White supremacists and Proud Boys joined other far-right politicians, pundits, and protestors at a recent “Rally to End Child Mutilation” in Nashville, Tennessee. Some of the protestors held signs supporting death and violence against doctors who provide gender-affirming care to transgender youth, and a Republican elected official was in attendance.
The rally, held at the city’s War Memorial Plaza on October 21, was organized by conservative podcaster and transphobe Matt Walsh. Walsh spoke at the event alongside Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), state lawmakers like state Sen. Jack Johnson (R) and state Rep. William Lamberth (R), former Rep. Tulsi Gabbard from Hawaii, a lawyer from the anti-LGBTQ hate group Alliance Defending Freedom, and other anti-trans activists. An estimated 1,500 to 3,000 people attended, according to varying media reports.
At the rally, one protester held a sign that said, “Doctors who mutilate children should be killed.” Another held a sign that said, “Mutilate the mutilators.” One protestor told counterprotesters, “No mutilators. Mutilators go home.” Other signs declared “homo sex is sin” and that “hellfire awaits” gay people. One of several Proud Boys flashed a white nationalist hand signal during the event, Media Matters reported.
During his speech, Walsh asked the crowd, “As Tennesseans, do we believe in castrating children? Do we believe in that? Do we believe in drugging and mutilating kids? They believe in it.”
Blackburn and Gabbard and other speakers also repeated Walsh’s claim that gender-affirming care “mutilates” children. Such rhetoric has been used to vilify health centers and has led to bombing and death threats against medical professionals. In reality, gender-affirming surgeries are only rarely performed on trans minors, and genital surgeries are never performed on them.
“Look, you all are happy warrior freedom fighters,” Blackburn said during her speech. “You are not going to let the left get their way with our children.”
Walsh planned the rally after launching a successful campaign targeting Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) in Nashville for offering gender-affirming care. Walsh falsely claimed that VUMC doctors “castrate, sterilize, and mutilate minors” and posted a video clip showing VUMC workers discussing their offering of “top surgeries” for 16- and 17-year- old patients who have parental permission.
Though such surgeries have very low rates of regret, VUMC announced in early October that it would stop all gender-affirming procedures on minors for several months while reassessing its policies. It did this after 62 Republican state representatives wrote a letter asking VUMC to stop. VUMC noted that it had performed very few gender-affirming surgeries and had never conducted genital surgeries on minors.
The rally also featured the following speakers: president of Convention of States Action Mark Meckler, founder of Trans Rational Educational Voices Scott Newgent, founding editor of Reality’s Last Stand Colin Wright, and 18-year-old de-transitioned, right-wing media darling Chloe Cole.
After the rally, Walsh referred to the event’s counterprotesters as “satanic leftist zombies,” “emotionally disturbed freaks and losers,” “disgusting hellspawns,” and “screeching goblins” before asking his followers which side of the issue they’d like to be on.