The “very brutal and unusual” murder of an elementary school teacher in California has garnered national attention after police revealed that the suspect, Pablo Gomez Jr., preferred to be called “they” rather than “he.”
In January, French-born elementary school teacher Victim Emile Inman, 27, was found stabbed to death in the home she shared with her roommates a few miles from Berkeley’s campus. Another woman, Kiana Schmitt, 24, was found with serious injuries outside an apartment just north of campus a few hours before Inman was killed. The next day, Gomez was arrested at a hospital in Burbank, near his parents’ home. Police accused him of killing Inman and attacking Schmitt, charging him with murder, attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon, and robbery.
The Associated Press reports that Gomez was a Latino studies major and “prominent campus activist” at the University of California, Berkeley, when he allegedly murdered the teacher. AP notes that Gomez is a member of the university’s Gender Equity Resource Center, and an archive of his Facebook page indicates that he is a member of the “Alliance for Climate Education” organization and supports the pro-Palestinian “Day for Action.”
But the story took a turn into the “gender identity” debate, including the links between transgenderism and mental health issues, when police revealed that Gomez identified as transgender, preferring the nongender specific pronoun “they/them” over his biological sex.
Gomez’ actions and the judge’s orders suggest that Gomez might be mentally unstable. Deputies were forced to remove him “kicking and screaming” from the courtroom during his Feb. 1 hearing. In response, the judge ordered a mental health evaluation.
As AP underscores, news of his “gender identity” demands resulted in an “overwhelming” response online and in the community:
Even in famously liberal Berkeley, with its long history of protest, the uproar came as a surprise, overwhelming the online news site, www.berkeleyside.com, that first reported on Gomez’s preference.
“I didn’t see it as something that would anger anyone,” reporter Emilie Raguso said.
After Raguso’s report, conservative commentator Ann Coulter ridiculed the pronoun change and mocked Gomez’s activist background. Breitbart.com and other conservative political websites picked up the story.
On the university campus, where the debate over nontraditional pronouns has simmered, some students said Gomez’s case is different.
“I think you give away your right to make a demand like that when you are arrested for killing somebody,” said junior Jonothan Chow, a member of the College Republicans.
AP reports that UC Berkeley’s Gender Equity Resource Center and its other gay rights activist groups declined requests to comment.