[tw: suicide, transphobia]
Yesterday I heard that the derby world has lost one of its youngest members. Junior derby player Sam Taub- #57 Casper to his derbs- was lost to suicide. He was only 15.
Let me rephrase that. He wasn’t lost. We failed Sam Taub. We failed to create a word where trans kids can see a future that includes them. We failed to give trans kids role models, people they could look up to. We failed to show them the path between where they are now, and a fulfilled life.
When I say ‘we’, I mean you and me. All of us. Us adults. Us cis people especially.
There are so many of us that credit derby with dragging us out of shitty situations. Me included.
Derby was supposed to save us. And while intellectually we know that this sport and this community are both imperfect (oh god are we imperfect) and also such a small part of life? Derby was supposed to be able to save Sam Taub.
I never met the kid. I don’t know what he could have grown up to be- aside from someone who could kick my ass on the track, because it’s not a secret at all in the derby world that the second the junior derby kids start growing up, our asses are toast. Crumbly, crumbly toast. He was supposed to be one of our tough, sweet kids who learn to love who they are through knocking each other over.
Derby couldn’t save Sam Taub.
He was part of our world- this derby world that works so hard to be a place that embraces the lot of us. Takes us as we are, builds us up, makes us into the strongest versions of ourselves. The derby world works so hard to be inclusive. It’s a space aside from the rest of our lives where we’re valued for who we are. It’s supposed to be enough. It can’t be enough.
It wasn’t enough.
Sam didn’t die because he was trans. Transness is a perfectly ordinary variation of what it is to be human, and there is nothing intrinsic about being trans that could make life not worth living.
Sam died because we failed him. He died because we accepted a world where trans kids- kids, people at the start of their lives who haven’t had a chance to develop the context to see how things can change and who don’t have the option to get the hell out of where they are- are forced to live in worlds and with people who tell them every day of their lives that they are worthless. He died because we didn’t shout loud enough, didn’t insinuate our voices into every single crack, didn’t object every single time, didn’t counter enough of that kind of hate and torture of kids with nowhere else to go and by not doing that we let it continue. We let people hound another trans kid to death.
Are you tired of this yet? Because I am. I’m sick and tired of seeing yet another headline for yet another person killed or tortured into killing themselves because of who they are. Yet another teenager.
Over at Derby Frontier, Nillin Dennison has put together a list of things that we can do as individuals and as leagues to welcome our trans teammates, officials and leaguemates.
How You Can Look Out For and Support Your Leaguemates Who Are Trans
1. Reach out to the nearest LGBTQI+ centre, or pride organization, to inquire about Safe Space training or general sexual and gender diversity training. Make it mandatory for all members of the league to participate in this training.
2. Call out ANY homophobic and/or transphobic insults or harassment that you see either on the track or off of the track, even if the people doing it “don’t mean it”. Do not stand idly by while this behavior happens. Reality is that there are likely MANY people who are trans in roller derby who are not out to their leagues for any number of reasons, possibly even because they do not feel safe being out in such a sex segregated sport such as roller derby. As such, allowing the use of anti-LGBT language is just going to further hurt those people who are trans and reduce the likelihood of them ever feeling comfortable with being out.
3. Many mental health service providers offer suicide awareness, prevention and intervention training as well. Consider seeking out this education by contacting your nearest Canadian Mental Health Association, or health care provider.
4. Always use the name and pronouns that a person who is trans provides you.
5. If a person who is trans comes out to you, recognize what an incredible gesture they are making having shared such a sensitive, personal thing about themselves. Never out them to others by introducing them as being trans. Furthermore, if you suspect that somebody is trans, never ask others what they think. That creates an environment of rumors. Instead, if you are unsure of a person’s gender identity, speak to them privately and ask what their pronouns are.
There’s a lot more good stuff at that post. I highly recommend reading the rest of it.
And maybe-just-maybe, right now is a time to look at our leagues as a whole. At our representative organisations. Do we have policies in place to protect our trans leaguemates and teammates? Are those policies really based on making our leagues a welcoming space for trans people, or are they just fancily dressed gatekeeping and cisnormativity? Because if it’s the latter, then it’s past time that we changed that. We pride ourselves in being models of inclusivity for sporting communities. Let’s put our money (er, time and committee hours) where our mouths are on this one. Let’s create spaces where trans people and identities are not just accepted, but actively valued on an equal basis with cis people and identities.
And if you’re not a derb- what circles do you live your life in? How do those circles value cis lives over trans? Not do they, but how do they, because I can guarantee you that they do. Where can you change this? What are you going to do?
This is literally a matter of life and death.
Rest in Power, Casper #57.
Amd the rest of you? Don’t let another kid die in vain. This has gone on too long.
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