Republicans are using the identity of the Covenant School shooter to spout transphobic rhetoric in the wake of the tragedy that killed seven people, including the suspect. Nashville Police Chief John Drake told reporters that the person responsible for the mass shooting identified as transgender.
Lawmakers like Marjorie Taylor Greene falsely connected the shooter’s gender identity with a motive for the shooting. Police say they do not have a definitive motive, however.
“Everyone can stop blaming guns now,” wrote the Georgia Republican on Twitter. “How much hormones like testosterone and medications for mental illness was the transgender Nashville school shooter taking?”
Twitter subsequently restricted Greene’s account over her remarks. She was temporarily suspended from the platform for seven days.
Transgender activists are concerned that such remarks from GOP lawmakers could instigate further attacks against their community, despite the fact that an overwhelming majority of mass shootings are executed by cisgender white males.
“Unfortunately, I think that we are living in a time where trans people are constantly under attack,” said Raquel Willis, a transgender activist.
“So that information being lifted from the story is being used for this sprawling agenda to curtail and restrict the rights of people in the margins, particularly transgender people.”
Tennessee has also positioned itself as one of numerous states unfriendly to transgender and gender-nonconforming people as well as the entire LGBTQ+ community. Weeks ago, Republican Gov. Bill Lee signed two bills into law banning gender-affirming care for transgender youth and public drag shows.
The shooting on Monday was carried out by a 28-year-old who had owned seven firearms throughout their life. All of the weapons were purchased legally.
When they walked into the Nashville school, they were armed with two assault rifles and a handgun.
Approximately 14 minutes after an initial 911 call, the shooter had killed three 9-year-olds, Evelyn Dieckhaus, Hallie Scruggs and William Kinney, and three adults — Cynthia Peak, 61, Katherine Koonce, 60, and Mike Hill.
When she first heard about the incident at the presbyterian school, Nashvillian Ravanna-Michelle Menendez, a trans woman, said that she immediately contacted her mom to check if she knew of anyone that had a connection to the school.
Then, once she heard about the shooter’s potential identity, she started to worry about lawmakers using that information to further fuel their campaign against trans rights.
“We’re going to now face even more scrutiny from these idiotic, right wing extremists that are now going to be putting out their conspiracy theories,” she said.
Earlier this month, Menendez saw images of a Tennessee flag bearing a swastika hanging off a city bridge after the passage of the anti-trans legislation.
On the sign were the words: “We must secure a future for white children” and it thanked Lee for “tirelessly working to fight trannies and fags,” making her afraid for her wellbeing.
“That was when I was truly afraid,” the activist said. “I just don’t feel safe.”
She denounced the way lawmakers and prominent GOP talking heads continue to hark on the shooter’s alleged identity instead of fighting to work on passing gun control legislation.
“We need to focus on the fact that this is not a trans issue,” she said.
Willis echoed those comments. “I think it is particularly disgusting for anyone to pin this tragedy on the shooter’s alleged trans identity.”