Kelly Loving wasn’t a club person, to say the least, her close friend Natalee Skye Bingham said. But she had just turned 40 and decided to head from her home north of Denver to Club Q in Colorado Springs.
“It blew my mind, in a good way, seeing her going out of her comfort zone, going out and celebrating,” Bingham, 25, said. “When I say this woman hated going out, she hated going out.”
The two friends spoke over a video chat as Bingham painted her nails and as Loving’s ride pulled up to the club and she headed into the bathroom.
Loving showed Bingham her outfit and promised to call back after she grabbed a drink and settled in.
She never called back.
Just minutes after the two friends hung up, police received a call that the shooting had started in Club Q. Loving was reported the next day as one of the five people killed.
The last thing Bingham had said to her friend was that she loved her and she reminded her to be safe. She paused intermittently, stifling tears and recalling the details.
“If I just kept her in the bathroom just two minutes longer, a minute longer, could she still be here today?” Bingham said.
Bingham, 25, said she had known Loving since she was 18 and transitioning into life as a woman. They met at Club Xtra in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, a transgender entertainment club that advertises music, drinks and a safe, inclusive atmosphere.
“She was like a trans mother to me,” Bingham said. “She came into my life at a special moment where I was so down and didn’t believe in myself.”
Loving, a Memphis native, was compassionate, generous and trusting, Bingham said.
“When I didn’t even know how to put on makeup or how to dress and I didn’t feel the confidence in myself, Kelly was the one to embrace me,” Bingham said. “She told me to embrace who I was, not to worry about what other people think or say. She said being different is okay. Being who I am is okay.”
If Loving was able to help Bingham with her transition, that’s because she had been through it all before.
Loving had been shot and stabbed before by people who didn’t accept her for who she was, Bingham said. Despite it all, she persisted and continued to see the best in people.
“She had the most confidence of anybody I had ever met before,” Bingham said. “She didn’t care what anybody thought about her or who she was because she knew she was genuine in her heart and that’s what mattered,” she said.
Loving had moved to Colorado about a month ago, Bingham said, and the pair had been spending time together since the move.
During a recent visit to Bingham’s home in Denver, Loving offered to help paint her patio yellow. Bingham said she wasn’t sure of the idea at first.
“My house is gray and modern and at first I’m thinking, yellow?” Bingham said with a slight laugh.
Loving “was very inspirational for being different,” she added.
But the two never got the chance to tackle the project together, something that will likely stick out later this week because Loving had been set to join Bingham for Thanksgiving.
Bingham said she’ll paint her patio yellow by herself now, as a way of remembering her friend.