CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Local LGBT community leaders are responding with messages of support and encouragement, following the death Thursday of a transgender student.
Ash Haffner, 16, died by suicide on Thursday. In an interview with WSOC, Haffner’s mother, April Quick, said Ash had been bullied in school, despite receiving support at home and at groups like Time Out Youth.
Time Out Youth’s executive director, Rodney Tucker, said his organization, which serves LGBTQ youth ages 11-20, is responding with support for other clients who knew Haffner.
“We have counselors and we’ve already reached out to school officials, the GSA [advisor] and the principal at the school,” Tucker said, adding that a counselor at the school will also be on hand.
Suicide risks for LGBT youth are significantly higher than those for straight peers, according ot advocates. Transgender youth, in particular, face higher risks, including risks of violence and bullying.
Tucker says TOY has responded with services to support transgender youth.
“It’s a rising population group in the space,” Tucker said. “We’ve added a transgender intern and started the Q-Tribe [transgender youth support] group.”
Additionally TOY is engaged in safe zone trainings at local schools, Tucker said. The trainings include trans-specific language and issues.
Paige Dula, founder of transgender support group Genderlines, was shocked to hear of the youth’s death.
“My initial reaction was one of horror,” Dula said. “I always hate hearing of a young trans person taking their life. It breaks my heart.”
But Dula cautioned there are “a lot of factors that contribute to feelings of suicide.”
Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, also said she was taken aback by the news.
“I’m just heartbroken about all this violence of different kinds we’re seeing,” Keisling said, referring also to a recent increase in reports of violence against transgender people.
Keisling said her group is working on anti-violence programs, as well as services to help train local law enforcement and policies to end harmful conversion therapies.
Most important, Keisling said, is that people speak up and support each other.
“I think people, trans or not, queer or not, need to be there for each other, need to stand up for each other,” she said.
Keisling added, “I am so broken hearted over this. Ash’s mom, April, from the news reports clearly loved and supported Ash. I can’t imagine what she’s going through and can’t imagine what Ash was going through. A lot of people around the country have broken hearts over this.”
News of the youth’s passing comes as the city of Charlotte engages in a tense debate over LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination ordinances.
Leaders aren’t linking the two incidents together, calling them an “unfortunate coincidence.”
“We don’t know what was going through his mind,” Tucker said.
Tucker hopes that youth in need will reach out for support. TOY, he said, provides free therapy, support specifically for transgender youth and safe-space drop-in center.
“We can get them the help they need,” he said.
Ash’s mother has asked that donations be made in memory of Ash to Time Out Youth. Condolences can be left online.
Those youth in need of support are encouraged to contact Time Out Youth, timeoutyouth.org, 704-344-8335. Their center is located at 2320-A N. Davidson St.
Those youth in need of immediate support can call the Trevor Project helpline at 1-866-488-7386 or access resources online at thetrevorproject.org.
Regardless if you are Gay, Lesbian, Bi or Transgender, the rate of suicide among us in our society is astounding in comparison to heterosexuals. Our community is murdering itself faster than you can blink. Most of us have felt at one time or another that life is not worth living. Suicide has many reasons, from A to Z, too many to list. Our community has a suicide rate of ten to fifteen times higher than the national average of the heterosexual community. We must stop this self-annihilation. We must come to grips with ourselves and believe that we can overcome.
If you feel your life is not worth living, I am here to tell you it is. We all have individual contributions we can give our loved ones and people we encounter every day. I believe life is a gift and to murder yourself is wrong. If you commit this act, you are denying others the love you can give and leaving the people who love you behind with feelings of guilt and sorrow; because they wonder why you, their friend, gave up so easily.
Life is not that hard even though sometimes it seems there is no other alternative or hope. If you ever feel this way, reach out to your friends and family. Ask them for help. Seek a suicide support group, or a church. Asking for help is nothing to be ashamed of. Give yourself a second chance, you won’t regret it. If you follow through with suicide, it will be permanent. There will be no turning back .
If you have a friend who talks of suicide, do not ignore them. They are asking for your help. Do not turn your back on your friend no matter how trivial you think it is. Statistics say 90 percent who threaten suicide never carry out the act. However, no matter if you are tired of hearing them say they want to die, be there for them. They are reaching out to you, be a friend. Remember, 10 percent actually do go through with it.
I am speaking from a personal experience. My wife, who was separated from me for ten years, reached out to me many times. For six months, she would call me every day, sometimes as many as ten times. I tried to help her with her personal problems, but, I am sorry to say, without success. On March 30 2009, she drove up in my driveway and shot herself dead. I heard the shot. I ran to her but I was too late. There is not a day that goes by without me crying for her and feeling I might have tried harder to help her.
