Conservatives Will Try to Paint Trans People as Violent Extremists, We Cannot Let Them

Feature photo by Seth Herald/Getty Images

Do we say something?

What is there to say that we haven’t already said so many times?

Messages in the Autostraddle Slack’s senior staff Office channel have sounded like this too often to count, to want to count. The Autostraddle team counts parents and teachers among our numbers and beyond that we’re also all of us, heartbroken humans.

The alleged shooter who took the lives of three young children and three teachers was trans. Aiden Hale was also white, likely was contending with mental illness, probably lacked empathy, clearly felt entitled to kill other people, and was a former student of the Christian school, The Covenant School, where at least one church leader was accused of molesting a child during Aiden’s tenure at the school. It is a right-wing conservative institution. It’s easy to want to go for one factor or another, but the truth is always somewhere deep in a complex web leading to a person’s decision to commit an atrocity like this. Reasons aside, though, we can still focus on how he had the means. He had the ready access to guns that we have as residents of the United States. Without guns, all of those other things would still be true, but you can’t have a shooting without a gun.

This was the 131st mass shooting in the US in 2023. Mass shootings in the US have been on the rise. According to the Gun Violence Archive, there have been 10,001 gun deaths so far this year. In 2022, there were 44,333. While firearm related deaths are not in the top ten causes of death for all people, nationwide, they have overtaken all other causes of death in children and adolescents according to The New England Journal of Medicine. I don’t believe that there is any way that anyone, when faced with these numbers, could sincerely and without an ulterior agenda, say that guns don’t pose a deeply serious threat to the safety of the people living in the United States — and especially to children and teens. I think most of you know how dangerous our country’s unrestricted access to guns has made life for kids. These are guns in peers’ hands, parents’ hands, their ex-boyfriends’ hands, strangers’ hands, their own hands. Guns. The physical item.

And yet, I am writing this today because the alleged shooter was trans. Which has already become a conservative talking point. Because there is an ulterior agenda here. Or really, multiple, as I see it, so let’s break it down.

Tweet from Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene: How much hormones like testosterone and medications for mental illness was the transgender Nashville school shooter taking? Everyone can stop blaming guns now.

1. Conservatives want absolutely unrestricted gun control for white, cishet people.

It’s critical here to note that the right does not want blanket, unrestricted access to guns for Americans. No, because in fact, in the US, for the most part the only times that gun restrictions have been enacted, it’s been in response to marginalized people arming themselves. Think: The Black Panthers

Then, there are at least two distinct roads that lead toward wanting people to have access to firearms. There is the money aspect. The NRA’s lobbying is deeply tied to the money that is inherent in the weapons manufacturing and sales industry. So, there’s the lobbying itself, which has influenced legislation and almost certainly influenced the Supreme Court’s ruling in June 2022, which says that lower courts, when examining gun laws, “Under the Supreme Court’s new test, the government that wants to uphold a gun restriction must look back into history to show it is consistent with the country’s ‘historical tradition of firearm regulation.'” Which, in plain speak, means that safety is irrelevant to decision making around gun laws unless it fits into whatever narrative about historic firearm regulation.

The second road leading toward frenzied firearm accrual on the part of people on the right stems from the fantasy that there is some kind of mass conflict on the horizon, a second civil war, this time between the left and the right. The right-wing term “Boogaloo Boys” comes from the sequel to the movie Breakin’ which was Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo. I’m sure you’ve heard someone jokingly refer to a sequel as something something: Electric Boogaloo. Anyway, herein is the origin. They’re an armed right-wing group hoping and praying for The US Civil War: Electric Boogaloo. Think this doesn’t hit close to home? My mom, a libertarian prepper who responds to ideas of socialism with “I don’t want 10 people living in my house” and who wore her MAGA shirt last time I saw her just to taunt me, recently bought a shotgun. She doesn’t need one. It’s part of her vision of herself, part of how she views her identity. No one is going to aggravate their base by pushing for gun reform.

2. We are well aware that the right is doing their best to push us off the cliff into fascism and that anti-trans legislation and rhetoric is a cornerstone of their strategy, especially now that they’ve already managed to get Roe v. Wade overturned.

