Far Right Exploits Nashville Shooting to Smear LGBTQ People

U.S. Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene speaking with attendees at the 2021 AmericaFest at the Phoenix Convention Center in Phoenix, Arizona, Dec. 19, 2021. (Photo by Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

As news broke that the 28-year-old perpetrator in Monday’s horrible mass shooting that killed three children and three adults at a Christian day school in Nashville, Tennessee, was transgender, right-wing media took advantage of the tragedy to boost their already aggressive campaign against LGBTQ people.

According to news reports, the shooter, who was killed by police, had purchased seven guns from five stores, and carried two assault-style weapons during the attack on the school. Tennessee, like other Republican-led states, has been making it easier for anyone to buy guns designed for military use.

Advocates of unregulated gun ownership often try to shut down questions about easy access to guns when a mass shooting occurs. They did the same Monday, but with a different angle. As details were still emerging about the Nashville shooting, right-wing politicians and pundits jumped on rumors about the shooter’s transgender identity to smear all trans people and the larger LGBTQ community.

“We’re still learning about the horrific shooting in Nashville,” Sen. J.D. Vance wrote on Twitter Monday. “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.”

“How much hormones like testosterone and medications for mental illness was the transgender Nashville school shooter taking? Everyone can stop blaming guns now,” Marjorie Taylor Greene declared hours after news broke of the shooting.

Fox News host Laura Ingraham spent seven minutes on a segment she titled “A Trans Killer” Monday in which she condemned Democrats’ objections to the passage of harmful GOP legislation to ban gender-affirming health care.

While police have not yet released the shooter’s manifesto, other far-right figures were quick to use the killings to advance far-right claims about a supposed “war on Christians” by “Trans Terrorists” (2020 GOP Senate nominee Lauren Witzke) and that the killings were “an LGBTQ inspired, anti-Christian terrorist attack” (failed congressional candidate Laura Loomer).

Witzke’s denunciation of trans people as “Satanic freaks” is, unfortunately, part of a relentless campaign of demonization being waged against trans people to justify attacks on their rights and access to health care. Earlier this month, Tennessee passed one such law, with Gov. Bill Lee signing legislation to ban gender-affirming care for trans youth in the state along with legislation to ban drag shows in public spaces.

It is worth being explicit here: Being transgender is not a mental health disorder, though trans people can, like everyone else, have mental health issues. The shooter’s parents reportedly did not believe he should have any guns based on his mental state, though in Tennessee, mental illness is not considered grounds for police to confiscate guns.

Charlie Kirk, the influential founder of the right-wing youth group Turning Point USA, was not to be outdone in the right’s commentary, taking to Twitter Tuesday to smear the LGBTQ community. “Unfortunately what happened yesterday fits a trend: The nastiest, most vile people in America are part of the Alphabet Mafia. They call for violence and want revenge against people who oppose their agenda,” he wrote.

The history of deadly mass shootings in this country tells a different story than the one the right is trying to paint. Mass shooters are overwhelmingly male and white. As Michael Signorile noted in his newsletter Tuesday, Fox has yet to use “white male shooter” in a headline when a white man perpetrates the crime or “white supremacist shooter” even when white supremacy drove the shooter to commit his crime.

Meanwhile, trans people are far more likely to be the victim of violent crimes than to perpetrate them. A 2021 study from the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law found that trans people are four time more likely than cisgender people to experience violent crimes.