A transgender teenager from Southern California committed suicide after going online to complain about being bullied at her high school, the head of a gay and lesbian group said on Friday.
The death of 16-year-old Taylor Alesana in Fallbrook, a community 45 miles (72 km) north of San Diego, has raised concerns about the situations transgender teenagers can encounter at school.
Alesana, in a series of videos posted on YouTube, described her gender identity and the bullying she said she experienced from other Fallbrook High School students.
The teenager was found dead at her family’s home on April 2, according to the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department. Investigators determined the death was not a homicide, and they turned the case over to the county Medical Examiner’s Office which has not released the official cause of death.
Max Disposti, executive director of the North County LGBTQ Resource Center, said his group heard from the family that Alesana died by suicide. The center held a memorial service for Alesana on Thursday.
“A lot of kids came from Fallbrook High School and told us the climate there is terrible for people who are different,” he said in a phone interview.
Alesana’s series of nearly two dozen videos on YouTube began five months ago, when she explained that she had recently moved to Fallbrook.
“I started a new school with a new name and new pronouns,” Alesana said in one video.
She also said that school officials had placed her in a special class “to protect me from bullying” and she praised her teacher and counselor.
But she also described bullying and scorn she encountered on social media and said a female student who used gender slurs against her was suspended. Alesana said that she was suspended herself for calling the student homophobic.
“I had to go back in the closet and dress like a boy and cut my hair off and my nails off,” Alesana said in a December video.
The school in a statement on its website said, “It is never easy when something like this happens, but we are working to move forward together and stronger than before.”
Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender teenagers are about twice as likely to have attempted suicide compared to their heterosexual peers, according to a paper on the website of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
(Editing by Alex Dobuzinskis)
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