One cannot deny that there has been an increase of transgender deaths or suicides. And while not everybody might not readily accept or feel comfortable with the fact that a person decides to change his or her gender, the discrimination and marginalization should not be so pronounced as to lead to the suicide of the transgender person. Activists around the world have used various channels and techniques to fight against the discrimination, bully, and somewhat marginalization of transgender people that have caused the increase of their suicides in recent years.
One of such unfortunate cases is that of Ash Haffner, who took his own life as a result of increased and continuous bullying from schoolmates and his peers. This happened after he decided to go public with his transgender plans. The teenage boy had been very strong over the years, but there is only so much one soul can withstand. He gave into the bullying from his peers and on Feb. 25, 2015, he decided to take his own life by stepping into traffic. He was only 16 years old. His last Facebook post reads as follows:
“I don’t want to be remembered as the fa**ot gay girl with all the scars on her arm. Unfortunately that’s who I am to a lot of people…I just didn’t understand why I felt the way I did when I had a decent life. Just remember me as someone who understood and stayed strong for as long as I could.” – Ash Haffner
His case is preceded by the death of Leelah Alcorn, also a high school teenager. At the age of 17, Leelah died Sunday December 28, 2014 after being hit by a tractor trailer in a suburb of Cincinnati, Ohio. The suicide of this transgender high school teenager got international attention and activism from people all around the world reporting their similar experiences, feelings, and thoughts of suicide. Now more people are starting to look at the factors that have led to the alarming increase of transgender suicide attempts especially in the United States.
Study has it that one of every five persons in the United States has self-reported a case of attempted suicide with the statistics rising to as high as 10 or even 20 percent for bisexual and gay people. It follows that suicide attempts have been made by a whopping 41 percent of the transgender persons or people with gender types that have been tagged “non-conforming”. LGBTQ youths in grades 7-12 are even twice as likely to have attempted suicide than their heterosexual peers.
People are starting to hear their cries for help. The internet and the social media in particular, have been very helpful in fight against this epidemic. The path of online activism was also followed in this case with the use of the #Translivesmatter. Just like on the case of the #Blacklivesmatter where the people took to the internet and social media protesting the unjustly killings of black people by the police while emphasizing the fact that even as blacks, the lives of these people are important too. Social sites like Nterestin.com has taken this to the next level. Nterestin allows these activist to come together in a LIVE video group chat so that they can discuss these powerful social movements together in a conversation. On the site, people have been able to take their hashtag and turn it into a town hall meeting voicing their opinions with strangers and friends and making sure that they are being heard. It also should be noted that #Blacklives vs #Translives are referring to two completely different social issues. But the purpose of the #TransLivesMatter, like the hashtag #Blacklivesmatter, is to highlight that a group of people in particular are subject to a disproportionate amount of violence, too. One hashtag isn’t greater than the other. Both are just advocating to be heard.
Besides the online mechanism used, it is also important for families of transgender persons especially their parents to carefully listen to their children with a sympathetic heart. If your child decides to try to make the transition, please ensure to boost their self-confidence and esteem to prevent them from giving in to unnecessary societal pressure. People still have an entrenched opinion about transgender people and some schools and jobs do not have policies in place to ensure that they will not be discriminated against. It may feel like the world will already be against them but that doesn’t mean you have to be too. Your child will need your unconditional acceptance, support, and most of all your love. That is what they will appreciate the most.
Thank you for taking the time to become aware of their struggle. Now please start the conversation to bring awareness of their lives. I would like to end this article with the last message from Leelah Alcorn:
‘”The only way I will rest in peace is if one day transgender people aren’t treated the way I was, they’re treated like humans, with valid feelings and human rights. Gender needs to be taught about in schools, the earlier the better. My death needs to mean something. My death needs to be counted in the number of transgender people who commit suicide this year. … Fix society. Please.” – Leelah Alcorn
Source: Christopher Cooper