Jul 19, 2023

U.S. Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene

U.S. Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene
Gage Skidmore

The Right’s New Solution To Mass Shootings: Ban Trans People, Not Guns

by Adam M. Rhodes

In the wake of this month’s deadly mass shooting in Philadelphia, far-right politicians and pundits once again seized on a tragedy to demonize trans people—all while deflecting from their own role in massacres like this.

On the night of July 3, a shooter wearing a ski mask and armed with a military-style rifle opened fire seemingly at random, killing four people and injuring two. Police said the suspect had also killed another man almost two days earlier.

U.S. Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, conservative commentator Ben Shapiro, and other right-wing figures wasted no time fanning the flames of anti-trans hatred by claiming, with little evidence, that the shooter was trans. It was the latest in a coordinated disinformation campaign by the right to portray recent mass shootings as part of a broader pattern of “transgender terrorism.”

“Another trans shooter,” Greene tweeted, citing an article from a far-right blog.

This campaign is equal parts malicious scapegoating and calculated misdirection. To claim the shooter was trans, these conservatives have pointed to photos on his now-deleted social media accounts showing him wearing feminine clothing. At the same time, they have ignored evidence suggesting the suspect shared many more common traits with other recent mass shooters: He espoused ultra-conservative views about guns and expressed support for twice-impeached former President Donald Trump, ex-Fox News host Tucker Carlson, and other influential right-wing voices.

The anti-trans blame game is just one of the many diversionary tactics the right has used in our intractable gun violence debate: When marginalized people commit violence, conservatives like Greene are quick to argue that Blackness or transness are motives. But when people with extreme right-wing or white supremacist views shoot up churches, schools, and grocery stores, the motive ceases to be a question of identity or political belief. It’s mental health. Or video games. Or “wokeness.” Anything to distract from how these conservatives are also responsible for granting would-be mass shooters—whatever their motive—nearly unfettered access to the very weapons used in these massacres.

Greene made similarly inflammatory comments earlier this year following a deadly mass shooting at the Covenant School in Nashville, apparently eager to politicize early—and, at the time, unconfirmed—reports that the shooter was transgender.

“How much hormones like testosterone and medications for mental illness was the transgender Nashville school shooter taking?” Greene tweeted. “Everyone can stop blaming guns now.”

Carlson similarly argued on his now-canceled primetime show that trans people were targeting Christians.

This phony conservative victimhood narrative conveniently ignores the fact that trans people in the U.S. are over four times more likely than cisgender people to be victims of violent crimes. Trans people are also twice as likely to be victims of gun violence, with trans people of color—particularly Black and brown trans women—facing an alarming trend of deadly violence in recent years. In total, more than 220 trans people have been murdered since 2017, with the vast majority killed with a gun, according to Everytown’s Transgender Homicide Tracker.

It is impossible to separate the far right’s scapegoating from the broader war Republicans are waging on queer people in the U.S. Lawmakers in all but one state introduced legislation targeting the LGBTQ community this year. Spreading misinformation about trans people being not just amoral or deviant, but also potential terrorists, only adds dangerous fuel to this fire.

The media has also played a role in mainstreaming the right’s latest anti-trans campaign. But it’s important to recognize that some appear to have learned from mistakes made after the Covenant shooting, when many publications rushed to report the shooter was trans while providing little, if any, context about why this detail was relevant. The insinuation was, somewhat unavoidably, that their gender identity must have motivated the shooting.

This time, reductionist claims tying the Philadelphia shooter’s actions to his gender or sexuality have found little foothold in reputable media outlets. Outlets like VICE and Teen Vogue have led the pack in calling out this harmful disinformation, relying on research from institutions like Media Matters and Snopes.

But this kind of rhetoric isn’t going to stop. Demonizing and dehumanizing trans people is part of the larger work of heteronormative white supremacy. And blaming trans people for mass shootings is a powerful tool in the conservative culture war. Why regulate guns when you could criminalize trans people’s entire existence?

In the aftermath of the Philadelphia shooting, Asa Khalif of the Philadelphia District Attorney’s LGBTQIA advisory committee hit back at the conservative press for spewing transphobic claims and putting people’s lives in danger.

“[Trans people] want to live their lives and they have every right to do so, and we will not allow conservative bigots to use that type of language to attack trans people,” Khalif said. “It’s rallying the community to be violent and we’re better than that.”

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ICYMI — From The Appeal

Happy birthday to us! It’s officially been two years since we decided to relaunch as a worker-led nonprofit newsroom! We’ve come a long way since July 2021, and Tara Francis Chan and Molly Greene shared some of our successes, challenges, and hopes for the future.

Kevin Light-Roth was held in solitary confinement for nearly 400 days. The conditions he faced there were outrageous, but as Light-Roth writes, the prison administration’s justification for subjecting him to this punishment was even worse.

Kids incarcerated at Louisiana’s Angola prison say they were locked in windowless cells with no air-conditioning for nearly 24 hours a day this month, as heat indexes in the area topped 133 degrees.


In the news

In a survey of young people in Brooklyn, New York, 35 percent said they carry a gun because they fear the police. [Brittany Kriegstein / Gothamist]

Knock LA published the results of its yearlong investigation into the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. They found that since 1984 at least deputies had fired upon at least 916 people. [Cerise Castle / Knock LA]

Over the past eight years, more than 450 people in Phoenix, Arizona have been charged with manifestation of prostitution. A person can be cited for flagging down a car or wearing clothing that is perceived as provocative. [Katya Schwenk / Phoenix New Times]

Child welfare agencies in several states are sending kids to juvenile detention facilities because they can’t find other placements for them. [Eleanor J. Bader / Truthout]

Craig Waleed survived solitary confinement and now he’s working to make sure no one else is subjected to the torture he was. “That’s what fuels me: my experience of pain, loss, and trauma,” he told Ahmed Jallow. [Ahmed Jallow / The Assembly]

That’s all for this week. As always, feel free to leave us some feedback, and if you want to invest in the future of The Appeal, donate here.