The Right has seized upon news that the shooter at a Christian school in Nashville on Monday, March 27, identified as transgender.
Their immediate goal seems clear: to promote anti-transgender narratives and justify their support for legislation targeting the transgender community.
Officials with the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department identified the 28-year-old suspect, Audrey Hale, who was killed by police at the site of the shooting, as a transgender man.
Since that information became public, several Republican politicians and far-right pundits with large followings on social media have sought to portray transgender people as dangerous and a threat to society.
U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) sought to link transgender identity with violence by questioning whether Hale had received hormone therapy prior to the shooting.
“How much hormones like testosterone and medications for mental illness was the transgender Nashville school shooter taking? Everyone can stop blaming guns now,” she tweeted, echoing talking points opposing gun reform legislation and President Biden’s call for the revival of the 1994 assault weapons ban, which the Bush administration allowed to expire in 2004.
How much hormones like testosterone and medications for mental illness was the transgender Nashville school shooter taking?
Everyone can stop blaming guns now.
— Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene🇺🇸 (@RepMTG) March 27, 2023
Greene’s congressional Twitter account was briefly suspended on March 28 after she sought to link the “Trans Day of Vengeance,” a protest planned for April 1, on the day after the Transgender Day of Visibility, with the recent proliferation of mass shootings and Antifa, an array of assorted left-wing, anti-fascist groups.
In the tweet, Greene claimed that “people need to know about the threat they face from Antifa & trans-terrorism,” echoing claims made by other right-wing figures that the idea of a “Day of Vengeance” is an implicit call for violent action, reports the UK-based newspaper The Independent.
On its website, the Trans Radical Activist Network, which is organizing both a virtual and an in-person protest on April 1, clarified that the in-person demonstration, which will take place at 11 a.m. in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, “is about unity, not inciting violence.”
“TRAN does not encourage violence and it is not welcome at this event,” the website reads. TRAN claims the protest is designed to be a show of visibility for transgender, nonbinary, intersex, and gender-nonconforming communities at a time when bills, executive actions, or rules are being floated in nearly every state to restrict transgender people’s rights.
The protest also seeks to denounce physical attacks directed at transgender, nonbinary, intersex, and gender-nonconforming communities, with 60 known transgender people having been killed in acts of violence in the United States in 2022.
Greene complained about the suspension, accusing Twitter of attempting to block tweets and allowing the event to be “whitewashed by global brands and the left.” She also sought to cast the Nashville shooting as a hate crime targeting Christians for their religious beliefs.
Yesterday, my official Twitter account was termporarily suspended for warning about Antifa's Trans Day of Vengeance in front of the Supreme Court.
This planned event is being whitewashed by global brands and the left. Meanwhile, there’s still no acknowledgement of the innocent… pic.twitter.com/666WRD9EZX
— Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene🇺🇸 (@RepMTG) March 29, 2023
The Independent reported that police in Nashville have not made any connection between Hale and Antifa, or between Hale’s gender identity and his decision to break into the school to carry out a mass shooting.
U.S. Sen. J.D. Vance (R-Ohio) tweeted that the “extreme left” needs to do a “lot of soul searching” after “giving into” the idea that a person can be transgender, appearing to link gender dysphoria with mental instability and casting blame on those who affirm transgender people’s identities.
We're still learning about the horrific shooting in Nashville. But if early reports are accurate that a trans shooter targeted a Christian school, there needs to be a lot of soul searching on the extreme left. Giving in to these ideas isn't compassion, it's dangerous.
— J.D. Vance (@JDVance1) March 27, 2023
Kingsley Cortes, a former aide to former President Donald Trump’s 2020 presidential campaign, suggested restricting access to guns — but only for those identifying as transgender.
“If you identify as transgender and/or are undergoing hormone therapy – you should NOT be allowed to legally purchase a firearm,” she tweeted.
