Toronto Mourns Suicide of Transgender Leader

By Diane Anderson-Minshall

Originally published on Advocate.com July 11 2012 2:20 PM ET

Toronto residents are grieving the loss of transgender activist Kyle Scanlon, who the Torontoist called "a valued leader, gifted mentor, and much-loved friend" after Scanlon took his own life July 3. Scanlon was the education, training, and research coordinator at the 519 Church Street Community Centre, which serves as a hub of LGBTQ and two-spirit community life in Toronto's diverse Church and Wellesley Village.   

According to the Torontoist, Scanlan had worked with 519 and Sherbourne Health Centre to "develop programs to address the needs of Toronto’s trans community, and gave generously of his time, energy, and expertise in assisting trans people with issues of employment, housing, sexual health, and acceptance within the larger community." 

Tributes have been showing up in blogs and area media as news of Scanlan's death circulated this week, including one from Toronto’s Trans PULSE project (which Scanlan helped found) that described the young man as "a trans activist, researcher, front-line community worker and leader who worked tirelessly and selflessly for social justice. The wisdom from his life experiences helped to shape the Trans PULSE project from the very beginning.  Kyle was on many occasions, our voice of reason; when things got difficult, he was always there to remind us why we were collectively there." 

Scanlan was, according to TransPULSE, a member of the AIDS Bureau, Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care’s Gay/Bi/Queer/Trans Men’s Working Group, and was a co-investigator on their new study focussed on the sexual health needs of trans men who have sex with men and he previously worked with the FTM Safer Shelter Project and the Youth Migration Project.

Suicide rates among transgender and gender non-conforming individuals is extremely high; a 2010 study by the NGLTF reported that while 1.6% of the general public attempts suicide, over 40% of trans people do so. 

TransPULSE reminded readers that "depression, hopelessness and suicide are very real issues for trans people and Kyle’s death has and will continue to hit the community very hard; take care of yourself and each other at this time and if you are feeling distraught please call a friend, go to your emergency department, or call a distress line." Author S. Bear Bergman reminded the Torontoist that community leaders like Scanlan sometimes face special challenges in seeking help: “I worry that Kyle, a guy who was such a helper-of-all, may ultimately have found himself, in a brutal moment, feeling like there was no one he could turn to because in all his relationships, the current of help moved from him to others. Queer and trans people often end up working directly with our communities and, even in a big city, LGBT2Qville can be a pretty small town. When you add in over a dozen years of community work and experience, as Kyle gave, who is left for him to reach out to?”

The Trevor Project offers a list of suicide warning signs here. If you or someone you care about displays any of these warning signs, please do not hesitate to call The Trevor Lifeline at: 866-4-U-TREVOR (866-488-7386) to speak with a trained volunteer counselor.