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Trans Tennesseans fear violent backlash as trans identity blamed for school shooting

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Transgender people in Tennessee fear retaliatory violence after Nashville police said that a recent school shooter may have been trans.

After Audrey Hale allegedly killed three children and three adults in a Monday shooting at the Covenant School, a private Presbyterian elementary school in Nashville, local police said they thought that Hale was transgender. Police didn’t explain how they reached this conclusion, but Hale identified as female while attending the school around age 10 and used male pronouns on their personal LinkedIn profile up until their death.

Barely 10 minutes after police made this comment, the hashtag #TransTerrorism began circulating on social media, NBC News reported. Right-wing figures, like Fox News host Tucker Carlson and far-right Rep. Majorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), also began blaming the shooting on Hale’s trans identity, even though the suspect’s possible motive hasn’t yet been revealed.

Aislinn Bailey, the acting president of the Johnson City-based trans-led advocacy group Tri-Cities Transgender, criticized police for mentioning Hale’s gender identity despite the uncertainty surrounding it.

“I think it was unethical and highly suspect that information like that, which they had to have known could cause backlash on the trans community — releasing information like that without it being verified, that’s unconscionable as far as I’m concerned,” Bailey told NBC News, adding, “We were already fearing for our lives. Now, it’s even worse.”

Denise Sadler, a trans drag performer, told the publication that after the shooting, she increased the number of armed guards protecting her at public performances from four guards to eight.

“You don’t know if [the shooter’s gender identity] is going to trigger a community of people who already hated us to come and try to shoot us to prove a point,” Sadler said. “At the end of the day, there’s a lot of hurt going on, there’s a lot of anger going on, there’s a lot of confusion going on.”

Tennessee state lawmakers have introduced about 26 anti-LGBTQ+ bills this year alone, according to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). So far, Tennessee has passed a ban on drag performances and a ban on gender-affirming care for minors that goes into effect on July 1. The bills are just a handful of the estimated 435 anti-LGBTQ+ bills that have been introduced in states nationwide this year alone.

Even before the shooting, Greene regularly accused the trans community and gender-affirming medical providers of “mutilating” children. She and numerous other right-wingers have regularly accused trans people of being a threat to children’s safety.

Meanwhile, Carlson has used his Fox News program to accuse gun-toting trans people of threatening political violence against Christians, a group that trans people regard as “natural enemies,” Carlson says.

In a similar vein, Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) has argued that the shooting was a “hate crime” against Christians even though there is no reason to believe that the suspected shooter was targeting Christians as a class.

On Tuesday, a CNN analyst called out conservatives blaming the shooting on trans people. Instead of focusing on the suspected shooter’s gender identity, the analyst said it’s important to look at the larger issues of mental health, protecting children, fortifying schools, firearm safety reforms, and other topics that contribute more to shootings.

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