Last Monday, a 28-year-old woman entered a Christian school in Nashville, Tennessee, and proceeded to shoot and kill three nine-year-old children and three adults, including a substitute teacher, a custodian, and the head of the school.
In the hours following the shooting, media reports gave strangely conflicting accounts of the gender of the shooter, who was reportedly a former student at the school. Some reported that the shooter was a woman and others a “transgender woman” (which, in politically correct “newspeak,” means a man pretending to be a woman). Were the circumstances not so unspeakably tragic, it would have been comical to watch the media anxiously straining to make sure they got the shooter’s pronouns correct, lest they “misgender” a mass-murderer.
Such is one effect of transgender ideology: casting confusion on even the simplest matters and causing otherwise serious people to waste energy on the most pointless enterprise (painstakingly establishing the “gender identity” of a killer), instead of focusing on the only thing that matters (i.e., the unjust killing of innocents).
Eventually it was established that the shooter, Audrey Hale, was, indeed, a woman, but that in recent months she had begun to “identify” as transgender, and to use the pronouns “he/him.” However, once this became clear, many media outlets suddenly avoided referring to Hale’s gender altogether, in some cases going to absurd lengths to avoid using pronouns of any sort.
And one can see why. One police chief suggested that Hale’s act may have been driven by “resentment.” Although he did not say resentment for what, it is natural to hypothesize that this resentment might have something to do with the Christian school’s views on sexuality and transgenderism. Although Hale reportedly left a manifesto explaining her motives, that has not yet been released, leaving everything a matter of speculation. But clearly the media does not want anyone to think that Hale might have killed three children and three adults because she had been driven to do so by the increasingly extremist rhetoric of transgender activists. That would be inconvenient for the narrative.
Transgender “Day of Vengeance”
But there is good reason to be asking some very hard questions about some recent trends in progressive rhetoric.
In one of the most appalling failures of judgment in recent memory, in the wake of the Nashville shooting, transgender activists expressed their intention to carry on with a previously planned “Trans Day of Vengeance.” The event, scheduled for April 1 and organized by a group called Our Rights DC, was supposed to have participants come out for a protest at the U.S. Supreme Court to “stop trans genocide.”
In the wake of a school shooting that looked suspiciously like a transgender individual taking “vengeance” on her former Christian school, people naturally called for the cancellation of this irresponsibly-named protest. Initially, organizers refused. Eventually, however they did cancel. But even then, they cast the blame on others.
Rather than cancelling the event because it was the right thing to do, organizers instead said that they were cancelling because they have received threats. “This threat is the direct result of the flood of raw hatred directed toward the trans community after the Tennessee shooting,” they said.
Troublingly, several trans activists have posted images of themselves to social media sites in recent days and weeks, posing with guns. In fact, trans activists casting their cause as a resistance to “genocide” that may require arming with guns seems to be something of a trend. For example, on Etsy one can find a t-shirt and other items emblazoned with images of guns and the phrase “Trans rights…or else.” One trans activist posing with a gun stated that the gun would be used as “protection” against “transphobes.” One group behind the “trans day of vengeance” event had been raising money to provide firearms and training to transgender individuals.
A spokesperson for Twitter noted that the platform had removed 5,000 tweets with the poster for the “day of vengeance” event. “‘Vengeance’ does not imply peaceful protest,” noted Ella Irwin, reasonably enough. “Organizing or support for peaceful protests is ok.”
Consequences of Violent Rhetoric from the Left
I am far from the only one to note a troubling growth in violent rhetoric and action on the left.
On the transgender issue, activists pushed the envelope so far, and so fast, that in recent months many countries and states have reacted by putting in place measures to protect children from undergoing experimental medical procedures with life-long consequences, including permanent infertility and body mutilation. However, transgender activists have responded to these common-sense measures by arguing that they are victims of a “genocide” that is seeking to “deny their existence.”
This is madness. Urging caution in the face of a sudden explosion in the number of children identifying as transgender is not “genocide.” Anybody with an iota of common sense, no matter their political beliefs, should be deeply worried that children are being swept up in a form of mass hysteria and making irreversible decisions with woefully insufficient forethought.
However, if in response you instead go around claiming that transgender individuals are victims of a “genocide,” and urge the swelling ranks of young “transgender” individuals to think of themselves as the victims of a genocide, then perhaps you shouldn’t be surprised that some of them might become consumed with a hatred and resentment that expresses itself violently.
