Michigan Trans Teen Skater's Suicide Rocks Roller Derby Community
In roller derby games across the U.S. this weekend, hundreds of players will have "#DoItFor57" emblazoned across t-shirts or written on arms and legs. The phrase honors West Bloomfield, Mich., teen Sam Taub, a 15-year-old trans skater who died by suicide on April 9.
Nillin Dennison, an LGBT advocate who runs the blog Derby Frontier, broke the news of Taub's passing Wendesday, stating:
"Today, I was absolutely devastated to learn of the suicide of a junior derby skater from West Bloomfield, Michigan named Sam Taub, who also happened to be a young trans man, on April 9th, 2015. Known as Casper in the derby community, Sam skated under #57 alongside his teammates in the Darlings of Destruction Junior Derby League out of Roseville, Michigan. My sincere condolences to all of those affected by this tragic loss, who knew and loved Sam."
Roller derby news site Derby Central reported that Taub "happened to have recently begun conversations with those closest to them about gender identity." The site added that Taub had faced "bullying from peers" over his gender expression — an experience shared nearly universally by the nine trans youth victims of suicide reported this year.
While advocates point out that the "epidemic" of suicide among trans and gender-nonconforming youth likely sees many more deaths per year than are reported by media, this year alone has already seen, in addition to Taub's, the suicides of Taylor Alesana, 16, in Fallbrook, Calif.; Blake Brockington, 18, in Charlotte, N.C.; Eyelul Cansin, 23, in Instanbul, Turkey; Taylor Wells, 18, in Springfield, Ill.; Aubrey Mariko Shine, 22, in San Francisco; Zander Mahaffey, 15, in Austell, Ga.; Melonie Rose, 19, in Laurel, Md.; and Ash Haffner, 16, Charlotte, N.C. The late December suicide of Leelah Alcorn in Union Township, Ohio made waves internationally earlier this year.
Taub is being remembered by his derby team, the Darlings of Destruction, as "a bright and shining star" whose "sense of humor was fantastic." Messages of remembrance and support having begun pouring in over social media with the hashtag #DoItFor57. Derby Central is also encouraging roller derby players to wear the color teal during their weekend games to promote suicide prevention awareness.
"By its very nature roller derby is a sport that fosters inclusion and support," the site explains about the sport, which draws numerous LGBT-identified competitiors each year. "The community is rallying to bring awareness to this complex, preventable cause of death, to put in everyday work to prevent any repetition, and celebrate the life of one of its own."
A previous version of this report used the pronoun "they" to refer to Taub. The Advocate has adjusted the pronoun to "he" after being contacted by a friend of Taub.
If you are a trans or gender-nonconforming person considering suicide, Trans Lifeline can be reached at 877-565-8860. LGBT youth (ages 24 and younger) can reach the Trevor Project Lifeline at 1-866-488-7386. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 can also be reached 24 hours a day by people of all ages and identities.