There’s too much to outline here, but I trust that the audience reading this knows that trans and nonbinary and gender nonconforming people — our freedoms, our bodies, our safety, our everything is under attack. Everyone who is not a white cishet man is under attack. We’ve covered the fight against transphobic legislation and rhetoric and rising fascism in various ways, here are some recent examples. Stef’s post today is another brilliant example.

Which takes us to:

3. Framing trans people and leftists as dangerous is a critical strategy on the part of right-wingers and the state for further cementing Republican control.

Among the sentiments I’m seeing on Twitter, well… Marjorie is just so good at summarizing so we’ll show one of hers again (this was later taken down for violating Twitter Rules).

Tweet from Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene: Antifa is organizing a Trans Day of Vengeance. Right after a Trans killed people including children at a Christian elementary school in a mass shooting Does everyone understand that Antifa is an organized and funded terrorist group that brings violence and terror for every cause.. (embedded are digital flyers for a Trans Day of Visibility rally at the Supreme Court)

On Twitter, I’m seeing calls for any trans person using firearm imagery or talking about arming themselves (as again, is a 2nd Amendment right) to be designated as a domestic terrorist, people talking about trans people having higher rates of mental illness (it has nothing to do with anti-trans hate apparently) and saying that, for example, no trans person should be able to purchase a firearm. These are the same type of people who send out Christmas photos of themselves and their kids holding guns then turning around and laying their dismay on thick when it comes to any imagery of people resisting and protesting. People who are openly transphobic are calling this shooting a hate crime and calling on the FBI to investigate it as such. Because, again, gun restrictions only enter the conversation on the part of the right when marginalized people arm themselves. While I’m not personally a gun owner, I can see the logic on the part of queer and trans people who’ve decided to learn to fire guns and to own firearms. It’s an understandable response to having your life and freedom threatened on the daily.

That said, let’s talk about that specific wording about “domestic terrorism.” That’s something that is coming up again and again, more frequently, recently, as a charge being leveraged against leftist organizers.

You might be familiar with the alleged forest defenders / concert attendees who were jailed with domestic terrorism charges. The concert was allegedly in support of the Stop Cop City movement, where those involved have protested the construction of a police training center in the city-owned Weelaunee Forest. The police training center, to my knowledge, will have a “mock” city where police can train, which I have no doubt could and will likely be used to train cops in quashing protests. Those “domestic terrorism” charges are more than, say, a trespassing charge, and are in fact highly serious charges that mean higher bail. Higher bail means a greater likelihood that someone has to stay in jail until their trial which is, even if they’re acquitted, a means of imprisoning someone. Calling for trans people to be labeled as domestic terrorists for being trans is no small thing. Then, when we consider that overt pressure, there is more clandestine pressure, such as the operations carried out by undercover cops who have infiltrated recent movements and activist communities and attempted to entrap activists into committing felonies. There’s the fact that the FBI was found to have been monitoring and surveilling a leftist bookstore. Protest and organizing and existing as trans or being a feminist or supporting racial justice are not (federally) illegal activities, and yet the FBI’s report stated, according to the above linked article:

“Pro-abortion extremists used the PCB to prepare for a pro-abortion direct action, according to the same source,’ the document reads, apparently referring to a confidential informant. Although the exact number is unknown, the FBI maintains a roster of at least 15,000 informants, or ‘confidential human sources’ (CHS) in FBI-speak, some of whom are paid as much as $100,000 per case to spy on people.”

An owner-worker of the bookstore said that this must have referred to a “sign-painting event.”

Meanwhile, despite the fact that the Department of Homeland Security identified white supremacist groups (and not antifa and definitely not trans people) as the largest threat to domestic security, little has been done by our government about that threat, even as mass shootings continue to take place.

Which takes me to where I have been trying to go since the beginning of this piece.

We have to keep our focus. We have to keep fighting. And we have to keep supporting each other and maintaining those lines of connection.

What are we fighting for? For Black lives and climate justice and and for gun control and trans rights and getting people out of office who are dangerous and kids’ rights to, say, read gay books and and and and… so many things that so often come to just not having our lives ruled and dominated and crushed by these right-wing vultures who are going to descend on this tragic news and tear it apart for their own gain.