I want to say here at the end of my article, if someone reaches out to you, be there for him or her. They could be for real. If you have thoughts of suicide and don’t have anyone to talk to, contact me at JaniceCovington1@aol.com . I will be there for you.
i really appreciate all that you do Janet, but words matter and you of all people should know that many tran’s people the selves are heterosexual. To imply otherwise is pretty offensive. The term you’ should be using to refer to non Trans people is Cisgender.
There’s politely educating someone who is obviously an ally, but lacks a thorough knowledge of the intensely complicated language expectations surrounding referring to trans people; or there’s being a self righteous tool for the sake of it, who is making our community look like a bunch of whiney naysayers and accomplishing NOTHING other than possibly alienating the few allies we have.
Which one do you think you did?
I hope the counselors at TOY receive proper grief counseling too. Healthcare professionals can suffer a loss as much as family members, reducing their ability to help other survivors deal with their loss. Suicide affects everyone that knew the individual that was lost.
It is so sad to see yet another Transgendered youth has found life impossible to deal with. My deepest sympathy goes out to Ash’s Mom and the whole community. I pray for the day that society in general finds it in its heart to accept things as they are and stop judging and hurting others. God teaches love … not hate.
There is also a trans* specific hotline that can be used by anyone. It’s staffed by trans* people, which makes it very unique in the support it can offer. Details are here: http://www.translifeline.org/ and the phone numbers are: US: (877) 565-8860, Canada: (877) 330-6366.
Dear Young People (and especially friends of Ash)–please don’t give up. We need you in our world. THINGS CHANGE. And they CAN change for the better.
If you need help, ask for it. If you ask and you think you aren’t being heard, SCREAM. SHOUT. YELL. But DON’T give up or in for good.
I know it is hard–sometimes so VERY hard–to see good choices when you’re young. Let someone help you. Sometimes someone else can see things that are sitting under your very nose. Sometimes someone can help give you the courage and the guidance to change what you need to.
I say again, please don’t give up. We need you in our world. It’s your world, too–if it’s not what you want, change the world. And hug each other–often and with affection. That helps.
And be as patient as you can–change takes time–another one of those hard truths but it doesn’t mean change can’t take place–it can. Wait and see.
Losing Ash has not just affected the trans community. My daughter and some of her friends were classmates and friends with Ash. They support be who you want to be. It doesn’t just affect those who were like her or understood her, but also those who liked her for who she was. Her personality was a likeable one. It wasn’t like she was some depressed being moping around all the time. A life this young should not be cut so short period, no matter how, no matter what.
PLEASE SHARE: A STATEMENT FROM ASH HAFFNER’S MOTHER: If you take the time to read Ash’s letter to society, which stated “I had a loving mother who FULLY accepted me for who I was and NEVER stopped trying”, and gather your facts, you will see that Ash had the FULL support of her family. Additional recent statements posted by Ash stated that she was “having a rough time trying to figure out who she was”. That she says “I don’t know what I am”, I’m confused”. That “she’s trying to figure it out & just wanted people to BE THERE FOR HER”. These statements were addressed to those who made fun of her and did not support her during her time of self discovery. Had Ash decided that the male pronoun “HE” was the preferred pronoun, I as her mother would have been her FIRST and BIGGEST supporter and would have continued to love her unconditionally and honor her choice. At the time of Ash’s passing, she did not have a definitive pronoun preference. Therefore, you are not incorrect in whichever pronoun choice you choose to use in however YOU knew Ash. But you ARE INCORRECT in thinking or stating that I am disrespecting my child by not using the specific pronoun “HE” exclusively. I ask that you please have respect for Ash and our family and not continue to pass judgment on her/his identity as society constantly did before her tragic death. I also ask that you refrain from negative posts regarding Ash or her family who FULLY supported her. I also ask that you familiarize yourself with the term “TRANSGENDER” : of or relating to people who have a sexual identity that is not clearly male or clearly female. Those of you who are posting negativity are showing the prime example of what is wrong in our society. You are passing judgment and making statements without even knowing the true circumstances or facts. I “WILL NOT” tolerate any negative slander or false statements by ANY individual, news outlet, media source, etc., printed or spoken and I will deal with any of those issues accordingly. ASH WAS MY WORLD!! Sincerely, April Quick (Ash’s mother)
If anyone can or wants to help out:
Support the “Time Out Youth” program in Charlotte NC, as requested in obit:
Help Ash’s family with funeral expanses:
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