Identities R Us

Earlier this month Tennessee banned gender-affirming care for transgender youth, banned drag shows, and passed a law allowing concealed- and open-carry of guns in public places without a permit. What could possibly go wrong?

Well, on Monday something went wrong. According to some accounts, a transgender person opened fire on students and staff in the school where they were formerly a student. I don’t think I am the only one joining the dots here.

We are all becoming more aware of the range in gender identities and the number of people in our social circles who don’t fit comfortably into the traditional binary choices. I don’t know if there are more transgender people now than there used to be or if we are only now recognizing them.

Similarly, I don’t know if our changing physical environment is affecting humans in biochemical ways; perhaps the plastics in the oceans trigger changes no-one anticipated. That sounds like a convenient theoretical explanation, and it is one that I have read in online comments, but I have my doubts. It’s a way of avoiding the obvious.

Some of us are non-binary and some of us choose to use medical and scientific remedies to resolve gender non-conformity. My hunch is that in the past, because remedies were not available, non-binary and transgender people found ways to either appear traditionally male or female or they adopted a social group that accepted them regardless.

What has changed is the availability of medical and scientific remedies. These, combined with a different social media environment, have allowed this normally reclusive minority to come out of the shadows. They have stopped pretending, and everyone else has had to face a reality that we haven’t always understood.

When you grow up knowing that the world is black and white, it comes as a shock to realize that is only part of the story. It’s a bit like the stages of grief; at first there is only denial. It takes a long time to come to acceptance.

Tennessee is in the news this week, but this is not the only place struggling to come to terms with social and public reactions to gender identity issues. The official response has been sadly repressive and this, combined with relaxed gun laws, has created an environment that has made a hostile environment for a struggling minority. We should not be surprised by a violent outburst.

Nothing excuses the murder of children and their teachers, of course. This is a nightmare. At the same time, my thoughts also contend with the awareness that the confluence of changing laws and increasing social condemnation of minority groups seems to have presaged this event. We all bear some responsibility for this.

The only surprise for me is that the violence may have come from a transgender person. I would have bet on a person from literally any other repressed group, but these are early days. We still have a lot to learn.


  1. I have a great deal of fear for further mistreatment of trans folks and other LGBTQ+ folks in Tennessee and other states with similar repressive agendas. It’s a shame that the media was so callous as to identify the shooter as being trans. It came too quickly IMHO. I’ll be 80 later this year and I admit that adjusting to all the changes occurring in our world is at times baffling to me. I do try to keep up though and I accept people as they are, no need to change, as I have so many visible physical disabilities. I will not throw stones.

    • I share your fears, Mary Beth. At first, the shooter was identified as female and my post reflected that. I have since edited it to correct that initial assumption.

      Like you, I try to accept people as they are and as they tell me they perceive themselves. However, when people show themselves to be bigoted I am disappointed and upset, which leads me to write blog posts like this one.

      • We are not short on bigoted people in the US. Maybe especially in our state (okay, Federal too) governments. Dreading the 2024 election cycle. Also I find one side effect of all the negative attitudes of officials and conservative Republicans has made me actually question if I want to be a friend to anyone who is on that spectrum. Or visit a state like TX or FL. I do not like this person I fear I might become. I must watch out for my own attitudes!

          • Yes, the silent majority. I hope they vote. Anne, January 6 continues to reverberate throughout so much in our country still. Further one of the presumed candidates for President in 2024 held his first rally in Waco TX on the 30th anniversary of the Branch Davidiens (sp?) catastrophe. Wanna stir the wrong folks up? And so it goes. Peace to you, my friend.

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