On the Nashville Covenant School Shooting and the Transgender Day of Visibility

trans-day-vis-nebr
Hundreds of Nebraskans gather outside the Nebraska State Capitol in honor of “Trans Day of Visibility” on Friday, March 31, in Lincoln, Neb. Their efforts follow critical legislation that’s brought the Legislature to a crawl. (Zach Wendling/Nebraska Examiner)

By now I’m sure you have heard of the tragic shooting at the Covenant Christian School in Nashville, TN. Six people, three adults, and three children lost their lives at the hands of a 28-year-old shooter.

The shooter was subsequently killed by the police as the suspect fired on police units from a second story window in the school.

When it came to light that Audrey Hale, also known as Aiden Hale, identified as a trans male with he/him pronouns, a significant percentage of people around the nation reacted negatively and even in hostility toward the LGBTQ community.

Side Note: Most of the information publicly available on Hale refers to the suspect as female by “her” and “Audrey” which is why the statement above is worded ambiguously.

Here’s what we know about the shooter.

The murder of six people at a school, Christian or otherwise, is already tragic and heartbreaking but the timing makes it worse. The International Transgender Day of Visibility was scheduled to be held on March 31st and April 1st, less than a week after the shooting.

To that end, social media came alive with support for the trans community and almost all of the sympathy and support for the Covenant School victims, their families, and friends, seemed to take a back seat at best and be ignored at worse.

To be fair, the trans community rightfully feared a tremendous backlash against them due to the school shooting as evidenced by a number of news stories including those at KHN.org and Reuters.

I had thought that maybe the trans community might withdraw from “Day of Visibility” but the opposite occurred.

You can view stories from The Independent, MPR news and 13 KOLD News.

Additionally, social media was very active with “Day of Visibility” support as well:

Even celebrity Madonna announced she was giving a benefit concern in Nashville for the trans community. The news is also covered by Rolling Stone Magazine.

Adding to all of this was what I saw originally referred to as Trans Day of Vengeance which certainly has ominous overtones.

veng
Screen capture from twitter.

In light of the Covenant school shooting, twitter removed tweets about “Trans Day of Vengeance”. Also, some outlets including Amazon started selling Trans Rights or Else t-shirts prominently featuring images of firearms. Amazon has since pulled out for obvious reasons.

or else
Screen capture from twitter.

But how has the school received all this, and moreover, how were Christians understanding this in the wake of these deaths and in their collective grief?

memorial
A woman prays at a makeshift memorial for those killed in a mass shooting at the entrance of The Covenant School on March 29, 2023, in Nashville, Tennessee. Three students and three adults were killed by the 28-year-old shooter on Monday. | Seth Herald/Getty Images

In the shadow of “visibility” were the funerals of six people, three of them eight and nine year old children.

Like many people including many Christians, I have been very disturbed about how the “Day of Visibility” eclipsed the deaths of six innocent human beings. I am quite aware of the reports of trans people being targeted for violence. In 2022, 32 transgender people were killed in the U.S.. You can find out more at HRC.org.

However that shouldn’t just cancel out the unjust deaths of Christian school employees and students, and it did give at least the surface impression that especially Christians were lesser in importance as victims than the trans or larger LGBTQ community.

So, on social media, I started posting the photos of the six school shooting victims on any account supporting the “Day of Visibility” with the statement “Say their names.” Often, when people of color are perceived to have been killed unjustly, especially by law enforcement, their photos will be displayed in social media with that accompanying statement. As far as I’m concerned, that should apply to any victim of violence who may not or is not being treated with justice and respect.

I got no responses at all (I didn’t expect any) until I posted on LGBWithTheT‘s twitter account. The screen shots following illustrates the conversation.

1
Screen capture from twitter.
2
Screen capture from twitter.

Okay, so I searched. I didn’t find anything right away, and given Google’s biased algorithms, I thought the results would come up fast. I found plenty of stories about LGBTQ solidarity regarding both the Orlando and Club-Q attacks.

Finally, I found a story from Gay City News condemning the Nashville school shooting. However, in reading the story about Gays Against Guns, it was more focused on violence against the gay community than support for the school shooting victims.

I had to search through LGBTWithTheT’s twitter feed to find their statement of support since Google didn’t return it. Maybe I just wasn’t using the right search terms, although I’m usually pretty good at searching.

That’s all I wanted. One LGBTQ advocacy group, as far as I can find, made an unambiguous statement of support for the school shooting victims.

statement
Screen capture from twitter.