Conservatives are going to try to leverage this tragedy to further paint trans people as violent extremists, to try and equate queerness and leftist ideals with domestic terrorism. We cannot let them win.

So what can we do?

  • Comfort each other. Reach out to someone you haven’t heard from in a while, see if they’re okay. Comfort yourself. Take care of yourself in the way you need to.
  • Support activists facing trumped up charges by supporting the Atlanta Solidarity Fund. And/or support your local bail fund while you’re at it.
  • Support people who need abortions by donating to an abortion fund or helping the people who are opening new clinics.
  • Materially support trans people.
  • Practice your CONSTITUTIONALLY PROTECTED RIGHT to protest. Exercise those First Amendment rights. The Second Amendment can’t be the only one that’s important, right? (Haha I mean, we know the answer but yeah.)
  • Practice security culture and do a personal risk assessment.
  • Volunteer! Get involved! No money? No problem! In particular, I know that people need lawyers! Lawyers are always and often desperately needed. Remember, you don’t have to do everything, but if everyone is plugging in somewhere, in some way, each according to their ability, that work helps keep you connected and our communities safer, fed better, more housed — all the things. There’s all kinds of work to be done from remote, totally computer based work to in-person, on-the-ground business. There is really truly no end to the need for volunteers. The more we build up our mutual aid infrastructures and find ways to support each other, the better we will be able to withstand attacks on our rights and persons.

Don’t let whatever they’re gonna try to throw at us have a chilling effect. I realize that everything is scary and hopeless. Scaring people away from being outspoken about being themselves, their beliefs, from participating in public life and/or activism is also a movement-killing strategy. We have to do our best to not let that happen both by shoring up our defenses (which are rooted in community care and mutual aid and self care) and by remembering that there is some safety in numbers. (Or so I hope.)

And, finally, thank you for being here. I just want to be sure I invite you to share any thoughts, suggestions, venting, calls for hugs, anything you need to at this moment in the comments below. Sending you so much love.

Before you go! Autostraddle runs on the reader support of our AF+ Members. If this article meant something to you today — if it informed you or made you smile or feel seen, will you consider joining AF and supporting the people who make this queer media site possible?

Join AF+!

Nico

Nico Hall is Autostraddle's A+ and Fundraising Director, and has been fundraising and working in the arts and nonprofit sector for over a decade. They write nonfiction and personal essays and are currently at work on a queer fiction novel and podcasts. They live in Pittsburgh. Nico is also haunted. You can find them on Twitter and Instagram as @nknhall.

Nico has written 221 articles for us.

36 Comments

  1. For me the chill and the fear set in when those Texas fucks first started targeting trans kids. By now, I’m at terror and despair. At any moment I feel like my heart is just beating “its bad, it’s bad” over and over again at 100mph. I just… wish all that all these loud, hateful people would pick a deserted island and go build their own little Reagan/Trump inspired society for them and theirs and leave everyone else alone.

    • <3 well you know they are actually so bad at surviving that when they've tried this (like the Libertarian sea nations?? i think they're called??) it's been a mess.

      Yes, it's bad and I think we can't shy away from that. It's really important not to look away, no matter where we live. Sending so much love you way. Thank you for reading.

  2. I think the Right has time to focus on trans people *because* they defeated Roe. They have been whipping up a Christian nationalist frenzy for decades; that energy would need a new target once they achieved their mid-term goal. The trans community is such a tiny population, still and probably for always; it is small enough that most people have no frame of reference for what it actually *is*, so the Right can spin whatever lies they want and no one will check it against real-life experience.

    Straight people only kinda sorta feel guilty, now, for shunning their gay cousins and leaving them to die. That took decades. I don’t think that empathy (if it can even be called that) will stretch far enough to help trans people.

    I don’t know what to do about it. It all looks pretty bleak. In all honesty I stopped thinking this country would do anything about the gun crisis after Sandy Hook. Then there was the Charleston church shooting. Then Tree of Life. And then Uvalde —

    It would be easier if people stopped saying they care about the children. That has fucking NEVER been true, not as long as I’ve been alive.

