The Trans Day of Vengeance was a long-planned protest in Washington, D.C., scheduled for April 1. People were coming to D.C. from across the country to participate. It was called in response to the growing legal and extralegal violence against the transgender community, egged on by far-right politicians and corporate media.
In the words of event initiator Tsukuru Fors, as reported by Struggle-La Lucha:
Vengeance means fighting back with vehemence. It is our battle cry to declare to the world that we the transgender/non-binary communities will neither be silenced nor eradicated. And we are calling to our allies, members of other marginalized communities to make themselves known and to fight with us.
On March 30, organizers were forced to cancel two days before the event because of “a credible threat to life and safety.” The reason: fascist mouthpieces like Tucker Carlson and other social-media bottom feeders whipped up a hate campaign targeting the event, falsely claiming it had caused a mass shooting at a Christian school in Nashville, Tennessee, on March 27, where three students and three staff members were killed.
The alleged shooter was Aiden Hale, a former student of the school who happened to be a trans man. Hale was shot dead by police. He was consistently misgendered and deadnamed for the first 24-48 hours after the tragedy, and some right-wing social media used this to claim that Hale was a trans woman.
According to the Gun Violence Archive, by the end of March 2023—that is, in just three months—there have been at least 130 mass shootings in the United States this year. The Nashville shooting is the only one reported to have been carried out by a trans person.
And yet, according to the right-wing, from Fox News and the New York Post to internet-famous white supremacists, Hale’s acts represented the “dangerous” nature of the whole trans community, and particularly the planned April 1 civil rights protest.
At least two specific threats to the Trans Day of Vengeance march took the form of mass shootings. According to independent anti-fascist researchers working with the John Brown Gun Club DMV, a Minnesota-based white supremacist named Adam Murray made credible threats to the event. After this was reported to the FBI, Murray was briefly detained in Baltimore and then released.
Another white supremacist said to be one Benjamin Ryder of Pennsylvania, was detained by police when he pulled out a gun outside the Supreme Court on April 1, where the Trans Day of Vengeance march had been scheduled to gather.
The right-wing tried to turn the Nashville tragedy into a Reichstag fire moment to frame up the entire trans community and justify the acts of violence it encouraged from stooges like Murray and Ryder—who much more fit the profile of the typical U.S. mass shooter.
Biden’s concession fuels attacks
On March 25, a member of the “White Lives Matter” neo-Nazi group attempted to firebomb the Community Church of Chesterland, Ohio, for hosting a drag story hour. Just a week before, the Nazis staged an anti-trans, anti-drag demonstration in the Ohio town of Wadsworth, chanting,
There will be blood.
So far this year, 450 anti-trans bills have been introduced in state legislatures across the U.S. Some 14 states have banned life-saving gender-affirming care for trans youth, with more expected to join them. In addition, bans on trans youth participation in school sports and use of school restrooms have been enacted.
On April 5, Kansas passed a law explicitly aimed at trans girls and young women that could require genital inspections for participation in sports programs. Florida and other states are expected to follow suit. Tennessee, where the March 27 shooting took place, is one of the worst offenders, even enacting a so-called “drag ban” that places the public existence of trans people in jeopardy.
On March 31, International Trans Day of Visibility, President Joe Biden repeated his occasional claim to support “love, dignity and respect” for trans people. Yet less than a week later, the Washington Post reported:
The Biden administration on Thursday proposed new regulations that would allow schools to bar transgender athletes from participating in competitive high school and college sports but disallow blanket bans on the athletes that have been approved across the country.
A few state legislators like Nebraska State Senators Machaela Cavanaugh and Megan Hunt, both parents of trans children, and Montana State Representative Zooey Zephyr, who is trans herself, have used their platforms to fight for trans rights relentlessly.
But Biden and the national Democratic Party leadership have done nothing to counter the onslaught of anti-trans hate that has engulfed the country since he entered office. Instead, the first significant act of the administration on this issue concedes trans rights.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise. Biden rode to victory in 2020 on the back of the Black Lives Matter movement and the fight for reproductive freedom—then immediately oversaw a huge shift of funds to police while refusing to take the necessary action to codify abortion rights in law before the Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade.
Now, as Democrats gear up for the 2024 elections, where Biden’s likely Republican opponents are notorious bigots Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis, Biden is preparing to throw trans people—and the whole LGBTQ+ community—under the bus.
Whatever the good intentions of some individual Democrats, the Democratic Party ultimately answers to the same capitalist class that has decided to double down on anti-trans hate as a divide-and-conquer strategy to protect their system as people’s suffering grows.
Biden’s lack of action to protect trans lives, now exacerbated by his concession on sports participation, will encourage more legal attacks and more violence like the attempted church firebombing in Ohio and the armed threats to civil rights protesters in Washington.
When I spoke to participants in the March 31 march for Queer and Trans Youth Autonomy in the capital, I found enthusiasm and desire for bold action to protect trans youth and fight for trans liberation.
I heard young and older people eager to link the struggle for trans rights with the fight for Black and Indigenous lives, solidarity with migrants, defense of reproductive rights, union organizing, and climate justice.
It’s time for bold, independent action, like the National March to Protect Trans Youth proposed by Women in Struggle-Mujeres en Lucha. It’s time to organize for self-defense and take to the streets to push back the violent anti-trans attacks.
It’s time to change the political climate of the U.S. from one where oppressed peoples live in fear to one where politicians and the super-rich behind them fear the people.