The far right wants to distort the recent horrific Nashville shooting into a story about violence and transgender people. We should strongly rebuff those efforts as a blatantly offensive sleight of hand that fundamentally ignores reality and seeks to undermine our collective humanity.
Last week, on Monday, March 27, our nation experienced another tragic mass shooting that senselessly took six lives at a covenant school in Nashville. Unfortunately, the right-wing disinformation machine has executed an all-too-familiar strategy of turning conversations regarding gun safety into an opportunity to perpetuate hatred toward marginalized groups. Channeling hate into a political strategy will only result in more gun-related deaths.
After unconfirmed reports that the perpetrator of the Nashville shooting identified as transgender, a flood of anti-transgender rhetoric began, with transphobic comments coming from across the spectrum. Across the conservative media spectrum, outlets went to pains to immediately brand the suspect as a “trans shooter.”
To give you a sense of the insanity, former President Donald Trump and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) have both speculated that hormone therapy was driving the shooter’s apparent rage, despite there being no evidence that the shooter was on hormone therapy.
The president’s son, Donald Trump Jr., said the media was ignoring “a clear epidemic of trans or non-binary mass shooters,” although he presented nothing to support that claim.
The comments demonizing transgender people are perhaps the most cynical in a long line of distraction techniques to avoid the underlying discussion of America’s gun epidemic—the one that is happening regardless of the identity of the shooter.
But let’s remember that facts matter. There have been at least 130 mass shootings this year alone. The vast majority of mass shootings in the United States are perpetrated by cisgender men, and transgender people are dramatically more likely to be victims of violent crime, not perpetrators. Most concerning, incidents of violence against transgender people are on the rise across this country.
The attacks on transgender people are part of a much broader and insidious campaign. Since the beginning of the year, more than 400 anti-LGBTQ pieces of legislation have been introduced in state legislatures nationwide as part of a national strategy to enshrine discrimination into law. Much of the legislation focuses on restricting healthcare access, visibility in the education system, and freedom of public expression. Within the LGBTQ community, transgender people are the most vulnerable, which makes these attacks all the more heartbreaking. Transgender people are our siblings, our family.
As a Black man who is also gay, I have lived my life being seen as “other” to many. In my life, I have learned that my greatest power is my ability to stand up for others. In my roles in the private sector, government, and not-for-profit sectors and now as the president & CEO of the Global Black Economic Forum, I have always believed that we must rise above the shrill pitch of fear and embrace the “human” in our communities.
For some, it is all too easy to look past the demonization of transgender people, because they are not transgender. But we cannot allow that to happen. We must stand together against campaigns to erase any of us. Let’s not forget: When they come for “them” today, they will come for “us” tomorrow, using the same strategy of fear and distortion.
Far too often, Black people face microaggressions and dog-whistle politics. We know the coded language, we know what it means, and we have always called it out. In today’s political environment, the dog whistle is a bullhorn of explicit bigotry.
We deserve better: a national conversation about gun policy driven by facts, not fear, and more empathy for the transgender community, who are a part of our collective human community. The vast majority of Americans want action, not more demonization. Let’s stand up for better.
Alphonso David is president & CEO of the Global Black Economic Forum. He previously served as chief counsel to the governor of New York and as an adjunct professor of law at the Fordham University Law School and the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law.