Using misinformation to pursue oppression

Ahavah Kirwan, Contributor

Last week, a mass shooting occurred at The Covenant School, a private elementary Presbyterian school in Nashville, Tennessee. Six people were murdered: three nine-year-old children and three staff members. This was the deadliest school shooting in the U.S. since the Robb Elementary School shooting in Uvalde, Texas, where 21 people were killed.

The 28-year-old shooter, who was killed by responding police, was initially identified by their legal name, Audrey Hale, who went by the name “Aiden.” Police also initially identified the shooter as a woman, but then later said that he was a transgender man. Hale was under care for an emotional disorder during the time of the shooting and had legally purchased seven firearms between October 2020 and June 2022. There is debate on whether Hale was receiving hormonal therapy. However, whether he was or was not receiving hormonal treatment is unknown, but it has been confirmed that he was on medication for his alleged emotional disorder.

Hale’s identity as a transgender man in relation to the massacre perpetrated by him has been the subject of controversy within the Republican Party; specifically, the theory that him being transgender was his motive for the shooting. Multiple right-wing commentators such as Ben Shapiro, Candace Owens and Tucker Carlson have all expressed the belief that the hormonal treatment the shooter may or may not have received was tied to the crime. Some of these commentators are explicitly claiming that the “transgender movement” is targeting Christianity. The fact is that out of every school shooting in the United States, only three shooters have been transgender. The rest have been men, usually white males. Those claiming that transgender people are violent school shooters are blatantly publishing false lies which are hurting transgender people around the country. As the threat of transgender genocide lurks around the corner, these lies are further motivating lawmakers and the general public to believe that transgender people should be treated as second-class citizens.

As seen in recent months, anti-transgender legislation is being pushed in Texas, Arkansas, Florida, Missouri and many other states by GOP lawmakers based on nonsensical evidence such as this, with these laws and bills being passed at alarming rates. With this only being the third school shooting perpetrated by a transgender shooter, the Republican party is using Hale as a mascot to try and push the idea that Christians are being targeted by transgender people. On his Fox News segment, Tucker Carlson claimed, “The trans movement is the mirror image of Christianity, and therefore its natural enemy. one side is likely to draw blood before the other side.” Carlson argues that transgender people have been and will continue to target Christians in the United States. However, in 2022, over 30 transgender people in the U.S. were murdered simply for being transgender, while Christians use their ideology and power in U.S. politics to push laws in the name of God to the praise of the American government and general public, and are not victims of hate crimes, nor targeted or persecuted based on their beliefs, nor murdered as Carlson suggests. Transgender people have long been the subject of hate crimes in the country, with some of those hate crimes being carried out by those who hold the same beliefs about transgender people as Carlson and the rest of the GOP. Another piece of transphobic rhetoric came from Twitter, posted by U.S. Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, who has blamed with no evidence that the shooting was due to Hale allegedly receiving hormonal therapy. Mass shootings are rarely carried out by those on hormonal therapy or transgender people at all. Instead, they are committed by the same types of people who claim transgender people make up the majority of shooters: white cisgender men. According to the National Justice Institute (N.J.I.), 97.7% of mass shooters are male, and 52.3% are white compared to the 0.2% who are transgender. 

Right-wing commentators wish for the general public to believe that they are correct in their assertions. However, by using publicly available information, the idea that transgender people make up the majority of mass shooters can easily be proven false. While commentators highlight the three transgender shooters in the United States, they fail to mention the numerous shooters who have been white cisgender men. Stephen Paddock murdered sixty people in Las Vegas, Nevada. Dylann Roof murdered nine people in Charleston, South Carolina. Devin Kelley murdered twenty-six people in Sutherland Springs, Texas. Adam Lanza murdered twenty-eight people in Sandy Hook, Connecticut. Nikolas Cruz murdered seventeen people in Parkland, Florida. Dylan Bennet Klebine and Eric David Harris murdered thirteen people in Columbine, Colorado. Salvador Ramos murdered twenty-one people in Uvalde, Texas. George Hennard murdered twenty-three people in Killeen, Texas. Patrick Wood Crusius murdered twenty-three people in El Paso, Texas. Robert Gregory Bowers murdered eleven people in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Payton S. Gendron murdered ten people in Buffalo, New York. What do these people have in common? They are all cisgender males. 

