In the wake of the Nashville school shooting at the Chrisitan Covenant School, the editor of Moist Poetry Journal took to TikTok to blame JK Rowling and Candace Owens for the actions of the shooter.
Poet and professor Han VanderHart, formerly Hannah, is a "genderqueer writer" with a PhD in English from Duke University. The school shooter has been identified by Nashville police as Audrey Hale, a 28-year-old former student of Covenant, who identified as transgender and went by Aiden.
"If you don't think that the transphobic hate speech that people like J.K. Rowling and others like Candace Owens with really huge platforms spew on the daily – if you don't think that matters now, you are kidding yourself," VanderHart, a leading poet in online circles, said.
Hale murdered three 9-year-old children and three staff members, and in the hours that followed, a social media maelstrom ensued over the media's choice in what pronouns to use or not use when mentioning Hale.
This included speculation as to how the mass murder would be framed in light of the shooter's sexual identity. In the world of mass media, the subject of sexual identity is thin ice, leaving some wondering if the event will be blacked-out and quickly forgotten.
The idea that someone who criticizes radical-trans ideology is the reason for a mass murder—of which very few details are yet known— is one of the more grotesque recent instances of political football in the aftermath of a tragedy.
VanderHart is not alone in her sentiments. Social media is crawling with equally wretched takes that strain the bounds of basic human decency.
The deaths of innocents are being used to intimidate people into not exercising their right to free speech.
VanderHart, a poet, clearly does not believe in the efficacy of free and open debate.
Rowling's insistence that women be afforded safe space in public—bathrooms, locker rooms, and so on—is not a condemnation of trans people, but a flag flown for the protection of women. As recent podcast The Witch Trials of JK Rowling makes clear, Rowling was the victim of horrific domestic violence and stalking. Rowling's lived experience (the old-fashioned kind) informs her position on trans politics. And she's a mother— mother blamed for the murder of children whose names have not been released yet, children whose families must be in a cold state of shock.
VanderHart's verbal screed is a vivid and disturbing illustration of how trans-radical activists dehumanize their perceived opponents, and it is a harbinger of what's to come in the following days and weeks as people struggle to understand how a mass shooting occurred at the hands of someone other than a white, straight male.
The intense struggle to politicize the tragedy, sadly, will rob the innocent victims of dignity and deprive their families of the chance to mourn without spectacle.
Joseph Massey is a poet and writer. You can reach him on Twitter @jmasseypoet and Substack https://josephmassey.substack.com.