Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story described Loving as a Denver resident, based on the comments of friends and law enforcement. Loving’s family said she lived in Memphis and was on an extended visit to Colorado. The story and headline were updated on Dec. 6, 2022 to reflect that.
A mother figure. A woman of resilience. A true friend.
That’s how friends and family remember 40-year-old Kelly Loving.
Loving was identified as one of the five people killed late Saturday night when a 22-year-old man opened fire at an LGBTQ club in Colorado Springs. Local police confirmed her identity Tuesday. Seventeen other people were also shot.
The gunman was stopped by two clubgoers, who prevented him from continuing the assault. The suspected shooter is currently awaiting charges.
The attack happened the day before the Transgender Day of Remembrance.
Loving’s friends in Denver said she was a trans woman, a mother figure in her respective communities and loved by all. Loving was on an extended visit to Denver leading up to the Club Q shooting.
A sentiment Loving’s sister, Tiffany, shared in a statement. Tiffany Loving told the New York Times that she was informed of her sister’s death by the FBI on Sunday.
“My condolences go out to all the families who lost someone in this tragic event, and to everyone struggling to be accepted in this world. My sister was a good person. She was loving and caring and sweet. Everyone loved her. Kelly was a wonderful person,” Tiffany Loving said.
Ariel Hill said she met Loving in Memphis and the pair became fast friends, traveling together and going out on occasion. Hill said Loving was the kind of person who would “give you the shirt off her back.” Hill said Loving taught her how to be the woman she is today.
“If it wasn’t for her, I would have never learned how to live my life, be free, be Ariel,” Hill said. “I wouldn’t be the girl I am today if it wasn’t for Kelly. [She] meant a lot to me… I don’t have the words right now. Kelly taught me a lot. She taught me how to do makeup. She was truly a loving person.”
Natalee Skye Bingham also said Loving was kind, confident and she instilled her confidence in other people.
Bingham met Loving in Florida and the two reconnected in Denver. From the beginning, Bingham said Loving was always there with advice and a boost of confidence.
Bingham called Loving a trailblazer of the trans community.
“She got us our rights today by being a leader by not giving up and not caring what people think,” Bingham said. “She was transitioning during the days when trans women weren’t looked at as people… She’s gone through so much but she made me confident today so that I can see tomorrow.”
According to the Human Rights Campaign, at least 32 transgender and gender-nonconforming people have been killed in the U.S. this year. The organization has been tracking violence against transgender and gender-nonconforming people for 10 years. About 63% of the victims are Black transgender women and about 77% were under the age of 35.
Bingham said Loving outlived that statistic, which makes her death even more bitter. But even in death, Bingham said Loving is continuing to inspire her and she’ll continue her legacy through activism.
“I’m going to fight for her until I die,” Bingham said. “Regarding gun control…more trans rights…I’m going to fight for Kelly. What was done Saturday night is not going to go unheard of. I will fight for her rights as she fought for mine. Being an older trans woman, I respect her so much and I can’t thank her enough for being the person she is so that I have the freedom I do today.”
Vigils are being held for all the victims across the U.S. and Colorado. Here’s a list of some of the local vigils taking place in Denver this week.
This article has been updated with comments from Natalee Skye Bingham and more context.