NECC Observer

The student news website of Northern Essex Community College, Haverhill and Lawrence, Mass.

NECC GSA To Hold Trans Suicide Awareness Bake Sale

By Joseph Meli

The NECC Gay/Straight Alliance will be holding a bake sale on Wednesday, Feb. 25, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Spurk building lobby. Proceeds from the event will benefit the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition, an organization dedicated to ending discrimination based on gender identity, and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

“Events like these are important because the trans community doesn’t get enough attention,” said Kelly Schwing, student president of the GSA. “After the whole Leelah Alcorn tragedy, the amount of attention was great, but there needs to be more.”

Leelah Alcorn was a 17-year-old transgender girl from Ohio who committed suicide in December of last year. In her suicide note, which she published online, she said she wanted her death to have an impact on the national dialogue; consequently, Leelah’s death sparked worldwide discussion about the treatment and representation of trans people in society, and the GSA bake sale will be held in her memory.

GSA member Colby Patrie, who created paintings of Leelah to raffle off at the event, said Leelah’s suicide note — which was posted on Tumblr but has since been removed — inspired the artwork.

“When I read [the note] I was like, ‘This is a serious problem.’ I’ve heard so many stories where trans people have died and their parents bury them with their birth gender and name. And so I said, ‘I want to paint something that represents her as she really was.'”

GSA members believe the easygoing nature of selling baked goods will allow them to more easily start an open dialogue about the sensitive topic with attendees.

“It’s a good, comfortable way to get people to come up to us,” said GSA staffer Sara Ramirez. She expressed hope that, after getting information from club members, participants will leave with an interest in the subject and be compelled to educate themselves on their own time.

Leelah Alcorn is far from alone as a trans victim of suicide. In a report compiled by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and the Williams Institute, 41% of respondents to a survey for transgender and gender non-conforming adults said they had attempted suicide at some point.

Many of the reasons these people listed as motivators included rejection from family and friends, discrimination when attempting to access healthcare and victimization by law enforcement.

With these sobering facts in mind, Schwing stresses the importance of giving to organizations that support trans people and fight discrimination.

“These are growing problems not just in our community, but in the world as we know it,” she said. “It seems unfair that only in tragedy do these people have light shone on them.”

The event was originally scheduled to take place on Feb. 9, but had to be cancelled due to inclement weather. Baked goods will be contributed by GSA members.‚Äč