Girls Don’t Kill: Dissecting the Gender of Violence After Nashville

Another day, another school shooting. It seems to happen every week in this shithole country. Probably because it pretty much literally does. We’ve had 19 of these goddamn things in the first few months of 2023 alone and scariest thing is how normal it all feels. One massacre bleeds into the next like a rerun of some sick Nikelodean rendition of the Grand Guignol. I’ve seen this one before and it’s on every single channel. The plot is always the same. Another playground turned into a graveyard for tiny shrunken corpses. Another pissed-off kid with a gun trying to tell us something with the only machine loud enough to steal our attention away from the hypnotic spell of the matrix in our phones. Another news cycle devoted to partisan handwringing and vulture’s eye footage of the scene of the crime. Just another day in paradise during the Kali Yuga. Only this time it was different. This time that pissed off kid with a gun was trans and the latest episode of America’s favorite snuff series was something far worse than just familiar to me. It was painfully intimate.

Aiden Hall was a 28-year-old transman who returned to a conservative Christian school in Nashville, Tennessee where he had spent a short but undoubtedly painful chapter of his youth to kill three adults and three children before committing suicide-by-cop. No one knows for sure what drove Aiden to commit such an unspeakably cruel act of violence but it’s hard not to recognize that it occurred against the backdrop of an unprecedented campaign by conservative lawmakers to erase transgender people or that Tennessee has become this final solution’s ground zero. After all, this shooting occurred just days before that state enacted an “anti-drag” law so broad that it essentially affords its cops with the power to regulate gender performance like some kind of Wahabi Christain theocracy.

Of course, the timing of this horror show wasn’t lost on the Christian right and rather than approach it as a teachable lesson on the dangers of mass demonization they have chosen instead to exploit the hell out of it in order to double down on their campaign to eradicate “transgenderism.” Aiden Hall didn’t become a tragic high-water mark for the volatile blowback that often comes with state sanctioned bigotry. He became the poster child for everything that the Jesus-hates-you set want you to believe about trannies like me. Suddenly, we’re not just grooming your children, we’re also arming ourselves to the teeth to shoot them in the face while they pray. It was right around this moment in the news cycle that my PTSD caught up with me and I suffered the first of several panic attacks related to this shooting and the twisted campaign by the right to package it as part of the transgender lifestyle.

I have more than a few things in common with Mr. Hall. I spent 11 years at a conservative Catholic school as a closeted Queer child and these weren’t exactly the happiest moments of my life. My decade-long sentence at that parochial gulag began with some cis gender adult putting their hands on me in a pre-school bathroom and it ended with those same fine folks accusing me of plotting a school shooting for being a little bit messed-up from the experience. Thoughts of vengeance against my tormentors are not alien to me. In fact, my more committed readers will probably recognize them as a major hallmark of my literary modus operandi. But my target has never been people, not even the ones who personally savaged my childhood. My target has always been the power systems that grant petty adults with the authority to crush kids just for being weird. But that doesn’t make it any less painful to have a bunch of those same petty adults accuse my entire tribe of being defined by destroying the voiceless little creatures that I still see broken pieces of myself in every day.

“Transgender Killer Targets Christian School” a New York Post headline read. #Transterrorism scarred social media for days on end while the most watched names in cable news pounced on this story like Joeseph Goebbels after the Reichstag Fire. If you were to take Tucker Carlson’s word for it, you would be led to believe that the unprecedented crimes of Aiden Hall were part of some long bloody transgender murder spree. The statistics paint a very different picture. According to the records of the Violence Project, there have been 190 mass shootings resulting in the deaths of four or more people in in America during the last 57 years. Two have been committed by people who openly identify as trans. This includes the Nashville shooting as well as last year’s massacre at a gay club in Colorado Springs. But 185 of these killings were committed by red-blooded American cis males like Tucker Carlson. So, if America’s favorite pastime even has a gender, then it is decidedly male.

If I was a petty bitch like Mr. Carlson, I would now take the time to turn this piece into a muckraking harangue against the evils of masculinity itself and I wouldn’t have a hard time making my case. After all, 90% of homicides worldwide are committed by men and femicide is as American as the apple pie women get trampled to death for overcooking. But I’m not going to take that route. Truth be told, I may be an outspoken transfeminist with a lifetime of locker room horror stories, but I find no fault with masculinity in and of itself. I think it’s an honorable trait in any gender. I’ve seen the beauty in chivalry firsthand in the transmen who seem to comprehend my own peculiar brand of androgyny better than most of my fellow transwomen and I myself have come to celebrate my own masculinity in the form of my butchness. Masculinity isn’t toxic, civilization is and as usual, I don’t blame men, I blame society.

Masculinity was once a driving force in matriarchal society. For the lion’s share of human existence, we lived in stateless matrilineal hunter-gatherer tribes. Communities were small, transient and built around motherhood but men along with masculine women and third genders served equal roles, hunting in groups to provide for their villages and leading their tribes to victory on the battlefield. This all changed with the Agricultural Revolution. Suddenly, civilization became sedentary and focused on the accumulation of property. Hunters became farmers and mothers became broodmares as pure physical strength as exhibited by cis males became the deciding factor in dominating the natural world we once lived in harmony with.

Tribes mutated into villages and villages grew into cities which grew into states which grew into empires. The natural aggression of the male species was disconnected from servicing their communities and utilized instead to build colossal global superstates by turning war into an industry. With the slave trade and the conquest of the New World, rape became a way of life but once there was no more land left to conquer and machines began to replace men on the battlefield, masculinity essentially became obsolete. Men quickly found themselves penned up in cages known as cubicles and domesticated by the laws of the civilization they had killed so many to build.

It didn’t take long for men to break, and violence quickly became a recreational sport. Mass shootings are common in places with easy access to firearms. Even Huey Newton-loving gun nuts like me will fess up to that, but civilian on civilian violence is more rampant in the Western Hemisphere than it is even in parts of Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East. That’s because these are uniquely post-colonial societies defined by rigid class systems with rapidly expanding underclasses of rootless and isolated men living in a culture that still valorizes forms of white supremacy largely automated by drones and smart bombs. Simply demonizing masculinity won’t save a generation of lost boys from being prayed on by psychopathic groomers like Tucker Carlson and Ron DeSantis.

The truth is that transgender people actually have a lot to teach cis men if they’re willing to listen. Against seemingly unsurmountable odds we have managed to revive the heathen third genders annihilated by Western Civilization and formed new stateless tribes built around both mutual aid and radical individualism. Men should be encouraged to build a new masculinity modeled after the old but not defined by it. One that encourages brotherhood and service to community over feckless materialist competition and brain-dead national chauvinism. One that venerates the kind of strength through vulnerability exhibited by warrior poets like Malcolm X and Yukio Mishima rather than the callous disdain for empathy encouraged by chickenhawks like John Wayne and Dick Cheney.

Incel baiting masculinists may use lost gender outlaws like Aiden Hall to demonize my tribe, but my tribe is too strong to play by their cowardly rules. The Christian right can declare war on me until the earth crashes into the sun and I will burn welcoming the boys their vacant culture betrays with open arms because love is the most lethal form of revenge that I know and Jesus Christ himself taught me that.

Nicky Reid is an agoraphobic anarcho-genderqueer gonzo blogger from Central Pennsylvania and assistant editor for Attack the System. You can find her online at Exile in Happy Valley.