A trans person committed suicide in June.
Nobody reported it, and her death went mostly unnoticed by the rest of the world. The death did not end in a sensational court case, or in some bloody mess that news cameras caught before the Coroner could bring the covering over her face. Her story was, for all intents and purposes, not newsworthy in any way, shape, or form; it did not create any waves, nor did it generate traffic on websites. She was, for all intents and purposes, another face in the crowd, and her story isn't worthy of reporting here on Bilerico-IN.
There are important issues on the table right now. We can observe the increasing desperation in the Religious Right's attempts to vilify LGBT people, or the myriad piles of civil rights bills hitting governments' desks across the country. We can even speak of high-profile cases, like Teish. There's plenty to celebrate, and plenty to be happy about in the fight for our civil rights.
This does not change the fact that this girl is dead.
Her tale is one of early transition, family pressure, and survival. She revealed to her family that she was transgender while still in high school. Her father, a prominent Baptist minister, proceeded to throw her out of the house until she "got right with God." This did not stop her from chasing her dreams though, and she completed a successful transition to full-time living as a female during high school. She attended prom, classes, graduation... all the things that normal teenage girls would do.
She fought with depression. Some good friends of mine acted as mentors to the girl, and even called for help when her displayed suicidal intentions on one occasion. But for the most part, the woman that they spoke to was calmer, happier, and better equipped to handle the world than the man that had once been in those shoes.
In the early part of this year she was put before a judge. The judge ordered her to move back under guardianship of her parents in lieu of jail time for an unrelated crime. Thus sentenced, she moved back in with her parents. Then, on an early June morning, she said goodbye to her family, drove to a secluded spot, parked, and shot herself. She was 19.
This event, in and of itself, is not newsworthy. The journalist in me knows this. There is no villain, no ambiguity, no catchy photo to gather the attention of the masses. (The lack of a photograph for this post is intentional.) There is no justification for a hate crime, no discussion point to keep people interested, and there is no way I can post this as a valid news story. One in ten transgender people commit suicide, either before or after transition, and that's just not relevant to audiences looking for hate crimes legislation, Fundie Watches, and success stories about same-sex marriage.
Right now, someone is reading this article and saying "Sad story, but the truth is that people like her die every day," as if quantity justifies the tragic fact that a child - a person with dreams, aspirations, and a future - now has to be buried and eulogized. It's not the quantity of suicide, or the statistics of suicide, or the call for any number of political projects that acts as the stakes of this news. People are dying. Do we need to justify this?
The crux of this issue is that most truly humanitarian causes are not newsworthy. While flashy organizations on both sides of the fence wax poetic about definitions of marriage, the role of gender, and the issue of tolerance/acceptance in society, people are dying. People are dying. And, for the most part, their stories will fade into the background while the band keeps right on playing, making news stories and photo opportunities whenever they may be of potential benefit to a movement as a whole. This girl's life - and subsequent death - play only a minuscule part in the greater scheme of things. Does that mean that her death was itself minuscule? Hardly.
Her story screams into places statistics and political rallies cannot reach. She is a person, and no matter how close we are to our goals we must remember that we are here to help people. Even with the lofty ideals of the LGBT movement, from marriage to military to hate crimes, we must always keep ourselves mindful of the little things that can be done to protect our own. Bills on paper are nice, but mean nothing if people can't see the worth in living long enough to enjoy these rightly-earned freedoms.
Sure, we can't turn around public perception overnight, but we can help others cope with that perception as it exists in their daily lives. We can't fix homophobia with rhetoric, but we can go to the kid being bullied and say "I understand. I've been there." We can't make nationwide marriage happen in the next year, but we can be the role model for a kid who has always associated being gay with being sinful. We can't get GRS covered as a medically necessary procedure without a legal fight, but we can show young trans people that it is possible to be a happy, functioning member of society as a trans person, no matter how terrible people may say being transgender has to be.
Helping people won't bring her back. However, helping people will keep her story from happening again.
I urge anyone with available time, resources, and talents to volunteer for local youth organizations: gay, straight, or otherwise. The news may carry the messages, and the politicians may carry legal power, but it's the children that speak volumes.