A transgender teen in California, who bared her soul in YouTube videos about being bullied at school and offered some encouraging words for fellow transgender teens, has died of an apparent suicide at 16. For advocacy groups, Taylor Alesana’s death is a message that communities need to do more to support young people with gender identity issues.
Alesana is the second Fallbrook teen in two months to die of an apparent suicide. At the North County LGBTQ Resource Center, which announced her death, tributes to the teen, named Sage, still hang on the wall, the Los Angeles Times reported.
“Taylor, you were a beautiful girl, we will never stop trying to make this world a better place,” the center’s executive director, Max Disposti, wrote on Facebook after she died.
Alesana apparently died over spring break, and her death isn’t being linked to bullying.
This is the seventh time a transgendered teen has died via suicide in the U.S. this year. According to the Advocate, the actual numbers are unfortunately much higher and trans suicide is an “epidemic.” Taylor talked about this epidemic herself on YouTube in November, condemning the violence committed against transgendered people, particular trans women of color.
“One in 12 transgender women are killed each year…. I myself am a transgender woman and that, to me, just breaks my heart.”
Taylor Alesana wasn’t immune to bullying herself. A newcomer to “conservative” Fallbrook, Taylor was just beginning her transition, which was often met with judgmental looks. She talked on YouTube about having no friends, constant cyberbullying, and harassment in school. She told counselors about the abuse, but nothing was done.
“Being there [at Fallbrook High School], of course, means you’re gonna [get] a lot of hate and some support. Me, I walk into school… and I put my headphones in… Because I know all the sh*t I’m going to get. Especially lately, I’ve gotten a lot of drama from the school itself.”
The days since Taylor died, everyone has attempted to piece together the circumstances, but they remain mysterious. Disposti doesn’t believe bullying is to blame, and the New York Daily News recounted a timeline that may help explain her motivations.
like idk we're all humans, and we must help our trans friends, this needs to change #HerNameWasTaylor
— ju (@fangirlblood) April 10, 2015
#HerNameWasTaylor that's so sad, i can't believe how cruel our world is. rest in peace
— helen james (@thefireIord) April 10, 2015
#HerNameWasTaylor i'm so sorry sweet pea.. the world wasn't ready for your beauty. i'm so sorry.
— ❃ maxie ❃ (@maxiefae) April 10, 2015
In December, Alesana appeared on camera “dressed like a boy,” possibly as a result of a confrontation with a girl over a Snapchat photo of Taylor in a swimsuit. The girl apparently made a rude comment, and Alesana responded by calling her homophobic. Taylor was suspended and said she went ” back in the closet” for her own protection.
In the days before Alesana died, she confessed on Tumblr that “everyone hates me. I even hate myself. Being transgender — it sucks in a lot of ways, but I’m being myself. All I need really is myself. I am there to learn and get a diploma. I’m not there to socialize.”
Disposti hopes Taylor didn’t die in vain, and that her loss will bolster schools to do more to protect transgender students, reported ABC News 10. The Human Rights Campaign agreed.
“Supporting LGBTQ youth — at home, in schools and in communities — can help protect against suicide and is a crucial part of nurturing their overall well-being. All too often, schools are reactive to incidence like this, instead of doing the preventative work to create a school climate and culture that values and celebrate diverse students.”
[Photo YouTube Screengrab]