Taylor Alesana, a 16-year-old transgender girl in Fallbrook, Calif., who faced "constant" bullying online and in school, died by suicide April 2, reports San Diego TV station KGTV.
Despite facing daily harassment, Alesana tried to support and inspire other trans youth through her YouTube videos, where she had been speaking about trans issues and giving makeup tutorials for several months. Reaching several hundred viewers each week appeared to be a joy to the teen, who also spoke of being lonely and losing "a ton of friends" after coming out as trans at Fallbrook High School.
In one November video for last year's Transgender Day of Remembrance, Alesana spoke out against the "horrible" fatal violence that faces trans people, and especially trans women of color, worldwide, saying, "One in 12 transgender women are killed each year. ... I myself am a transgender woman and that, to me, just breaks my heart." Alesana then gave her own account of living daily as an out trans woman, saying that she had just begun attending her new high school in Fallbrook, a town she considered "convservative."
"I go to school every day [and] I don't have many friends. I'm usually alone," she shared. "And if that's how my life's going to be then, hell, I'm just going to get my diploma and get out. Being transgender, for me, [means] I've lost tons of friends -- tons. It's been hell."
"Being there [at Fallbrook High School], of course, means you're gonna [get] a lot of hate and some support," she continued. "Me, I walk into school ... and I put my headphones in. ... Because I know all the shit I'm going to get. Especially lately, I've gotten a lot of drama from the school itself."
Alesana had informed a school counselor of the harassment she faced, but nothing changed, North County LGBTQ Resource Center executive director Max Disposti told KGTV.
Though Alesana defiantly stated in her video, "I don't care what other people think," and encouraged other trans youth to embrace themselves, Disposti said the regular peer rejection and taunting caused her pain.
"You could see people stare and be rude to her," he recalled. "She felt unsafe, she felt beat up every day she needed to go to school."
The 16-year-old made the decision to end her life while on spring break from school, and her family -- who Alesana warmly described as "accepting, or ... getting to the point of being more accepting" -- has chosen to keep further details private.
Meanwhile, Fallbrook High School prinicpal Rod King issued a statement, saying, "Fallbrook High has a continuum of appropriate services (social, emotional, academic) to ensure every student is supported and successful at Fallbrook High School. It is never easy when something like this happens, but we are working to move forward together and stronger than before." The school district made counselors available for any students who needed support.
Alesana's death is the seventh reported suicide of a transgender youth in the U.S. this year, in an "epidemic" that trans advocates say sees far more casualities than make headlines. Last month, thousands mourned the suicide of 18-year-old Charlotte, N.C.-based trans activist Blake Brockington, who had become known nationwide as the city's first out transgender homecoming king.
KGTV also reports that Sage, a second gender-nonconforming teen living in the same area of California as Alesana, took their own life in early March.
A candlelight vigil will be held in Alesana's honor tonight at 6 p.m. at the North County LGBTQ Resource Center.
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.