Content warning: suicide, transphobia
On September 28th, 2015, 16 year-old Skylar Lee of Madison, WI took his own life. Lee was a Korean American transboy who was an active and powerful voice in the LBGTQ community. As we reflect on his passing, we are reminded of the ways that racist and transphobic systems create trauma for our communities and that space must always be created in our work to honor our mental health.
If you are a queer or transgender youth and in need of support or just need someone to listen. Please reach out by visiting translifeline.org or calling 877-565-8860. For 24 hours a day help please visit thetrevorproject.org or call 866-488-7386.
Here is a shared photo from GSAFE, an LGBT organization in Madison, WI dedicated to creating school communities where LGBTQ youth and students thrive. Lee worked for GSAFE and was active in addressing the school-to-prison pipeline. We reflect on his work for intersectionality and the urgency of fighting the school-to-prison pipeline as it directly affects queer trans youth of color. He wrote on this in the Power In Partnerships Publication (full report available here.
Read his words below:
"WE CANNOT SEPARATE THE CONVERSATION BETWEEN RACIAL JUSTICE AND LGBTQ JUSTICE when our oppression and liberation are interconnected with one another. Our identities are intersectional simply because we exist; to say that they are separate enforces White supremacy, creating a culture where it is acceptable for queer and trans POC to be invisible and pushed out of society. We must understand intersectionality to truly be a united force in the fight to dismantle these systems of oppression.
Being East-Asian, specifically Korean, with light skin, able-bodied, and being born a citizen of the U.S., I experience a huge privilege within our education system. I understand that if I was not queer and trans, I would not have been impacted by the pipeline. I also understand that I have still not been as severely impacted by the pipeline as those whom I share community with.
In my activism in racial justice and queer justice, I work with queer youth of color every day who have experienced pushout or are actively being pushed out of school. The direct and indirect ways the School-to-Prison Pipeline have impacted me gives me greater awareness to the urgency of creating programs to combat the pipeline.
It is not justice if we leave behind members of our communities. It is not justice if we ignore the interconnected oppression of those we share community with. It is compliance to the systems that tell us we must fight against each other to uplift our own identity. To dismantle systems of oppression, we must be more creative than our oppressors. We are all socialized to protect these systems, a thought pattern we must actively fight against every moment. One cannot dismantle a system by working within it; rather, one must break outside the limitations of the system itself.
To begin the journey to unification, we must actively and loudly address our own privilege, power, and prejudice. No one can do this perfectly, including myself. We make mistakes, and it is never easy. However, we must never shy away from talking about intersectionality in our activism, for that is exactly what the systems have socialized us all to do. If we do not actively have these hard conversations around racial and queer identities, they will never be addressed nor recognized, and the systems will only maintain their power. I challenge everyone to start their own journey to self-awareness and actively participate in these conversations revolving around racial justice and queer justice."
If you are a queer or transgender youth and in need of support or just need someone to listen, there is help. You are not alone. Here are some resources:
Trans Lifeline: (877) 565-8860; All hotline operators are trans.
Trevor Lifeline: (866) 488-7386); For youth 13-24, chat and text also available. Note: they "respect privacy" but "reserve the right to disclose any information to the authorities at our sole discretion and as required or permitted by law."
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (U.S.): 1-800-273-8255/1-800-SUICIDE; All calls are confidential.