by Lerato Dumse
On the 1st of August 2013, a 17 year old self identifying transgender (youth) was one of the approximately 23 suicides reported daily in South Africa with 230 serious attempts. He hanged himself. According to the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG), “hanging is the most employed method of suicide.”
This was not his first attempt. The South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) estimates that 20-50 percent of those who succeed are not first timers. Diagnosed with having depression, he was part of the 60 percent of people with depression who commit suicide in South Africa.
His biggest angst was being born with a female body. He had expressed his need to feel comfortable with his body. Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital was to provide his life changing surgery, but they had turned him away repeatedly appointment after appointment since May 2013. With only his blood being drawn for tests, he died with the process having not started.
On Friday, 9th Aug. 2013 I attended his funeral in KwaThema township, Ekurhuleni. While many celebrated National Woman’s Day in South Africa, a mother was burying her child.
However, unlike most LGBTI funerals which are often crowded and loud, his was small, intimate and full of tears. Described as someone who was always smiling as well making others smile, enjoyed building his muscles and lover of fashion.
Part of the Mother’s letter read was a message to the community at large.
“Let’s stay strong in the Lord and his mighty power, love our children and raise them in a way that will add value to their lives. Parents, don’t move from your places no matter the circumstances, you will wear the heavenly crown for a job well done.”
Suicide among lgbti youth, states that researchers have found that suicide among lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) youth is comparatively higher than among the general population.
The are lesbian and gay organizations in his township, however 88 kilometers separate him from an organization that deals with transgender issues Transgender and Intersex Africa.
There are lesbian and gay organizations in KwaThema township in Ekurhuleni. However 88 kilometers separated him from organizations that deal with transgender issues are Transgender & Intersex Africa (TIA) and Out LGBT Well Being both in Tshwane. Gay and Lesbian Memory in Action (GALA) provides reliable reading material but is 40 kilometers away.
Clinical social worker Caitlin Ryan from Family Acceptance Project (California State University, San Francisco) conducted the first of its kind study of the effects of family acceptance and rejection on health, mental health and well being of lgbt youth, including suicide, HIV and homelessness. Part of their findings was that, “parental acceptance, and even neutrality, with regard to a child’s sexual orientation can bring down the attempted suicide rate.”
Some advocates support Intervention implemented at the stage when a person is already suicidal (such as crisis hotlines). While others say Programs should be directed at increasing LGBT youth’s access to factors found to be “protective” against suicide (such as social support networks or mentors).
Attempted and Suicide have large numbers, claiming so many victims. We always hear about it, yet it is such a silent and taboo issue. As communities we have very little understanding, knowledge and education on the subject.
NB: *Please note that the exact names of the late person are reserved for privacy but most of all to respect the family and relatives at this time of sadness.
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