It is also worth noting that these people are claiming that the fact that Hale was able to own a weapon while having numerous mental illnesses was unbelievable and evidence that transgender people should be disarmed en masse. However, the same white men who commit all shootings have had complications that should have prevented them from owning weapons. The GOP ignores these issues and declares that their second amendment right can not be taken away from them. They are trying to advocate for taking transgender people’s weapons, a group of people who are victims of hate crimes every day, in the name of public safety when white men with criminal histories are easily able to access weapons and commit mass shootings with no calls to restrict gun sales based upon this. According to the N.J.I., most mass shooters have been male, teenage to adult men. 62.8% of individuals who commit mass shootings in the United States have a history of violence, including 27.9% who have a history of domestic violence. This alone should mean they are not allowed to own weapons. Additionally, 64.5% have a past criminal record, and 28.5% have a military background. Therefore, the idea that transgender people who receive hormonal treatment are those who are committing mass shootings and that all transgender people should be banned from owning weapons is easily proven wrong. It is, in fact, the same white cisgender male demographic who blame transgender people for these tragedies and wishes to remove the right of transgender individuals to protect themselves that commit these horrendous acts the most and should have laws restricting their access to weapons. The GOP also claims that transgender people are “idolizing” Hale and view him as a martyr. Nowhere is this proven. Transgender people broke out in support of the victims’ families and shunned the shooter, just like everyone else. The only difference between transgender reactions and cisgender reactions is the fact transgender people have to defend themselves or be called the next “Aiden Hale.”

If the people committing school shootings the most are cisgender men, why are people such as Tucker Carlson and Ben Shapiro denying it and blaming transgender people? They say this because it prompts the general public to think about transgender people in a negative light. 2022 was one of the worst years for transgender people in the United States. The onslaught of bill after bill attacking those who identify as transgender has not stopped in the year 2023. Right-wing commentators, lawmakers and news sources would like the public to believe that transgender people commit the most mass shootings and should not be allowed to arm themselves because they wish to make support for the anti-transgender legislation increase while making the opposition for them decrease. They do this by spreading this propaganda to the public. This also has the effect of making the general public more violent towards transgender people and more likely to turn a blind eye towards a mass genocide and erasure of transgender people. The idea that transgender people are going through the stages of genocide is increasingly being followed in transgender circles as the anti-transgender legislation, sentiments and ideals continue. The progression that Gregory Stanton labels in his Ten Steps of Genocide would place transgender people’s persecution at stage eight out of ten, “persecution,” which is described by The Genocide Education Project as, “Victims are identified and separated out because of their ethnic or religious identity. Death lists are drawn up. In state-sponsored genocide, members of victim groups may be forced to wear identifying symbols. Their property is often confiscated.” We are increasingly seeing this today in the United States. Transgender people are being forced to identify as transgender or as their birth gender, they are being separated from events such as professional sports events, being told that they are prohibited from using certain bathrooms or even businesses, and now, the GOP is discussing taking away their rights to have weapons.

The idea that transgender people commit acts of violence because of hormonal therapy has surprisingly come out of left field and has no basis in any scientific journals. According to a recent survey, most transgender people on hormones or those who received surgery are satisfied and even feel better off with the results. The minority who are not satisfied with their transition or are pressured out of it can detransition and usually do so, going on to live successful and fulfilling lives. Therefore, the idea that transgender people are likely to commit crimes is a flawed argument only being used by right-wing commentators and news outlets to spread propaganda and dehumanize transgender people in order for state governments, and eventually, the federal government, to easily pass anti-transgender laws and policies with little resistance from the general public. However, those consuming those lies should use this article and other transgender resources to educate themselves on transgender hate crimes, abduction, murder and genocide by the United States government. The need to advocate for transgender rights has hit its peak. As more and more laws are proposed that target transgender people, those who are allies and members of the LGBTQ+ community who are not transgender, and all those who are oppressed in the United States need to come together to fight with transgender people to secure the rights they deserve. 1.3 million people ages thirteen and older identify as transgender in the United States (as of June 2022).

The need to secure equal rights is now, and transgender people need the help of the U.S. to fight transphobic laws. As the year 2023 progresses, the flow of the transphobic scare continues. Without opposition, transgender people could soon face more than just bans on hormonal therapy and access to gender-affirming healthcare, but a ban on being transgender at all. Transgender people may move to stage nine of genocide: extermination.