A 17-year-old transgender girl was reportedly attacked in El Paso on Tuesday night, after the far-right spread false rumors online blaming a transgender woman for the Texas school massacre that left 19 children and two teachers dead earlier this week.
The girl, Tracey, told the Los Angeles Blade that she was approached by four men as she headed back to a halfway house where she lives after being kicked out by her parents for being trans. One of them grabbed her arm, she said, and told her, “Oh, look, it has a dick.”
“Yeah, you know they’re perverting kids instead of killing them,” Tracey said the man added.
“Yeah, you know it was one of your sisters who killed those kids. You’re a mental health freak!” one of the other men reportedly said.
Tracey managed to get away. She said she tried to report the attack to El Paso Police, but they refused to take a report.
After VICE News contacted the El Paso Police Department about the Los Angeles Blade article on Friday, police said that they had attempted to contact its author for more information. The department was unable to reach the author, who, the police said, had not contacted any public information officers in the department.
“The El Paso Police Department takes all reports of crimes from every victim with the utmost importance and dignity owed to the victim. At the moment the information we have is all third-party information from either social media or now your inquiry,” police said in an email. “The name Tracey alone is insufficient to research further.”
“I’m not aware of any situation like that,” a spokesperson for the El Paso Police Department told VICE News. The department did not immediately respond to a follow-up email asking for comment on the Los Angeles Blade report.
The reported attack occurred just hours after right-wing lawmakers like Arizona Rep. Paul Gosar had helped boost a conspiracy theory that claimed the shooter responsible for the horrific elementary school massacre in Uvalde was trans.
The conspiracy was initially formed on the /pol/ board of the anonymous message board 4chan, where users took photos of a random transgender woman from Reddit and claimed they were images of the shooter, an 18-year-old Uvalde resident.
The baseless conspiracy quickly gained traction and moved from 4chan to other extremist-filled networks like Telegram and Gab, and soon to mainstream platforms like Facebook and Twitter, where Gosar shared it with his 160,000 followers:
The far-right Arizona congressman deleted the tweet, but only after leaving it on the platform for over two hours.
The decision to use the shooting as an opportunity to spread transphobic content is even more concerning given the rise in violent attacks against transgender and gender non-conforming people in the U.S., with 2021 seeing a record number of fatal attacks against the community, according to research from Human Rights Campaign. It is also yet another example of a male mass shooter’s actions being blamed on girls and women.
“Trans people, immigrants, & communities of color are all too familiar with the right-wing extremist pattern of blaming us for tragedies—and using misinformation to endanger innocents,” the National Center for Transgender Equality tweeted in response to the targeted spread of disinformation.
The rise in attacks coincides with attacks on trans rights in many parts of the country, including Texas, which has authorized its department of Family and Protective Services to investigate the parents of transgender children, and has introduced legislation restricting what sports trans men and women can take part in.
This story has been updated with comments from the El Paso Police Department.