The Nashville School shooter had a history of mental illness. The shooter had legally purchased seven firearms, three of which were used in the actual shooting. The shooter had previously gone to this school as a child and law enforcement believes that “resentment” may have been part of the motive for the shooting. Hale’s vehicle was found to contain a detailed map of the school, so the shooting was premeditated and the school, it’s employees, and young students, were targeted.

A “manifesto” written by the shooter was also found. So far, law enforcement has declined to release it to the public, although according to The Independent:

The chilling manifesto left behind by the Nashville school shooting suspect is set to be released to the public once FBI profilers complete an analysis of its contents.

But according to Newsweek:

Calls for police to release the “manifesto” that authorities say was written ahead of Monday’s Nashville school shooting has prompted concern among LGBTQ+ groups, who caution against the publication of such a document.

However, it’s not a matter of if, but of when the document will be released.

All that said, we must remember that this was the act of one person, not a group of people. If a white cishet male is discovered to be a mass shooter, there’s a tendency to believe that all such people are dangerous and potentially homicidal. That’s untrue, but there’s a lot of bias in social and news media.

To be fair, assumptions are made when the shooter is Latino or Black. And yet, in all cases the shooter is human, and violence is common to human beings, at least some of us.

For the Christians who read this blog, please don’t aim whatever issues you may have regarding the LGBTQ community at them as hostility and certainly not violence. Believers often are seen as automatically “hating” the community and some of that perception is justified.

On the other hand, we also are informed by the Bible and our understanding of God, so our moral lens does show us a spiritual image of that community inconsistent with the Word of God. In fact, you’ll find other posts on this blog that likely would not be appreciated by said-LGBTQ community. I try to be fair and just in everything I write, but I also am informed by that Biblical lens.

That doesn’t justify hate toward Christians anymore than the fact that Hale, who was a trans man, justifies Christians hating or blaming the LGBTQ community. Hate is most often fueled by fear, and for a variety of reasons both Christian and the LGBTQ communities tend to fear each other.

Events like school shootings and the “Day of Visibility” are often used by politicians and news agencies as ways to promote themselves (rather than necessarily promoting the groups being advocated). They are highly and even relentlessly visible in the media because it sells more news stories and garners more votes.

All I asked was for the LGBTQ community to issue a statement such as “We are in solidarity with the victims, families, and friends of the Covenant School shooting. The shooter’s actions were wrong and criminal and we don’t support them. The victims had as much right to live as we do.”

That’s all I wanted.

Fortunately, that’s what I found.

victims
From the Covenant School/Covenant Presbyterian Church/Facebook/KMOV/Dieckhaus Family
The Covenant School shooting victims (top row) Katherine Koonce, Mike Hill, Cynthia Peak, (bottom row) Evelyn Dieckhaus, Hallie Scruggs and William Kinney.

Say their names.

Addendum – April 1, 2023: I sent LGBWithTheT a link to this blog post. I didn’t know how they’d react but since I mentioned them so prominently, I thought I owed it to them. This is what I got back as a response.

addendum
Screen capture from twitter.

At first I thought this would remain wholly adversarial,  but perhaps a simple apology provides a bit of resolution if not healing.

7 thoughts on “On the Nashville Covenant School Shooting and the Transgender Day of Visibility”

  1. I think what all these shooters have in common, right from the start of it, is mental illness. It’s not really a matter of sexual orientation or religious stance, it’s plain old mental illness and it’s not being addressed.

    1. I think it’s a multi-pronged problem. When I was a kid, we have the same or even easier access to firearms as today, but there were no school schoolings. There were even gun clubs in high schools and in rural areas, high school kids had loaded rifles and shotguns in gun racks in the back of their trucks so they could do a little hunting after class. What the heck happened?

  2. I believe it has a lot to do with the entertainment we had in our growing years especially middle school and high school. When I was in school about 7 years ago, everybody played video games. Majority of kids played halo or call of duty starting at the age of 10. We can all agree that we have a lot of angst in those formative years. When we come home from school we have all of this stress built up and then we let go while playing these games. Sure it’s a fictional game but I also can see it causing a desensitization to the topic of shooting someone. I don’t place all the blame on shooting games because this is just a theory and maybe a sliver to the puzzle.

    1. https://www.wboy.com/news/national/gun-ammo-salesman-confirmed-to-tennessee-education-board/

      March of 2022

      NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee lawmakers have confirmed the governor’s appointment of a businessman to the State Board of Education despite lawsuits over his company’s sale of ammunition online, including the bullets used in a mass shooting at a Texas high school.

