“I’m so exhausted,” Blake Brockington wrote before walking into traffic on Interstate 485 on March 23, 2015.
Blake was a handsome young man. He had been crowned homecoming king and had spoken about his trials and triumphs on the national stage. Blake was also transgender.
“When you’re a kid, parents always tell you sticks and stones may break your bones but names will never hurt you. To me that’s not true. Words hurt, and words turn up to threats and threats turn up to physical violence.” Taylor Alesana, like many transgender teens, was made to feel uncomfortable at school and in society. She spoke about it on her popular YouTube channel before taking her life on April 2, 2015, just days after Blake.
“When I was 14, I learned what transgender meant and cried of happiness. After 10 years of confusion I finally understood who I was. I immediately told my mom, and she reacted extremely negatively, telling me that it was a phase, that I would never truly be a girl, that God doesn’t make mistakes, that I am wrong. If you are reading this, parents, please don’t tell this to your kids. Even if you are Christian or are against transgender people don’t ever say that to someone, especially your kid. That won’t do anything but make them hate them self. That’s exactly what it did to me.” Leelah Alcorn was made to feel uncomfortable with her gender by her family and the religious community to which they belong. On December 29, 2014, she took her life, stating in her note, ‘I am never going to be happy.”
Leelah was 17 years old. Taylor was 16. Blake was 18 years old.
Transgender Americans face some of the worst examples of discrimination and violence in our nation. It is widely reported that nearly 40% of all transgender individuals have attempted suicide (although accurate rates may be much higher when accounting for those who may have lived in secret).
#TransLivesMatter is a mixed media piece, transparent watercolor, wax, and marker on 140lb paper. The painting is the fourth piece in the collection #ArttoEndViolence and depicts the ghostly remembrances of Blake Brickington, Taylor Alesana, and Leelah Alcorn.
We can all do better. We can be accepting and kind to people of all genders. We can demand that conversion therapy be outlawed and deemed abuse. We can demand equal protections for ALL peoples.