According to California authorities, Pablo Gomez Jr. was a student at University of California, Berkeley, stabbed to death an elementary-school teacher. Police described the slaying as "very brutal and unusual." However, debate in the city has been focused over gender identity. Gomez, 22, who majored in Chicano studies and was a campus activist, has since demanded he prefers to be referred to as “they” instead of “he.”
 
Gomez’s preference was first reported online by Berkleyside.com and since ridiculed by author/commentator Ann Coulter, among others. Representatives of various gay rights activist organizations, including the campus Gender Equity Resource Center, of which Gomez was a member, have declined requests to comment on the case. Also, his family and attorney have declined to answer media questions.
 
 
Gomez is accused of the murder of Emilie Inman, 27, a native of France. On the same day, January 6, Kiana Schmitt, 24, was found with serious stab wounds outside an apartment just north of campus. Police have not said how Schmitt was connected to Gomez. He was arrested in Burbank on January 7, 350 miles away.
 
After Gomez was removed from a court hearing on February 1 to plea in accusations of murder, attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon, and robbery. The judge in the case ordered a mental health evaluation for Gomez for his courtroom histrionics that included kicking and screaming after meeting with his attorney.
 
Berkeleyside.com published an op-ed about the issue of gender-confused individuals. Writing was Julia Schwartz, who was described as "a gender non-conforming 23-year-old chess teacher living in New York City." Schwartz wrote, "The they/them backlash is just the latest manifestation of the general discomfort with the knowledge that gender is not a natural truth... While some may use this tragedy as an opportunity to mobilize queerphobia, I would insist that one can mourn the loss of a life without taking away Gomez’s right to their gender. Part of understanding and treating gender-queer people as people means accepting that some of us may not be good people, but all people should have the right to gender self-determination."
 
The victim, Inman, was a musician and composer, who sang about progressive issues. Before her death, she taught science to fifth- and sixth-graders at Sienna Ranch, an outdoor nature program in Lafayette CA.
 
Gomez was involved in progressive issues, too, having been active since high school with the Alliance for Climate Education. While at UC Berkeley, he gave a speech at a conference held by that organization. A spokesperson for the Alliance claimed that Gomez’s arrest was as a “total shock to us.” Gomez was also active on issues such as the Israel/Palestine conflict, transgenderism, and Black Lives Matter. However, his friends cannot believe that he would attack anyone. 
 
Gomez’s mental state has been examined by two physicians. A third opinion is expected by May 1.


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Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat and the editor of Spero News.

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