Almost as soon as details started to emerge about the shooter in Nashville, Tennessee who killed six people, pundits and politicians on the right started exploiting the tragedy to spread anti-trans hate.
Though investigations into Monday’s shooting at the Covenant School in Nashville are ongoing, early reports have identified the 28-year-old shooter as a transgender person. Predictably, right-wing personalities immediately started falsely blaming trans people in general for the mass shooting that killed three young children and three adults.
“How much hormones like testosterone and medications for mental illness was the transgender Nashville school shooter taking?” Marjorie Taylor Greene tweeted on Monday. “Everyone can stop blaming guns now.”
Transgender mass shooters are incredibly rare, as are female shooters. Only a handful of shootings out of hundreds across the country have involved a person who identifies as trans, and 98 percent of mass public shooters are men, according to the Violence Project, which tracks mass shootings.
And yet, anti-trans hate is proliferating and escalating all over Fox News, Twitter, 4Chan, Telegram, and Kiwi Farms as more news trickles out of Nashville. Pundits and politicians on the right have published a stream of disinformation, including unsubstantiated claims that hormone replacement therapy—a life-saving and affirming treatment for many trans people—can increase the likelihood of someone committing gun violence. Many far-right people have started co-opting the term “trans terrorism,” once used to describe violence targeting trans people, to imply that trans people are the violent ones, while also pushing the erroneous Christian nationalist belief that trans people are waging a holy war.
Some within the extreme-right are even promising violence, and stated in posts on Telegram “let the roundups begin” and it’s “time to purify.”
“I came to the conclusion years ago that the trans movement is the greatest evil our country faces,” the Daily Wire’s Matt Walsh wrote on Tuesday. “I only become more and more sure of this fact with each passing day, and more and more determined to oppose it until my last breath.” Walsh has 1.5 million followers on Twitter, and, by the time of publication, this tweet was liked more than 31,000 times, and viewed 2.8 million times.
“I am not sure there are words for just how irresponsible and bloodthirsty the Fox News primetime coverage of the tragic Nashville school shooting was this evening,” tweeted Ari Drennen, LGBTQ program director with progressive media watchdog Media Matters.
“It has been an online barrage towards basically any visible trans person online,” LGBTQ activist Alejandra Caraballo told VICE News. “The trolls are basically out in full force with no restraint.”
The mounting reactions on the far-right aren’t surprising. In 2023 alone, GOP lawmakers across the U.S. have introduced nearly 500 anti-trans bills, a record-breaking number. Republicans have also banned critical gender-affirming care for minors in 10 states, and continue to pursue draconian anti-LGBTQ bills, including a bill out of Arkansas that would charge transgender adults with sex crimes if they enter a bathroom at the same time as a minor. For the first time since at least 2015, lawmakers have introduced, and in some cases passed, bills that aim to ban drag.
A few weeks ago, Tennessee became the first state to pass a drag ban. Politicians in Tennessee are also maintaining and pushing for less strict gun regulations; right now, anyone over 21 doesn't need a permit to carry a handgun, and background checks aren’t required to own a handgun. There have already been more than 100 mass shootings in the U.S. this year alone. Last year, gun violence became the single biggest cause of deaths in children in the U.S., and studies show that states with lax gun laws suffer from more mass shootings than those that have stricter rules.
Now, it seems the Nashville shooting has given the anti-trans conservative wing more fodder for its cruelty as an already hostile situation in the U.S. for trans people could become even worse. “This is going to pour fuel into the fire in terms of pushing more anti-trans legislation,” Caraballo said. “They're going to work to criminalize our existence and push us further out from public life.”
Some people on the right have even framed the shooting as a holy war between Christians and trans people. This refrain and religious focus has echoed throughout the far-right ecosystem and has been spread by figures with thousands of followers, and in some cases, over a million.
On Tuesday night, Fox News spread anti-trans hate and disinformation on a primetime show often viewed by millions. “The Trans movement is targeting Christians,” a big news banner stated on the Tucker Carlson Tonight segment. Carlson went on to claim that trans people are the “natural enemy” of Christians.
Others have been threatening explicit violence with religious undertones. In one group of far-right activists on Telegram, one poster wrote, “I think we've been tolerant long enough…The time for crusade has arrived,” they added. “Let the round-ups and witch hunts commence. Let the night sky be lit by burning stakes. Time to purify.”
“Transgender terrorists are the largest-growing terrorist group per capita in America,” an influential right-wing figure falsely wrote to his two million followers on Twitter before floating the idea that the attack occurred because Easter, the holiday commemorating Jesus’ resurrection, is around the corner. (In reality, police have yet to state a motive and there has been no indication that religion was tied to this shooting.)
Some online activists have also falsely claimed that some trans activist groups are armed militias preparing for violence. One poster on Telegram claimed, without providing actual evidence, that “there is evidence of underground and private communication amongst the transgender community of committing further acts of violence.” Another extreme-right figure, who led a neo-Nazi group that has been designated a terrorist organization in multiple countries, said he believed the shooter was part of one of these militias and “jumped the gun and couldn't wait… to kill some innocent White Christian kids.”
“They're framing it as ‘trans person killing Christian children,’” Caraballo said. “They’re particularly framing it in that way to push that kind of narrative to create conflict and lay the groundwork for someone who is unstable to act out. This will certainly result in increased threats against the LGBTQ community, and potentially even acts of violence.”
But even before the shooting in Nashville, the opposite was shown: leaked emails between anti-trans lobbyists and politicians revealed how trans people were actually being targeted by Christian Nationalists back in 2019.
Several trans activists and LGBTQ groups have urged trans people to take care of themselves as vitriol continues to spread, including by stepping away from social media or spending time with friends and loved ones. “The hate towards our community is going to be intense. Prepare,” the Trans Resistance Network tweeted shortly after news of the shooting surfaced. “Stay away from the news if you need to. Find something healthy and affirming to do. Don't listen to haters screaming on the news. This is ONE MOMENT. We will keep surviving.”
There are also planned demonstrations across the country, unrelated to the shooting and organized far in advance, that will go ahead as part of the Trans Day of Visibility to spread awareness about the discrimination trans people face while also celebrating trans people.
“Many transgender people deal with anxiety, depression, thoughts of suicide, and PTSD from the near-constant drum beat of anti-trans hate, lack of acceptance from family members and certain religious institutions, denials of our existence, and calls for de-transition and forced conversion,” wrote Trans Resistance Network in a media statement.
“It is a testament to the inner strength and beauty of transgender people, that despite the overwhelming odds of homelessness, job discrimination, and constant anti-trans bigotry and violence, so many of us continue to persevere, survive, and even thrive. We will not be eradicated or erased.”