      The Republican-supermajority General Assembly gave its final approval to Jordan Mollenhour in a 71-14 House vote Thursday. The Senate approved the pick last week.

      Republican Gov. Bill Lee appointed Mollenhour to the 11-member board last November. GOP lawmakers praised his business acumen and commitment to his community.

      Mollenhour’s profileon the board’s website says he and his business partner, Dustin Gross, have started, bought or invested in numerous U.S. businesses since founding the privately-owned investment firm Mollenhour Gross LLC in 2004. Some of these have relocated to Knoxville.

      Democratic lawmakers have centered their opposition on his role in Lucky Gunner, a Tennessee-based online ammo dealer owned by Mollenhour Gross LLC. Some also questioned how his resume qualified him for the education role.

      “There are 7 million people in this state,” Democratic Senate Minority Jeff Yarbro said during debate last week. “We ought to be able to find one who is not involved in ongoing litigation about possible responsibility in a school shooting.”

      Republican House Majority Leader William Lamberth defended Mollenhour on Thursday, saying that “if a person sells enough ammunition, there will be an evil person that misuses it.”

      A lawsuit in Texas accuses Lucky Gunner of not verifying the age of Dimitrios Pagourtzis [a 17-year old junior at the time] before selling him more than 100 rounds of ammunition, some of which were used to kill 10 people at Santa Fe High School, southeast of Houston, in 2018.

      [..]. Federal law prohibits minors from purchasing handgun ammunition, and also bars licensed gun companies from selling handgun or shotgun ammunition to minors.

      Mollenhour is a defendant in the civil case. Last month, the Texas Supreme Court denied the company’s request to have the lawsuit dismissed.

      Lucky Gunner and its owners had argued they were immune from litigation under the federal Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which prohibits firearms and ammunition manufacturers and dealers from being held liable when their products are used in crimes.

      Lucky Gunner had faced a similar lawsuit after the 2012 Aurora movie theater shooting in Colorado in which 12 people were killed. But a federal judge dismissed that lawsuit in 2015.

      ….

      Mollenhour, a campaign donor to Lee, is “an extremely successful business owner,” said Rep. Jason Zachary, a Republican from Mollenhour’s city of Knoxville. “He’s a philanthropist, very giving, very generous to the Knoxville community” and statewide.

  3. Start the sentimental music.

    Just what Christmas is about… politics.

    https://www.nbcnews.com/think/opinion/christmas-card-guns-lauren-boebert-thomas-massie-start-new-culture-ncna1285709

    … shocked and repulsed by Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., who, within days of this heartbreaking event, posted a holiday message on social media featuring himself and his smiling family, each member posing with a gun. Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., then joined ranks with Massie by sharing a picture of her own minor children posing with their own large guns, as though the incident in Oxford hadn’t occurred …

    Of course, Christmas must go on — whatever else is happening; gotta carry on with the War “on” or “of” Christmas as these politicians want attention and results from their stunts.

    1. https://nypost.com/2023/03/28/tn-rep-for-nashville-under-fire-for-family-christmas-photo/

      A Tennessee congressman who reps the district where six people were killed in a school shooting Monday is under fire over a family Christmas photo showing him and kin proudly holding assault rifles.

      Republican Rep. Andy Ogles, his wife and two of their three kids posed with the weapons as they stood in front of a decorated Christmas tree and smiled for the camera in 2021.

      https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-politics/andy-ogles-nashville-gun-christmas-b2309633.html

      Tennessee congressman Andy Ogles has defended his controversial Christmas card showing him and his family posing with guns, after he came under severe criticism in the wake of the school shooting in his district this week.

      Mr Ogles represents Tennessee’s 5th congressional district where six victims were gunned down in a shooting at The Covenant School in Nashville on Monday.

      In December 2021, he had posted a photo to his Facebook showing himself, his wife, and three children posing with four guns. At the time, Mr Ogles was serving as mayor of Maury County.

      “Merry Christmas! The Ogles Family,” the post read.

      “The very atmosphere of firearms anywhere and everywhere restrains evil interference – they deserve a place of honour with all that’s good.”

      The post has since been deleted from his social media profiles following a severe backlash.

      But, when asked if he now regrets the photo this week, the pro-gun congressman has doubled down on the image.

      “Why would I regret a photograph with my family exercising my rights to bear arms?” he told Sky News.

      Mr Ogles refused to explain why the photograph was removed from social media after the Nashville shooting and not in the wake of previous school attacks.

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