In an article about the Nashville school shooting, a crowd of protesters holding up signs face a large, stately-looking tan building with many large columns and carved details.

Following Nashville Shooting, Anti-Trans Rhetoric Distracts From Reform

The issue is not transgender people, it’s firearm violence.
May 1, 2023
7 mins read

Amid the flood of reports containing updates on the terrible shooting that occurred on March 27 in Nashville, certain media outlets have begun reshaping the event as an example of impending “trans violence” in the United States. Instead of focusing on the assault weapons used to commit the shooting and how the attacker obtained them, reporters have instead pointed their attention towards the gender identity of the assailant. It comes as no surprise that conservative news companies are jumping on the transphobic bandwagon, as the shooting occurred only weeks after the Tennessee drag ban. This new narrative is incredibly dangerous. Not only does it harm the LGBTQIA+ community, but it distracts from the real issue affecting children: gun violence.

For those unaware, on March 27, an assailant armed with multiple assault weapons entered The Covenant School and killed six people, three of whom were young students. Since this horrifying event, thousands have protested at the Tennessee State Capitol for stricter gun laws. Children have held signs reading “I’m 9” in solidarity with those who were killed in the shooting. At the forefront of these protests were state representatives Justin Jones, Justin Pearson, and Gloria Johnson, leading the chants “no more silence” and “gun reform now.” Both Jones and Pearson were later expelled from the Tennessee House of Representatives after their protests were labeled as “breaking rules of decorum and procedure” by leading Republican House Member Cameron Sexton. The move to expel Johnson fell short of a majority by one vote.

Nashville’s event marks the 125th shooting of 2023. According to the Gun Violence Archive, the United States has averaged more than one mass shooting per day since the beginning of the year. Shootings are the leading cause of death for American children between the ages of one and 19, as shown by data from the Kaiser Family Foundation. Despite this evidence, there is no national definition of what constitutes a mass shooting, which makes it difficult for lawmakers to agree upon a set of statistics that tackle this issue head-on.

While U.S. conservatives argue over the complexities of gun reform, they have no problem pointing a finger at trans people as the main antagonists to child safety. Since the Nashville event, #TransTerrorism has been trending on Twitter, and thousands of people have flooded the platform with transphobic rhetoric. Former Fox News host Tucker Carlson featured a photo of the attacker with the words “Trans Killer” on his show; the caption read “We are witnessing the rise of trans violence.” Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene proposed on Twitter that the aggression could even be linked to hormone treatment. Former President Donald Trump also backed this claim during a segment on John Fredericks’ conservative talk radio. Trump assured listeners that his ban on transgender people enrolling in the military was due to concerns about hormone treatment, stating that “the amount of drugs they take is so incredible.” Regardless of these claims, research has shown that most transgender people do not take hormone treatment, and there is no evidence that the Nashville shooter was undergoing hormone therapy.

However, there is consistent evidence that attacks happen more often in states with lenient gun laws. Furthermore, there is documentation that there is a trend of alt-right attackers imposing threats based on racist ideologies. Between 2010 and 2020, there were an accounted 164 deaths in extremist-related massacre incidents. In 2021, attorney general nominee Merrick Garland condemned the slew of hate crimes, expressing that the U.S. is “facing a more dangerous period” than the aftermath of the Oklahoma City bombing. The 1995 bombing, which was the deadliest act of domestic terrorism in the United States, was the result of white supremacist ideologies. Additionally, trans individuals are one of the groups most affected by these attacks. In 2021, the Human Rights Campaign reported a record number of fatal attacks against transgender and gender non-conforming people, with at least 50 incidents on record. Since the beginning of 2023, there have already been nine recorded instances of murdered transgender individuals.

These arguments only strengthen anti-trans rhetoric, and the issue of gun violence is becoming more muddled than ever. Ari Drennen, a program director for Media Matters for America, analyzes transphobic rhetoric in conservative media. Drennen stated “I didn’t really think it was possible to escalate from implying we are pedophiles, but we are seeing this escalate into people calling trans people violent terrorists.” Nashville resident Anna Caudill, a friend of victim Katherine Koonce, has addressed how anti-trans narratives distract from the real issue at hand. When asked to comment on the matter, Caudill explained: “I’m trying to direct most of my posts and currency in this moment on Twitter to naming how the monetized anti-trans talk is a device to distract voters from acting on the convictions they express in polling around assault weapon bans.”

Amid the hurricane of hate speech and the blatant disregard for gun laws, it is hard to navigate a path toward reformation. But there are many ways everyday people can fight against the deceitful tactics utilized in conservative media. Individuals can contact their local state representatives and argue for stricter gun safety measures. They can support transgender people and dispel anti-trans rhetoric on social media. The group Everytown for Gun Safety, which is the largest gun safety advocacy organization in America, offers information about protests and events on its website. It is imperative that the fight for gun reformation and trans rights beats on to counter the ongoing uncertainty of basic safety in America.

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