- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 28, 2023

A squabble over misgendering offered a surreal sideline to the Nashville, Tennessee, Christian school shooting as activists called out news outlets scrambling to keep up with the suspect’s preferred pronouns.

The mainstream media did an about-face after Nashville police said several hours after the attack that the assailant was transgender, with some outlets issuing statements explaining their initial use of female pronouns as gender-identity advocates blasted them for misgendering and deadnaming the shooter.

“5 times @cnn misgendered. No correction. A mass shooting is horrible. Misgendering does not make anything better,” said a much-retweeted post by the “Karen Lopez” account.

Audrey Hale, 28, the school shooter killed by police in Monday’s rampage, reportedly began identifying in the last few months as male, going by the name “Aiden Hale” and listing “he/him” pronouns on LinkedIn.

After referring to the shooter on Monday as “female” and “her,” MSNBC said Tuesday: “Update: A previous post about the Nashville Christian school shooting included initial information from police officials about the suspect’s gender. Those officials have since noted that the shooter was transgender.”

SEE ALSO: Nashville shooter hid firearms from parents, was being treated for emotional problems, police say

USA Today all but accused Nashville police of misgendering Hale, saying in a post: “Police on Monday afternoon said that the shooter was a transgender man. Officials had initially misidentified the gender of the shooter.”

Conservative filmmaker Robby Starbuck clapped back: “Hey @USATODAY, none of us in Tennessee could give a damn if the mass child killer got misgendered. Police did a great job today and they didn’t misgender HER. She was born a girl and she died an evil, mentally ill woman. You should be ashamed doing this as families grieve.”

Hale shot and killed three children and three adults Monday at the Covenant School in Nashville before being taken out by officers who rushed into the private Christian elementary school.

SEE ALSO: Police chief: Nashville shooter decided against attacking another school due to ‘too much security’

Meanwhile, transgender advocates blasted those who misgendered and deadnamed the suspect.

“Gotta love how the mass shooting by a trans person is just giving people carte blanche to misgender,” tweeted the “GT” account. “As if your gender is somehow tied to how good or bad you have been in life.”

In a statement about the shooting, the Trans Resistance Network said: “We remind the news media to respect the self-identified pronouns of transgender individuals who come across your desk.” 

“Aiden Hale self identified with ‘He, Him’ pronouns on forward facing progressive sites,” said the network in a release posted by Portland journalist Andy Ngo.

The “Ophelia” account tweeted: “I’m too f—-ing tired to continue the perennial argument that it’s transphobic to misgender even the worst people in the world, but like. yeah. it is.”

Responded BlazeTV host Lauren Chen: “Heaven forbid we misgender a terrorist.”

Meanwhile, the Metro Nashville Police Department continued Tuesday to refer to Hale on social media as “she” and “her.”

“She went in. She was emotionally disturbed. She shot the glass out, went in, and just randomly picked targets as she went through,” Nashville Police Chief John Drake told Fox News in a Tuesday interview.

He said police had also learned “Audrey was receiving help for an emotional disorder, but she had not been committed to an institution.”

After the gender disclosure, USA Today referred to Hale in its coverage as “he” and “a 28-year-old gunman.” Other news outlets that had initially referred to the suspect as “she” and “female” nimbly avoided the issue by using gender-neutral terms such as “Hale,” “the assailant,” and “the attacker.”

That included The Washington Times, where the editorial policy is, when possible, to use preferred “he” or “she” pronouns, and The Associated Press, which explained in its reporting that police gave “unclear information on the gender of the shooter.”

“For hours, police identified the shooter as a 28-year-old woman and eventually identified the person as Audrey Hale,” the AP reported. “Then at a late afternoon press conference, the police chief said that Hale was transgender. After the news conference, police spokesperson Don Aaron declined to elaborate on how Hale currently identified.”

The New York Times posted a story before the suspect’s gender identity was disclosed headlined, “It is rare for a woman to commit a mass shooting,” prompting a retort from Donald Trump Jr.

“So now He/Him is female? I thought it was LITERALLY an act of violence and a hate crime to misgender someone?” Mr. Trump tweeted.

Shortly thereafter, the newspaper reported that there was “confusion later on Monday about the gender identity of the assailant.”

“Officials had used ‘she’ and ‘her’ to refer to the suspect, who, according to a social media post and a LinkedIn profile, appeared to identify as a man in recent months,” said the NYT.

The link now leads to the story headlined: “Most mass shooting suspects are male.”

CNN reported: “Police have referred to Hale as the ‘female shooter’ and at an evening press conference added that Hale was transgender. When asked for clarification, a spokesperson told CNN Hale used ‘male pronouns’ on a social media profile.”

Conservative author Rod Dreher suggested that the media’s priorities are out of whack.

“It is worth considering that we have created the kind of society where a newspaper has to stop in reporting about a mass shooting at an elementary school to make sure it doesn’t misgender the murderer,” Mr. Dreher tweeted.

Some of those who knew the shooter referred to Hale as a female, including mother Norma Hale, who told ABC News, “I think I lost my daughter today.”

Hale graduated from the Nossi College of Art & Design in Nashville in 2022.

“She was a talented artist and a good student,” school president and CEO Cyrus Vatandoost told ABC. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to her family, to the victims and their families and to our city.”

• Valerie Richardson can be reached at vrichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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