On Friday, 27-year-old Travis Ikeguchi murdered a 66-year-old mother of nine, Lauri Carleton, because he took exception to her shop’s Pride flag. According to US police he tore down the flag and hurled homophobic slurs before killing her in cold blood.
Ikeguchi’s social media is still available to view, and it’s interesting to see how much he has in common with the leading lights of the UK anti-trans movement: he’s clearly a big fan of self-proclaimed theocratic fascist Matt Walsh, who JK Rowling recently praised on Twitter, and some of his posts share the same inflammatory rhetoric as the “groomer” posts by everybody’s favourite failed comedy writer. “We need to STOP COMPROMISING on this LGBT dictatorship” is fairly typical.
What’s also clear is that this killer was radicalised online, and that social networks didn’t do anything to stop it. On Twitter, Ikeguchi posted an image of a burning Pride flag with the caption “What do to with the LGBTQP flag?”. The addition of the letter P to denote paedophiles is a right-wing slur like the “groomer” slur, and burning or defaced Pride flags are a trademark of the “anti-woke” and so-called gender critical movements. When @medic_russell reported Ikeguchi’s post as hate speech, Twitter told him that “there were no violations of the Twitter rules in the content you reported”.
That’s not a surprise. Travis Ikeguchi’s anti-Pride rhetoric is not significantly different from the anti-Pride rhetoric espoused by respected members of the so-called gender critical movement, so for example on his Twitter feed he reposted Jordan Peterson, who was sharing a baseless Daily Telegraph article about schoolchildren identifying as cats. Twitter generally doesn’t have a problem with abusive rhetoric around the Pride flag: for example, a tweet implying that trans women are violent men, demanding the removal of the “TQ” from the Pride flag and captioned “GET YOUR SHIT OFF OUR FLAG” apparently didn’t break the rules and was proudly shared by JK Rowling, not previously believed to be a member of the community “OUR FLAG” belongs to.
Similarly when Helen Joyce posed with a pride flag from which the arrows representing trans people and people of colour had been cut out and trodden upon, Twitter didn’t think that was against the rules either. When minor actor turned anti-woke arse Lawrence Fox burned Pride flags in his back garden, flags he called “child mutilation bunting” before adding that “[Pride] isn’t pride. It’s just a celebration of the mutilation of children”, Twitter felt that was just fine. The post is still up.
Violent imagery and violent rhetoric begets violence. And while we don’t have the US gun culture that led in part to Lauri Carleton’s death, we do have the violent homophobia and transphobia that helped radicalise her murderer. And that leads to violence here too. Just last week two men were stabbed outside a London gay bar in what appears to be a hate crime; we’re awaiting the trial of the murderers of teenage trans girl Brianna Ghey, whose death also appears to be a hate crime. In March a gay man was beaten by a gang of youths in Bournemouth because he was holding hands with his husband; in July a Birmingham estate agent was jailed for a similar attack in which he attacked a gay couple with a glass bottle and a metal pipe.
There’s not a single day that passes where my news feed doesn’t contain stories of hate crimes perpetrated against members of the LGBTQ+ community, usually by straight men, usually because they have convinced themselves – or more likely, been convinced by others – that LGBTQ+ people are evil, perverted and dangerous. The people who push this rhetoric are not typically the ones who act on it. But they have blood on their hands just the same.