One of the four most courageous, strong and beautiful women I have ever met lost her son earlier this week. He was a sixteen-year-old transgender male who was supported by his family. He was intelligent, handsome and had so much to offer the world; his loss is a loss to all of us. He took his own life.
According to GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network), Some studies indicate that the rate of attempted suicide for transgender youth is higher than 50%. I hadn’t seen this statistic from them until late in the day on Tuesday, October 30th.
Monday morning found me reading an article by Eve Sedgewick called Queer and Now about being a queer theorist and teaching queer theory to undergraduate college students. She opens her article by saying,
I think everyone who does gay and lesbian studies is haunted by the suicides of adolescents. To us, the hard statistic comes easily: that queer teenagers are two to three times likelier to attempt suicide, and to accomplish it, than others; that up to 30 percent of teen suicides are likely to be gay or lesbian; that a third of lesbian and gay teenagers say they have attempted suicide; that minority queer adolescents are at even more extreme risk.
She goes on to say,
I look at my adult friends and colleagues doing gay and lesbian work, and I feel that the survival of each one is a miracle.
It still seems unreal to me that later that same day Shannon Garcia President of TYFA (TransYouth Family Advocates) called to give me the news of Ian’s suicide. I stopped in my tracks on my way home from class and had to sit down. I immediately felt my mind race to how we could save him. He had been dead almost the entire day. Shannon and I sat in silence on the phone and cried together.
In the few short months that I have been working with TYFA these women have become like mothers to me. They are so passionate and loving of not only their children but also everyone else’s as well.
These women are my friends and my family. The loss of Amy’s son is devastating. I have been unable to find words to comfort anyone. I couldn’t answer my phone all day because every time I tried to talk, tears came out instead of words. I can’t keep food down. I told Amy that it seems important to me not to contribute to the spectacle that suicide can sometimes become but making sense of the loss of Ian and the pain that he must have been in is heavy work. Work that we should all be doing for all the kids who die under these circumstances. It is our responsibility.
As we go about our work as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender activists, writers, bloggers and individuals we cannot forget the responsibility we owe to our youth. I have recently had the opportunity to become friends with an activist who works with queer youth who are in juvenile detention facilities. He reminds me a lot just by telling stories that we are indeed at war. Queer America is still under attack and the causalities are the youngest among us. How can we help them? Supporting the work of organizations like TYFA and GLSEN are okay places to start.
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Let’s all let this family know that our community shares their grief.