The Autistic Women & Nonbinary Network and the Autistic People of Color Fund are saddened to hear of the tragic mass shooting in Nashville, Tennessee, where a shooter killed three adults and three elementary school-aged children.
First and foremost, we acknowledge the pain, suffering, and trauma that the victims’ family, friends, and colleagues, as well as community members, are experiencing. We are especially saddened that three young children were killed before they had the chance to further their education, start careers, pursue their passions, or consider having children of their own. All murders are tragic, but those of children are particularly deplorable.
At the same time, AWN and the Fund unequivocally condemn bigoted and hateful remarks about the shooter’s gender identity as a trans man and its purported relationship to his violent acts. Transgender people are far more likely to be the victims of violence, rather than perpetrators of violence. There has also been media speculation that the shooter may be autistic. Autistic people, as well as other disabled people, are also far more likely to be on the receiving end of violence than to perpetrate it. Nonetheless, even when a transgender or disabled person does act violently, the focus needs to be on the impact of that violence on victims and survivors, and the specific motives and opportunity they had to perpetrate it. The focus should never be on inaccurate, inappropriate, and dangerous assumptions about a causal relationship between violence and trans identity or autism. Such insinuations only serve to justify bigotry, prejudice, and potentially deadly discrimination against both trans and autistic people. Instead of focusing on the victims’ untimely deaths and cultures of abuse and violence throughout the U.S., reactionary pundits and politicians have seized on the shooter’s gender identity to score points against the “woke left.” As anti-trans state legislators are introducing and advancing record numbers of anti-trans bills in dozens of states, we urge policymakers to reject proposals to further restrict trans people’s rights based on attempts to stoke fear and hatred of our community.
Now more than ever, we must invest in community safety that focuses on the ultimate causes of violence and collaborates with those most harmed to imagine what safety looks like. We must support survivors of gun violence with real resources and effective, informed gun regulations that protect civil rights. And we must defend trans community members in the face of continuing right-wing assaults on freedom and bodily autonomy.