Taylor Alesena, a transgender teen that candidly documented her struggles with loneliness and bullying at a San Diego-area high school on YouTube, died April 2nd in an apparent suicide. The 16-year-old Fallbrook High student took her own life during spring break, the school district confirmed in a statement to San Diego's ABC 10.
Max Disposti, the executive director of the area's LGBTQ Resource Center, said that Alesena was frequently cyber-bullied and called names by her peers, even as her YouTube channel became an inspiration to others facing a similar ordeal. "[Alesena] felt unsafe, she felt beat up every day she needed to go to school," Disposti told ABC 10. Alesena's suicide comes one month after another transgender teen named Sage who frequented the LGBTQ Resource Center killed himself.
"Just a month after the loss of Sage, we have to say goodbye to another dear friend. We are sad and angry again," Disposti wrote on Facebook. "Taylor, you were a beautiful girl, we will never stop trying to make this world a better place." Hundreds of people showed up for a candlelight vigil for Alesena held Thursday night in Oceanside, California.
In one of her YouTube videos, Alesena told her viewers, "The biggest piece of advice I could give to someone who's transgender and struggling? You're becoming yourself." In a December video, Alesena said she was suspended from school for "name-calling" following an incident where she called another girl "homophobic."
When the harassment became too much for her to handle, she decided to "go back in the closet and dress like a boy." "Being transgender – it sucks in a lot of ways, but I'm being myself," Alesena said. "All I need really is myself. I am there to learn and get a diploma. I'm not there to socialize."
Alesena's suicide comes just days before President Barack Obama promised to make strides in an effort to ban "conversion therapy," the controversial practice of attempting to change a person's sexual orientation. "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," Obama's Senior Adviser Valerie Jarrett wrote.
Jarrett was responding to an online petition asking for the creation of "Leelah's Law." The proposed law was named after 17-year-old trans teen Leelah Alcorn, who committed suicide after being forced to meet with Christian therapists in an attempt to "convert" her back to a boy. "[Alcorn's suicide] was tragic, but I will tell you, unfortunately she has a lot of company," Jarrett said. "It's not the story of one young person. It is the story of countless young people who have been subjected to this."