The gender identity of Audrey Hale, the Nashville shooter, has become the center of a political football in the wake of a violent tragedy.
Just hours following the shooting that killed six, authorities disclosed that they believed Audrey Hale was transgender.
Nashville Police Chief John Drake, hours after declaring Hale as a transgender, clarified that police “feel that” Hale “identifies as trans, but we’re still in the initial investigation into all of that and if it actually played a role into this incident.”
In response to a question Monday about whether Hale was a transgender man or a transgender woman, Drake said “woman.” Of course, that wouldn’t be accurate because transgender women are assigned male at birth and identify as women. Hale was assigned female at birth.
But days later, there is confusion and misinformation about how exactly Hale identified and whether Hale’s gender identity had anything to do with the motivation behind the massacre.
Hale’s LinkedIn account, which has since been removed, said Hale used the pronouns “he” and “him.” A friend of Hale’s, Averianna Patton, said Hale messaged her before the shooting and signed off as “Audrey (Aiden).”
Hale also used the name Aiden on an Instagram account.
That said, using different pronouns and a different name doesn’t necessarily mean someone is transgender, and some trans people’s identities are fluid or change over time.
A high school classmate, Samira Hardcastle, said that “people just assumed she was gay.” Hardcastle said Hale never came out as trans or identified as male, but that Hale began using a different name on social media “in the last year or two maybe.”
Hale’s parents nor the college Hale attended have publicly released any information about Hale’s identity. Six different people have said Hale did not directly come out to them as trans or talk about gender identity.
And so far police have not released any information connecting Hale’s gender identity to a motive for the shooting.
Within 10 minutes of police having said the suspect was transgender, the hashtag #TransTerrorism trended on Twitter.
Before authorities announced that Hale was “transgender” extremist websites spent hours sharing hopes that the shooter was trans or nonbinary. Nonbinary means they identify as neither exclusively male nor exclusively female.
Upon the official announcement, the extremist site 4chan immediately began posting threats against the LGBTQ community.
Turning Point USA influencer Benny Johnson tweeted out a list of shootings he claimed were committed by trans or nonbinary people since 2018.
Fox News host Laura Ingraham suggested that medications for mental illness or hormones like testosterone led to the suspect’s actions, even though police have not released any information about medication the suspect may have been taking.
And of course Marjorie Taylor Greene began speculating about a medical transition without any evidence.
“How much hormones like testosterone and medications for mental illness was the transgender Nashville school shooter taking?” Greene speculated. “Everyone can stop blaming guns now.”