Aug Sept 2016
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The Advocate

Family, Friends Mourn Madison Trans Teen Activist Skylar Marcus Lee

Lee Skylar Marcus

Well-loved by family, friends, neighbors, classmates, the parents of school friends, and his dog named Nugget, Skylar Marcus Lee, a transmasculine junior at Madison West High School in Wisconsin, died by suicide Monday after struggling with depression, according to Lee’s obituary at the website of the Cress Funeral Home.

“It is with a heavy heart that I offer Safe Passage to [Lee] who took his own life. An active and powerful rising voice in the LGBTQ community, his light will be dearly missed,” said Adam Lodestone, an LGBT educator, counselor, and shaman, in a public Facebook post on Monday

In a message on its public Facebook page, Madison's Gay Straight Alliance for Safe Schools celebrated Lee as “an influential youth leader at GSAFE.” The post went on to laud Lee’s mature understanding of the importance of intersectional advocacy, saying that Lee had a particular gift for addressing “why racial justice and LGBTQ justice need to be a part of the same conversation to truly be successful."

A memorial celebrating Lee’s life will be held Friday from 3 to 6 p.m. at the Cress Funeral Home in Madison. Friends and loved ones will be able to offer their remembrances during the service at 5 p.m.

Born in Madison on November 28, 1998, to James and Joanne Lee, the teenager was an active member of his school's Gay Straight Alliance and Proud Theatre. He loved ballroom dancing. Lee also leaves behind a brother, Avi Z., and a grandmother, Ok Park, noted his obituary.

Lee’s gifts as a fierce fighter for social justice were evident in his words for the Power in Partnerships publication from which Lodestone quoted in his Facebook post. Speaking about the "School-to-Prison Pipeline," which the American Civil Liberties Union defines as “policies and practices that push our nation's most at-risk children, out of classrooms and into the juvenile and criminal justice systems,” Lee’s words for the publication indicate a remarkably well-developed and daring justice-oriented young mind. Lee wrote:

“We cannot separate the conversation between racial justice and LGBTQ justice when our oppression and liberation are interconnected with one another. Our identities are intersectional simply because we exist [..] Being East-Asian, specifically Korean, with light skin, able-bodied, and being born a citizen of the U.S., I experience a huge privilege within our education system. I understand that if I was not queer and trans, I would not have been impacted by the pipeline. I also understand that I have still not been as severely impacted by the pipeline as those whom I share community with. In my activism in racial justice and queer justice, I work with queer youth of color every day who […] are actively being pushed out of school. The direct and indirect ways the School-to-Prison Pipeline have impacted me gives me greater awareness to the urgency of creating programs to combat the pipeline.”

On the public website of the Cress Funeral Home, an anonymous parent whose niece performed with Lee at Proud Theater, provided the following heartfelt remembrance:

"I would have liked to have met you through my sweet niece who shared the stage with you from time to time at Proud Theater. May your family be blessed and comforted, may your spirit song sing loud and free, and may all those seeking comfort turn to a friend, sibling, parent, aunt, uncle, stranger and find their hope renewed."

On the same website, another individual who calls herself a “concerned mom” wrote the following:

"I only knew a Kindergartner named [redacted] in my son's class with a big [brother] named [Avi] in my daughter's 2nd grade class. I am so saddened I never had the opportunity to meet Skylar! I wish peace to all that have a range of emotions going through their minds and bodies right now. Let's do everything we can to love and accept each other exactly as we are and get support and help to those suffering with mental illness."

Lee’s friend named Arletta also wrote these words on the website, praising Lee’s kind, giving nature:

"You were always so kind. Your kindness was infectious. I remember one day at work a kid didn't have enough money to pay for what he wanted. I was a little crabby that day and wasn't going to just give it to the kid. You ran and got money to pay for the cup of soda the kid wanted. Your kindness that day touched me and likely that kid. And you never even thought much of it. You will be dearly missed at McDonalds and were always loved and accepted there. You were part of my McDonalds family. And will be greatly missed. I hope you found peace."

Another friend named Haliee Patel mentioned the special bond that Lee maintained with his dog Nugget at the funeral home's website:

"When we met, you introduced yourself [by a female name] this spring. You may just be my two-blocks away neighbor who I exchanged numbers for the sole reason of playing with your sweet little dog, Nugget. However, those two or three moments we shared in the lawn made me realize how great of a person you were. You did not hesitate once to give a stranger your number when I asked nor when I called you to step out of your house. I will always hug your grandma whenever I see her walking Nugget from now. Rest in peace, Skylar!"

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.

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