Fierce and Fearless: A Year After Pulse


Photos by Karson Hallaway

It’s been a year since the shooting at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida. On June 12, 2016, Omar Mateen walked into Pulse with an arsenal and claimed the lives of innocent club-goers. Safe spaces suddenly seemed treacherous and inclusivity yet again took a backseat to xenophobia. Entire communities were once again being painted with the broad brush that is public outcry. 

What of the establishments in question? Were clubs and bars that cater to the LGBT community specifically altered by these events? A community arose from the ashes of this event and local clubs made it their prerogative to maintain their reputation as safe and inclusive environments for all.

“It amazes me that there is still so much hate in the world,” Cindy Alix, the General Manager at Xbar said.  Alix remembers when her brother, Steven, came out as gay in 1985.  “I was afraid for him. I didn’t want anyone to hurt him,” she said. Her fear diminished over the years, but Orlando sparked her initial feelings. “I thought that [violence] was gone, but it’s not.”

Xbar has been open for seven years. Cindy Alix started as a bartender when it opened before becoming the General Manager. Xbar is located on east Colfax, right between Civic Center and The Fillmore. When the events at Pulse occurred, Xbar swiftly cracked down on security.

“We immediately started patting people down, checking bags, etc., things we weren’t doing in the past, which to me creates an environment of distrust,” Alix said. “And in the past I think it’s an environment of trust, openness and the ability to do what we need to do as people, and that was kind of harmed.”

What happened in Orlando changed the way clubs across the nation managed their business, especially their security.

Immediately after the events at Pulse, Denver nightclub Tracks hosted a vigil for the community and have since taken extra precautions. General Manager Morgan Taylor stated that Tracks has a full-time security team to ensure the safety of club-goers.  “Our staff works hard to ensure that Tracks is a fun and safe place for everyone,” he said. Westword named Tracks the best gay bar in 2017. In a public statement Taylor explained, “Tracks’ continued commitment to safety, stellar music and a welcoming atmosphere for those in the LGBTQ and its allies helps us be who we want to be without fear, night after night.”

Emilio Cordova is a Florida transplant who was born and raised in Denver. As a gay Latino man, he witnessed the before and after effects of the Pulse shooting in both states. When he attended a drag show shortly after Pulse, the Queen MC had some advice. “The host queen took a moment of sincerity to point out that even though the crowd was small, we could get to know each other and see who is where and doing what.” Proving even performers have taken it upon themselves to ensure a measure of safety.

“No one expects someone to enter a safe zone with a machine whose sole purpose is to kill another human. I understand being prepared for any scenario, but tightened security, I feel, is more for the peace of mind of the patrons,” Cordova said.

Despite the effect of what happened at Pulse, Denver’s gay club scene remains intact and Cordova is amazed at the solidarity of the community.

“The amount of people who donated to the families, to the LGBT center of Orlando, and showed up to the vigils was inspiring,” he said. “People who had no connection to the gay community gave everything they could.”

Art, a patron of Charlie’s Nightclub in Denver and seasoned pilot, said he felt safe in the bar scene. Art has hit many of the gay bars Denver has to offer. He explained an attack he experienced where he was jumped, outside of Aqua Lounge. “They had a video of the altercation. Look around, there’s cameras everywhere.” In reference to Pulse, Art spoke firmly, “I feel the same way I felt after 9/ll. Fuck ‘em. If they made me feel afraid, they’d win.”

The state of club security is adaptive. Where there were once loop-holes there are now safeguards. Clubs in Denver have made it their mission to ensure safety after the Pulse shooting. Most clubs didn’t see a decline in attendance or a semblance of apprehension from their patrons. The LGBT community is relentless in their desire to continue frequenting these establishments. No matter what the climate of club-going is, the community will re-emerge fiercely and fearlessly.[soliloquy id=”69657″]

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