Taylor Alesana, a 16 year-old from California tragically took her own life on April 2, 2015 after being bullied for being transgender. Taylor became popular on her YouTube channel for her makeup tutorials and her candid advice to other transgender youth. She once commented to others going through similar struggles, “The biggest piece of advice I could give to someone who’s transgender and struggling? You’re becoming yourself.”
Sarah McBride, a researcher for the Center for American Progress, commented that when someone “finally has the courage to say this is who I am, and society is not there to welcome them with open arms, it is so tragic. Especially when it is someone so young who has their entire life ahead of them.” All too commonly in our country LGBT youth are bullied online and in-person, and feel that they have no where to turn. McBride calls on school to embrace open conversations about sexual orientation and gender expression, stating: “As a country and a community we need to not be afraid to talk about these issues openly in our schools in a way that is inclusive and affirming.”
Taylor’s death comes just a few days after President Obama’s administration publicly denounced “conversion therapy” for minors. The controversial practice aims to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender expression. Senior Adviser to the President, Valerie Jarrett, wrote, “The overwhelming scientific evidence demonstrates that conversion therapy, especially when it is practiced on young people, is neither medically nor ethically appropriate and can cause substantial harm.”
In similarly positive news, California, New Jersey, and the District of Columbia have all banned licensed professionals from using conversion therapy on minors. However, in many states conversion therapy for minors is still legal. Although it is not a cure-all to bullying of LGBT youth in our country, a national ban on conversion therapy for minors, which would require congressional action, would represent a positive shift in the way our society thinks about sexual orientation and gender expression.
As President Obama previously has stated: “Tonight, somewhere in America, a young person, let’s say a young man, will struggle to fall to sleep, wrestling alone with a secret he’s held as long as he can remember. Soon, perhaps, he will decide it’s time to let that secret out. What happens next depends on him, his family, as well as his friends and his teachers and his community. But it also depends on us — on the kind of society we engender, the kind of future we build.”
Bertsche, Rachel. “Transgender Teen, Who Revealed Honest Tales of Bullying, Takes Own Life.” Yahoo! Parenting. Yahoo News, 10 April 2015. Web. 11 April 2015. <https://www.yahoo.com/parenting/transgender-teen-who-revealed-honest-tales-of-116036664802.html>.
Jarrett, Valerie. “Response to Your Petition on Conversion Therapy.” The White House. Whitehouse.gov. Web. 11 April 2015. <https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/enact-leelahs-law-ban-all-lgbtq-conversion-therapy>.
Newman, Jason. “Barack Obama Seeks Ban on ‘Conversion Therapy’ for Gay, Transgender Teens.” Rolling Stone. Rolling Stone Magazine, 08 April 2015. Web. http://www.rollingstone.com/culture/news/barack-obama-seeks-ban-on-conversion-therapy-for-gays-and-lesbians-20150408>.
Images from: https://instagram.com/p/z-OI2PQIb-/.