non-conforming community: you are loved, you are seen and you are embraced by your City, which is a better place because of you. We remember those murdered in anti-trans violence + we continue our commitment to making this City a safe place for you,” Mendenhall tweeted.

Sue Robbins, part of the Equality Utah Transgender Advisory Council, said the deaths are all around the misunderstanding of the trans community.

“What we’re seeing at the Club Q last night where we lost five community members, and we see throughout the year for the transgender community, is the result of people talking harshly against our community and attacking us in politics,” Robbins said.

She said Sunday was a day of mourning, to stop and remember those they’ve lost. But on Monday, they’ll keep working for the LGBTQ community around Utah to create a safe environment in places like schools, and to continue the battle in the legislature over laws.

Robbins referenced bills that came up over the last few years in the Utah Legislature and across the U.S. that go against the LGBTQ community.

“We are calling upon our Senate, our House, and our governor to quell this, to work with the legislators,” Robbins urged. “Put the bills aside. Let’s have more discussions and let’s stop legislating against our youth and our people.”

As a mass shooting weighed down a day of mourning, for people like Jaramillo it provided fuel to stand up and stay strong.

“We can’t let anybody scare us from being who we truly are. We must continue to be visible,” Jaramillo said. “I stress this so much, to so many people: We must bring that awareness to others, so that they can see that we are nothing to fear.”

Suicide prevention resources

If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, call 988 to connect with the 988 suicide and crisis lifeline.

Crisis hotlines

  • Huntsman Mental Health Institute Crisis Line: 801-587-3000.
  • SafeUT Crisis Line: 833-372-3388.
  • 988 Suicide and Crisis LifeLine at 988.
  • Trevor Project Hotline for LGBTQ teens: 1-866-488-7386.

Online resources

Additional resources

  • SafeUT: Parents, students, and educators can connect with a licensed crisis counselor through chat by downloading the SafeUT app or by calling 833-3SAFEUT (833-372-3388).
  • SafeUT Frontline: First responders, including firefighters, law enforcement, EMS, and healthcare professionals can chat with a licensed crisis counselor at no cost 24/7/365 by downloading the SafeUT Frontline app.
  • SafeUTNG: Members of the National Guard can chat with a licensed crisis counselor at no cost 24/7/365 by downloading the SafeUTNG app.
  • Utah Warm Line: For non-crisis situations, when you need a listening ear as you heal and recover from a personal struggle, call 1-833 SPEAKUT 8 a.m.-11 p.m., 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
  • The Huntsman Mental Health Institute offers a wide variety of programs and services including suicide prevention and crisis services, hospital treatment, therapy an medication management, substance use and addiction recovery, child and teen programs, and maternal mental health services including birth trauma, pregnancy loss, infertility, and perinatal mood and anxiety disorders.
  • LiveOnUtah.org is a statewide effort to prevent suicide by promoting education, providing resources, and changing Utah’s culture around suicide and mental health. They offer resources for faith based groups, LGBTQ+, youth, employers, firearm suicide prevention, and crisis and treatment options.

Other community-based resources