News (USA)

Experts say to avoid playing the suspected Club Q shooter’s “game” with their non-binary identity

Anderson Lee Aldrich
Anderson Lee AldrichPhoto: Colorado Springs Police

Mounting evidence from hate speech experts and associates of Club Q shooting suspect Anderson Lee Aldrich suggests that they have only identified as non-binary as a way to further victimize the LGBTQ+ community.

An expert in countering online hate has suggested that the community take Aldrich’s non-binary identity in stride in order to avoid the division and distrust the suspected shooter may be trying to create.

The Tuesday after the November 19 shooting, Aldrich’s lawyers said that their client is non-binary. “Anderson Aldrich is non-binary. They use they/them pronouns, and for the purposes of all formal filings, will be addressed as Mx. Aldrich,” they wrote. Aldrich is facing 305 charges after allegedly killing five people and injuring at least 19 more

The following Monday, Aldrich’s lawyer referred to Aldrich with he/him pronouns in court documents.

It also turned out that Aldrich’s family and friends had referred to Aldrich the same way and no one who knew Aldrich before the shooting had ever mentioned Aldrich being anything other than a cisgender, heterosexual male.

Aldrich’s father even said that his first worry when he heard that his child killed five people in an LGBTQ+ bar was that Aldrich might be “gay” and that he was relieved when he found out Aldrich wasn’t.

Xavier Kraus, a former neighbor of Aldrich, said that Aldrich regularly used anti-LGBTQ+ slurs. Kraus said he believed Aldrich claimed to be non-binary as “a total troll on the community and a total troll on the system.” He said Aldrich never mentioned being non-binary nor used they/them pronouns in his company when he lived next door to Aldrich from August 2021 to September 2022.

“I think it’s an insult to those people that are actually going through personal struggles with their own sexuality and their own personal identity,” Kraus told NBC News. He said Aldrich knows of their own guilt and is now “going to make it as much of a show and a mockery and just confusing for everybody involved.”

Other experts on extremism and online hate have echoed Kraus’ sentiments. Investigators have found that Aldrich regularly posted in online “free speech” forums that advocate for killing other civilians as a way to “cleanse” society. The culture of such sites encourages people to provoke others by making offensive comments or mocking them.

Jared Holt — senior research manager at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, a nonprofit that fights online extremism — says he thinks “the suspect invoked nonbinary pronouns as a means to get one last insult in on the LGBT community.”

Aldrich also has their own entry on Encyclopedia Dramatica, a self-described “troll archive” that styles itself as an extremist bigoted version of Wikipedia. The entry praised Aldrich, who has contributed to the site since 2015, and gave them a higher ranking on its mass shooter index because Aldrich “targeted f*gs.”

Alejandra Caraballo, a clinical instructor at Harvard Law School’s Cyberlaw Clinic, said Aldrich laid a trap by claiming a non-binary identity.

If Aldrich’s non-binary identity is sincere, it adds fuel to bigoted claims that non-binary and transgender people are dangerous and undercuts the narrative that the shooting was carried out by a straight, white, cisgender male who hated the LGBTQ community.

If Aldrich’s non-binary identity is insincere, bigots could point to it as evidence that everyday people and the government shouldn’t recognize how people self-identify, since some people could abuse the self-identities to try and avoid unfavorable social consequences.

“When a racist troll trolls a Black person, they’re seeking to make them exit that space, feel unsafe and leave, and, therefore, voluntarily abrogate their right to…speak out freely and equally in communal spaces,” Caraballo told the aforementioned news outlet. “In this instance, they’re trying to make people say, ‘Well, maybe we should rethink self-identification.’ And I think it’s absolutely crucial that we don’t play the troll’s game.”

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