  3. thank you, Nico.

    the trauma and stress and lack of control that gun violence gives every single person living here (besides being a major health problem beyond injuries and deaths) also makes us easier to control. traumatized people are easy to control. people afraid to gather in public are easy to control. i don’t know if any political strategists go so far as to articulate this, but i think it’s in play.

    defending Weelaunee Forest is all of our fight. the dynamics – overwhelming popular opposition to the ‘construction project’ at hand, and corporations pushing it thru with PR campaigns and guns, and govt/corporate tactics against resistors, are very similar to Standing Rock. Atlanta has the second most-funded private Police Foundation in the US (https://policefoundations.org) funneling corporate & billionaire/millionaire funds into Cop City. this fight is generations old in ATL and Cop City is a direct attack on Black neighborhoods and a direct retaliation on Black Lives Matter defense of Rashad Brooks (https://communitymovementbuilders.org/stop-cop-city/).

    this is why i sobbed so hard when Gabrielle Union and Dwayne Wade’s speech for trans rights, Zaya’s rights, at the NAACP Image Awards this year. the way Gabrielle Union’s voice caught asking if we’re fighting for everyone. it’s the only way to win. that’s the same awards honoring Congressman Bennie Thompson, who went to a segregated elementary school, and joined SNCC, and chaired the investigations into the Jan 6th neo-Confederate insurrection, and said “there’s work to be done.” he organized with SNCC and he’s still going. we keep going, for all of us, and yes that includes rest & laughing together when we can. bc ppl who are jacked on adrenaline, or lost in despair are easy to control.

    take care yall <3 <3 <3 <3 <3

  4. thank you for writing this. I was looking for articles and support in the wake of all of this and I’m so glad to have found it here, this is beautifully done and I appreciate the action items and further reading.

    • <3 If we can do anything at Autostraddle, I hope that we can at least offer a place for solace and collecting ourselves before going back out to face the world. Thank you for reading and sending so much love.

  5. I needed this. I’ve been feeling such deep guilt for the fact that my attention on this issue has been directed to anything other than compassion for the people whose lives were lost or torn apart, but the first thing I thought upon hearing that the shooter was evidently trans and autistic was “oh my god, they’re going to use this against us.” What a terrifying time to be alive.

    • Right. And of course they’re going to use it against us. But that’s not what we need to focus on. We need to focus on the fact that the right is hungry for anything they can use against trans people, queer people, neurodivergent people, Black people and people of color, disabled people — anyone who does not fit their twisted sense of what the “ideal” person is. The fact is, those kids and teachers did not deserve to lose their lives. This is a tragedy, one that was enabled by right-wing gun legislation and advocacy, a tragedy that would not have been possible if it were not for the current and past actors within right-wing politics. When blame is shifted, we have to remember who is shifting it and why.

      Thank you so much for reading this and for being a part of this space. I hope you are taking so much care in this moment. Sending you love <3

  6. Thank you for this, Nico. <3 Honestly, I’m so glad that Autostraddle was the place I first read the news about the shooter being trans. It felt incredibly destabilizing to read, like a body blow. I think I closed my eyes. So it took me several days to comment, but I did want to thank you for writing this so quickly and clearly. I came to this comment section knowing I would find other people who feel like I do, knowing I would feel held in my grief and terror, and that’s the value of Autostraddle, isn’t it? So glad I decided to rejoin A+. Sending you all the love, and hoping you also feel held in community right now.

  7. Thank you for this. Thank youfor naming the connections that contribute to such violence occurring and then the violence of it being used against trans folks. Thank you for urging us to take the small actions that are available to us. I am lad to be here with you all.

  8. Nico, thank you for the seriousness, energy, and care that you put into writing this and compiling these practical and actionable resources (particularly on top of the fundraiser and all the other demands on you!). I needed to be reminded of all of this today. Thank you.

  9. The morning after the shooting the New York Post had big black letters on the front page, the very first word was “TRANSGENDER “.I would like to know where Merrick Garland and the DOJ are in this tsunami of transphobia.

Contribute to the conversation...

Yay! You've decided to leave a comment. That's fantastic. Please keep in mind that comments are moderated by the guidelines laid out in our comment policy. Let's have a personal and meaningful conversation and thanks for stopping by!