HRC Mourns Daniel Aston, Beloved Son & ‘Master of Silly Business’, Killed in Club Q Shooting

by Laurel Powell

HRC is deeply saddened by the death of Daniel Aston (he/him), a 28-year-old transgender man who was killed in the Club Q mass shooting in Colorado Springs on November 20, 2022. Daniel’s death - along with the death of Kelly Loving (she/her), a transgender woman also tragically killed at Club Q, mark the 33rd and 34th violent killing of a transgender or gender non-conforming person in 2022. Three others -- Ashley Paugh (she/her, 35), Derrick Rump (he/him, 38) and Raymond Green Vance (he/him, 22) -- were also killed in what is now being investigated as a hate crime. A fund has been established to support victims and their families through Colorado Gives.

Daniel was a well-known bartender at Club Q, with the Associated Press reporting that he could often be seen “letting loose, sliding across the stage,” entertaining patrons and helping make Club Q a welcoming space in Colorado Springs for the LGBTQ+ community. His parents, Jeff and Sabrina Aston, described him in an interview as “...the happiest he had ever been. He was thriving, and having fun, and having friends… he had so much more life to give to us and to all of his friends and himself.”

Daniel’s life mattered. It had meaning. We can only imagine the incredible ways his light would have continued to shine. At 28, he was just getting started. In just one moment, that light was extinguished by gun violence.

It is now up to us to ensure that his life is honored with action. There is only one developed nation on Earth where you can walk into a crowded bar carrying a weapon made for war and kill and maim countless people. Only in the United States of America. We honor his life and the lives of every other person killed at Club Q and Pulse and countless other places by continuing our fight to end gun violence.”

Tori Cooper, Director of Community Engagement for HRC’s Transgender Justice Initiative

At publishing time, the investigation into the mass shooting at Club Q is still ongoing and an individual in custody is facing murder and bias crime charges. HRC, our staff, and our members join in mourning with the LGBTQ+ community in Colorado Springs in the face of this immeasurable tragedy.

More than 10,000 hate crimes in the U.S. involve a firearm each year, which equates to more than 28 each day, according to a 2020 report from HRC, Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund, Giffords Law Center and Equality Florida titled “Remembering and Honoring Pulse: Anti-LGBTQ Bias and Guns Are Taking Lives of Countless LGBTQ People.” The report also notes a marked increase in anti-LGBTQ+ hate crimes, especially against transgender people. According to HRC’s recent report, “An Epidemic of Violence: Fatal Violence against Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming People in 2022,” more than two-thirds (69%) of homicides against transgender people involved a gun, and in 2022, more than seven in ten (72%) involved a gun.

At the state level, transgender and gender non-conforming people in Colorado are explicitly protected from discrimination in employment, housing, education and public spaces. Colorado does include sexual orientation and gender identity as a protected characteristic in its hate crimes law. Though we have recently seen some political gains that support and affirm transgender people, we have also faced unprecedented anti-LGBTQ+ attacks in the states. As of this writing, more than 3000 anti-LGBTQ+ bills are under consideration in state legislatures across the country, nearly 150 of which directly target transgender people.

We must demand better from our elected officials and reject harmful anti-transgender legislation at the local, state and federal levels, while also considering every possible way to make ending this violence a reality. It is clear that fatal violence disproportionately affects transgender women of color, especially Black transgender women. The intersections of racism, transphobia, sexism, biphobia and homophobia conspire to deprive them of necessities to live and thrive, so we must all work together to cultivate acceptance, reject hate and end stigma for everyone in the trans and gender non-conforming community.

More resources:

  • Learn more about the fatal violence cases that HRC is tracking where details are unclear. You may find a list of these cases here.

  • Watch this PSA campaign elevating stories of trans joy and love.

  • Join HRC's CountMeIn campaign to take action for transgender and non-binary people.

  • Read these guidelines and this FAQ for journalists to ensure greater accuracy and respect in reporting.