Taylor Alesana, a transgender teenager from Fallbrook High School in California, committed suicide last week. The sixteen year old had Youtube makeup tutorials where she spoke out against bullying, but despite the inspirational message in her videos, she took her own life after enduring relentless bullying and harassment from peers at school.
In one of her videos she describes incidents where she did not feel safe at school. “When you’re a kid, parents always tell you sticks and stones may break your bones but names will never hurt you,” she said. “To me that’s not true. Words hurt, and words turn up to threats and threats turn up to physical violence. ”Alesana encouraged teens in her situation to go to their school administrators or to the police if necessary to “Do whatever you can to protect yourself.”
Her death has been received with kind words from the Twitter world, with other young people showing their support with #hernamewasTaylor. The North County LGBTQ Resource Center hosted a memorial on Thursday evening, April 10. “There were hundreds of people that showed up,” says Max Disposti, the founder and executive director of the center. “The stories that kids shared about themselves, about Taylor, about how much she suffered, were heartbreaking.”
Disposti says schools should use the tragedy as an opportunity to educate teachers on how to address transgender bullying and discrimination in school. “We need to teach our educators about how to handle circumstances like these, and how to intervene. Because the worst thing we can do is not say anything and that is what happened here. If, at the beginning of every year, every teacher, in every classroom told students ‘we do not tolerate discrimination based on physical handicaps, race, gender, sexual orientation,’ for LGBT that would be powerful, because even if they are not out, they will know their school will not tolerate bullying.”