Salt Lake Commemorates Transgender Teens

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(Photo by Chris Samuels)

By Taylor Almond

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(Photo by Chris Samuels)
(Photo by Chris Samuels)

They shared their thoughts and their stories. They talked about their siblings and their struggles. Each person who came to the microphone had a different perspective, but all of the attendees shared a similar theme: aggression against the transgender community.

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On Wednesday night, 36 people met at the City Library plaza in downtown Salt Lake for a candlelight vigil. The attendees commemorated Leelah Alcorn, 17, from Ohio and Zander Mahaffey, 15, of Georgia — two transgender teens who committed suicide because of discrimination. Both posted their suicide notes on Tumblr, a blog website, gaining international attention as a result.

A January 2014 study conducted by UCLA and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention found that 41 percent of transgender persons attempt suicide at least once, passing the rate of both the general United States population, at 4.6 percent, and gay, lesbian and bisexual adults, at 10-20 percent. Furthermore, people who are openly transgender report even higher rates of suicide attempts, at 50 percent.

Following remarks, candles were passed around, and a procession moved around the park. The vigil was organized by Stand for Queer Lives, an advocacy group for transgender youth in Salt Lake City.

A. Romero, founder of Stand For Queer Lives, said education is one way to curb prejudice against the transgender community.

“[Google] what it means to be a non-binary person, what we’re going through, how it feels,” Romero said. “I’d like to see less people use words like tranny and fag because gender is not set in stone. It is not the law, and it shouldn’t be.”

But in some states, it seems to be so. Utah only lists two options — male and female — for gender on official forms.

Fubuki Abe, a speaker at the event, said it’s easy to understand Alcorn’s and Mahaffey’s pain.

“Tell your friends you love them,” Abe said. “I see many friends here, and they helped me through the darkest times. I wouldn’t be here without them.”

The U offers services to transgender individuals through the LGBT Resource Center, located in the Union.

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