Laura Ann ‘Lauri’ Carleton was the owner of a store called Mag.Pi in Cedar Glen, California. While she did not identify herself as a member of the LGBTQ+ community, she was an ally and by all accounts an active and positive advocate in her community. Carleton had a long career in fashion, including an over 15-year stint working at Kenneth Cole. Her daughter Ari described to CNN how Carleton and her husband handed out food to those who needed it during heavy snowfall in San Bernadino. Carleton was described as a “true ally” by director Paul Feig. At her store, she flew multiple flags, including a Pride flag. When that flag had faded from the sun, she ordered a new one. Before it could arrive, she was shot dead by Travis Ikeguchi.
Ikeguchi allegedly made many disparaging remarks about the Pride flag being flown outside Mag.Pi and tore the flag down while yelling queerphobic slurs. When Carleton confronted him, Ikeguchi shot her and then fled. After police gave chase, Ikeguchi engaged in a shoot-out ending with his death. Ikeguchi’s social media activity on the far-right hate sites X and Gab included plenty of anti-LGBTQ+ material as well as the claim that abortion and same-sex marriage represented a “war” on traditional family values.
With a startling number of anti-LGBTQ+ laws rolling out across the country and a national state of emergency declared for all queer Americans, we are facing a frightening situation. The number of anti-LGBTQ+ laws has grown to 494. The rhetoric spouted by Ikeguchi is not unique to him and it represents a real threat to queer people and their allies. This is the result of allowing hateful rhetoric to go unchecked. This is the result of countless conservative talking heads spouting off about groomers and drag. This is the result of not taking the deaths of trans and gender-nonconforming people seriously, as they’re mostly ignored by our media. We have allowed this rhetoric to build and build until someone can be shot simply for flying a rainbow flag. Mourn Lauri Carleson for all she gave to her community and fight for the better world we’re capable of where queer people and those that love them can live in peace.