The disturbing real-world consequences of the LGBT movement’s escalation in rhetoric were seen quite clearly in the recent protests against feminist speaker Posie Parker in New Zealand. Parker opposes such things as allowing men who claim to be women to use women-only spaces and to compete in women-only sports. When she arrived in New Zealand, however, she was greeted by a violent mob that heckled her and doused her with tomato juice. Video footage of the protest is disturbing. Here is a woman advocating common-sense policies that practically everyone defended until moments ago, and yet the hatred heaped upon her head is palpable.
This protest is merely the latest confirmation that something troubling is happening: there is a growth in progressive activists who are consumed by resentment, absolutely committed to the most extreme version of woke ideology, and willing to use violent tactics, even against people who are otherwise progressive in most of their beliefs (see, for example, how trans activists have treated JK Rowling), but who refuse to bow the knee to the latest, most extreme LGBT innovation.
This shift is not only visible when it comes to the transgender issue. It is also visible in relation to the issue of abortion. Some pro-abortion activists reacted to the overturning of Roe by painting the banning of abortion as a violent, totalitarian assault on the rights of women. As such, they justified using violent tactics to push back, including attacking churches and pro-life centers.
According to Catholic Vote, there have been 83 attacks on pro-life crisis pregnancy centers since the decision overturning Roe was first leaked. Pro-abortion activists have also vandalized 144 Catholic churches since then.
Respond with Love
It is easy, in response to these attacks and the heated rhetoric, to meet hatred with hatred, fear with fear. Indeed, it is difficult to watch such things as the assaults on Posie Parker, the shooting at Covenant School, and the attacks on crisis pregnancy centers, without feeling anger and fear.
However, while righteous anger in the face of such things as the violent deaths of innocents, or the mutilation of children, is justifiable, I often find myself feeling something quite different when I see videos or read the tweets of many of these often-extremely-young, hate-consumed activists. Not fear or anger. But pity.
I know that this can sound patronizing. But it isn’t. The fact is, that there is a whole generation of young people right now who have been steeped from the earliest ages in extremist progressive propaganda, whether on TikTok, in their classrooms, or in popular entertainment. Many of them have never heard anything different. Brilliant, powerful men and women have targeted them using sophisticated technology, with a potent message about how fighting for such things as “trans rights” or “abortion rights” is the most important thing any young person can do.
Many of these people have never had anything like a healthy and normal childhood. They have no experience of the happiness and fulfillment that comes from ordinary things. They’ve been trained to become progressive culture warriors. They’ve been told that the highest form of “bravery” means “coming out” as gay or transgender, or fighting back against the “bigots” who advocate for traditional morality or the rights of the preborn.
In some cases, they have sacrificed their very bodies to this ideology, even to the point of undergoing drastic surgeries that can never be reversed or aborting their own children. Is it any wonder that they are totally committed? Is it any wonder that they view anyone with a different viewpoint as the “enemy,” who is attacking their very identity, their very existence?
As Christians, however, we must never meet hatred with hatred, fear with fear, resentment with resentment. St. Paul was very clear that the fruits of the Holy Spirit are “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…” These are the qualities that we must manifest in the world, to make Christ present in the world.
Christ called us to love even our enemies. Not with a superficial love. But a real, deep, sincere care for them and their welfare. As chastity speaker Jason Evert noted on a recent appearance on the Matt Fradd show, many of the people wounded by the transgender movement are looking for a kind of love that they have not found anywhere else. Some of them will one day wake up to the grave harm that the transgender movement did to them, and when they do, they must know that we will be there to receive them with love and compassion and mercy, no matter how complex or uncomfortable their circumstances.
For decades now, the pro-life movement has modeled this kind of merciful love. Countless women who have aborted their babies have found mercy and forgiveness within the pro-life movement, at post-abortion healing retreats, or by volunteering to help other women in crisis pregnancy centers. We can expect a similar flood of men and women fleeing the transgender movement, as they come to regret the lies they were told about their identity.
And when they do – and even before then – we must be there, praying for them, loving them, meeting hate with love, and fear with hope. That is how Christ conquered the world. He came to “light a fire,” the fire of His love, and it is up to us to keep that fire burning.
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Father Shenan J. Boquet was ordained in 1993 and is a priest of the Houma-Thibodaux Roman Catholic Diocese in Louisiana, his home state, where he served before joining HLI as its President in August 2011. Father Boquet earned a BA from Saint Joseph Seminary College, a Master of Divinity (MDiv) from Notre Dame Seminary Graduate School of Theology, a Certification Program in Health Care Ethics from the National Catholic Bioethics Center, and a Master of Science in Bioethics (MSBe) from the University of Mary in Bismarck. In 2018, Father Boquet was awarded an honorary visiting professorship by the Benedict XVI Catholic University in Trujillo, Peru. He is available for interviews and bookings on behalf of HLI by emailing email@example.com.