March 29, 2023 - 4:00pm

It’s hard to make sense of this week’s mass shooting at a Christian elementary school in Nashville, Tennessee, no matter what revelations may lurk in the shooter’s manifesto. But it is possible to understand the context for this outbreak of violence. 

The truth is that the subculture that has grown up around trans identities too often excuses, legitimises, and even glorifies violence. That includes violence directed at the self — where self-harm and suicide demonstrate sincerity and commitment to trans identity in the face of adversity — and violence directed outward at perceived enemies. This goes hand-in-hand with a toxic dynamic called phobia indoctrination: the attempt to instil irrational fears in members of a high-control group in order to manipulate them.

There’s no clearer example of how phobia indoctrination operates within trans communities than the invention and propagation of ‘trans genocide’ narratives. 

As red states across the US have restricted or banned pharmaceutical and surgical interventions for gender-questioning youth, the trans community has gone to some very dark places — even going so far as to claim that a ‘trans genocide’ is underway. 

On Reddit, users panicked about the idea that future policy changes might force people to detransition and invoked threats of suicide and mass violence in response. But these conversations didn’t stay on Reddit. Instead, the rhetoric of trans genocide has spilled out into the real world, skewing public discourse and inspiring a planned Trans Day of Vengeance (originally scheduled for April 1). 

Take trans activist and American Civil Liberties Union lawyer Chase Strangio. Two years ago, the ACLU lawyer argued that legislation that restricts access to hormones and surgeries for gender-questioning youth is “akin to killing us” and has since claimed that Republican legislators “want to control and eradicate us.”

To be clear: this is wild hyperbole, not reality. Adults who care about the wellbeing of gender-questioning kids should offer reassurance when states restrict access to transition to over-18s. Those who didn’t transition until adulthood should talk about how they made it through adolescence without shutting down their pituitary glands or amputating their breasts. Adults should promise children that it gets better. But instead of reassurance, too many adults are pushing an apocalyptic and militant rhetoric.

What we’re witnessing here is not trans genocide but trans radicalisation. The warning signs are everywhere: grimacing skulls that promise “DEATH BEFORE DETRANSITION”, knives, baseball bats wrapped in barbed wire, assault rifles painted in the pastel tones of the trans flag, torrents of rape and death threats, the grim vow that “EVERY DAY IS TRANS DAY OF VENGEANCE.” 

In the wake of Monday’s mass shooting, online trans communities erupted with panic and self-pity — even self-justification. The Trans Resistance Network released a press statement lamenting the “second and more complex tragedy… that Aiden or Audrey Hale… felt he had no other effective way to be seen than to lash out by taking the life of others, and by consequence, himself,” and vowing that trans people “will not be eradicated or erased.” Rather than repudiating a dangerous narrative that produces violence against the self and others, the Trans Resistance Network reinforces it.

Buried in the comments section of a Reddit post, however, there was one voice of reason: “The murderous and suicidal rhetoric,” the user wrote, “the violence against women and children, should’ve stopped years ago. Another good time to discontinue it would be now.”

Minutes later, the comment disappeared. Reddit administrators had intervened. But that dissenting voice — however swiftly muffled — spoke an uncomfortable truth. When a community mythologises martyrs, that community will recruit martyrs. A responsible, sane trans movement that was truly concerned about the wellbeing of its most vulnerable members would not look or sound or act like the trans movement we’ve got. It’s way past time to bring sanity and a sense of responsibility back.

Eliza Mondegreen is a graduate student in psychiatry and the author of Writing Behavior on Substack.