Social Media Posts Make Baseless Claims About Gender Identity of Uvalde Shooter

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Quick Take

Police are still investigating the shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, but as of May 26 they had shared no evidence about the shooter’s gender identity. Despite that lack of evidence, Rep. Paul Gosar and others claimed the gunman was transgender. Social media posts making the baseless claim have shared photos of a person unrelated to the attack.


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Hours after officials identified Salvador Ramos, 18, as the gunman who killed 19 students and two teachers at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas on May 24, claims that Ramos was transgender began circulating online.

A man prays in front of a memorial outside Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, where 19 students and two teachers were killed when an 18-year-old gunman opened fire May 24. Yasin Ozturk/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images.

Among those who spread that unsubstantiated claim on the day of the shooting was Rep. Paul Gosar, a Republican from Arizona, who tweeted, in part, “It’s a transsexual leftist illegal alien named Salvatore Ramos.”

Gosar has since deleted the tweet, but variations on the claim continue to circulate.

First, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott reported that Ramos, who was killed by officers responding to the shooting, was a U.S. citizen in the same May 24 press conference in which he released Ramos’ name.

Second, there’s no evidence that Ramos was transgender. (Gosar used a term that is more specific to those who have completed their gender transition than the broader term, transgender, which describes people who identify with a gender that differs from the sex they were assigned at birth.)

Transgender rights have become increasingly politicized. A majority of Democrats and those who lean Democratic favor greater acceptance of transgender people, and a majority of Republicans and those who lean Republican say it is bad for society to accept transgender people, according to a 2021 Pew Research Center survey.

Despite having no evidence, conservative commentators have suggested that Ramos was transgender. For example, the day after the shooting Candace Owens wrote on Twitter, “What’s drives an 18 year old to murder innocent children? I don’t know. But judging by the photos of him cross-dressing, we can assume there were plenty of signs that he was mentally disturbed and abused by adults in his life.”

Owens didn’t include any pictures with her post, but she was likely referring to photos that had been spreading on social media purporting to show Ramos. They actually showed an unrelated woman in Georgia unfurling a transgender pride flag.

On April 7, a 20-year-old transgender woman who told NBC News that she goes by the name Sam had posted a picture of herself in a skirt holding the flag behind her on her Instagram and Reddit pages.

After the school shooting in Uvalde, that picture was paired with a selfie taken from Ramos’ Instagram page and passed off on social media and internet message boards as a photo of Ramos.

Sam has since posted other pictures of herself to her Instagram page in an effort to show that she is not the shooter. With one of those pictures, she wrote, “It’s not me I don’t even live in TX.”

Police are still investigating the shooting, but at this point there is no evidence that Ramos was transgender and the widely shared photo of a person holding a pride flag is not Ramos.

Editor’s note: FactCheck.org is one of several organizations working with Facebook to debunk misinformation shared on social media. Our previous stories can be found here. Facebook has no control over our editorial content.

Sources

PBS NewsHour. “WATCH: Texas Gov. Abbott holds news briefing following mass shooting at Uvalde elementary school.” YouTube. 24 May 2022.

Winton, Richard and Jenny Jarvie. “Timeline of Texas school shooting: 126 minutes of terror.” Los Angeles Times. Updated 26 May 2022.

Gosar, Paul (@DrPaulGosar). “We know already fool. It’s a transsexual leftist illegal alien named Salvatore Ramos. It’s apparently your kind of trash. QT @RestoringFreed1: Anyone else guess that this is another copycat groyper Terrorist in #Texas today?” Twitter via ProPublica Politwoops. 24 May 2022.

International Society for Sexual Medicine. “What is the difference between transsexual and transgender?” Accessed 26 May 2022.

Brown, Anna. “Deep partisan divide on whether greater acceptance of transgender people is good for society.” Pew Research Center. 11 Feb 2022.

Caputo, Marc. “GOP candidates unleash wave of ads targeting transgender rights.” NBC News 16 May 2022.

Durkee, Alison. “Texas Gov. Abbott’s Campaign Calls Transgender ‘Child Abuse’ Rule A Political ‘Winner’.” Forbes. 2 Mar 2022.

Yurcaba, Jo, Ben Goggin and Ben Collins. “Trans woman’s photo used to spread baseless online theory about Texas shooter.” NBC News. 25 May 2022.



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