If you identify as transgender and/or are undergoing hormone therapy – you should NOT be allowed to legally purchase a firearm
— Kingsley Cortes (@KingsleyCortes) March 27, 2023
Donald Trump, Jr. falsely claimed that there has been an “incredible rise” in the number of transgender and nonbinary mass shooters over the past few years — an assertion not borne out by statistics collected on mass shootings.
“Maybe, rather than talking about guns we should be talking about lunatics pushing their gender affirming bull***t on our kids?” he tweeted.
Given the incredible rise of trans/non-binary mass shooters in the last few years… by far the largest group committing as a percentage of population… maybe, rather than talking about guns we should be talking about lunatics pushing their gender affirming bullshit on our kids?
— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) March 28, 2023
According to The Violence Project, close to 97% of assailants who carried out mass shootings between 1966 and 2020 were cisgender men.
Anderson Lee Aldrich, the alleged assailant in the November 2022 shooting at a Colorado Springs LGBTQ nightclub — who faces more than 300 charges for the attack that killed five and injured 17 others — has been identified by their lawyers as nonbinary.
But law enforcement officials claim the 22-year-old ran a neo-Nazi website and regularly used anti-gay and racist slurs online — leading some to speculate that the suspect’s alleged gender identity may be a form of “trolling,” in order to defame the LGBTQ community.
Alec McKinney, one of two co-defendants in a shooting at a Denver-area charter school that killed one person and injured eight others in 2019, reportedly identified as transgender.
Snochia Moseley, the perpetrator of a mass shooting in 2018 at a Rite-Aid in Aberdeen, Maryland, reportedly suffered from mental illness and emotional turmoil due to her struggle with sexual identity, according to The Washington Post.
According to the Gun Violence Archive, there have been at least 129 other mass shootings in 2023 alone. But Hale appears to have been the only transgender or nonbinary-identifying assailant thus far.
Other right-wing celebrities appeared to link transgender identity and gender-affirming health care with acts of violence, despite uncertainty over whether Hale was receiving gender-affirming care as part of his transition.
Podcaster Tim Pool claimed during a March 27 episode that the Nashville shooting was a “terror attack” and a “hate crime.”
“Trans people commit more acts of violence per capita than other people,” he said. “[Conservative comedian and political commentator Steven] Crowder got strikes and taken down because he talked about trans prisoners raping women.”
Candace Owens tweeted, “When you play Frankenstein with people’s body parts, you can’t be surprised when they behave like monsters. A person willing to execute violence upon his/her own body will not hesitate to impart violence onto someone else’s.”
When you play Frankenstein with people’s body’s parts, you can’t be surprised when they behave like monsters.
A person willing to execute violence upon his/her own body will not hesitate to impart violence onto someone else’s. https://t.co/e1kMt73XCu
— Candace Owens (@RealCandaceO) March 28, 2023
Others used the shooting to push the narrative that greater restrictions on guns could not have prevented the killings in Nashville, despite the fact that Hale was allowed to legally purchase seven different guns at five different gun shops prior to the shooting.
Others echoed Greene’s claims that the shooting could be considered a targeted, bias-motivated attack against Christians, with Katie Pavlich, the host of The Five, implying that the school’s Christian identity may have been why it was attacked.
According to left-wing media watchdog Media Matters for America, Fox News host Tucker Carlson blamed the shooting on a “deranged and demonic ideology that is infecting this country with the encouragement of people like Joe Biden.”
“The trans movement is targeting Christians, including with violence,” Carlson said. “Most Christian leaders in this country don’t want to admit that. Admitting it might force them to take deeply unfashionable positions. But it is true, and anyone who is paying attention knows that it’s true, and so like most true things at this point, it is officially suppressed.”
LGBTQ advocates have expressed concerns that Right-wing rhetoric will only encourage others to pursue physical violence against trans people, or seek to pass policies further restricting transgender rights and visibility.
“I am concerned that this one crime by a bad person will be used to justify stripping more rights away from a vulnerable group, as we’ve seen in other moments in history,” Ari Drennan, the LGBTQ program director for Media Matters, told The 19th. “The Republican party will blame anything and everything before they do a thing about guns. And so this will just keep happening.”
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