17 July 2015

Sam Taub

One of the best things Caitlyn Jenner did in her acceptance speech for the Arthur Ashe Award is to mention Sam Taub.

Until Caitlyn mentioned him, I'd never heard of him.  I would be that almost no one else had, either.

You see, she is one of those people who could have been another statistic--another transgender teenager who committed suicide--had Jenner not mentioned her.

The Detroit-area teen came from a troubled background:  His parents split up and his father got sole custody of him.  His father at least tried to support him when he said he was living in the wrong body. As an example, they went on shopping trips that resulted in a complete turnover of his wardrobe.  His mother, on the other hand, while saying that she had nothing against trans people, wants him to be remembered in death as a "happy little girl" named Samantha who "loved ice-skating and music and having her hair done and shopping".

Since I know neither Sam nor his mother, I will not blame her for his taking his own life.  Nor will I say that what the father did was "too little, too late".  More important than assigning blame to anyone--if indeed there is any to assign--is to understand how overwhelming it is for anyone, let alone a teenager--even with the most loving family and friends--to come to terms with, and negotiate a way of living in, the gender of her or his mind and spirit.

It's hard enough for any teenager to learn who she or is, even under the best of conditions. Even the most confident and resilient of young people don't have the emotional resources to deal with being what most of society still considers to be a freak--or the perspective to realize that it can get better, never mind that it does get better, as Dan Savage assures us.

Frankly, I don't know how I made it through that part of my life. Or my twenties.  Or my thirties.  Or the first few years of my forties.  There were good times, to be sure.  But sometimes it seems that the scars of rejection and alienation will never heal, especially to a teenager.

So, Caitlyn Jenner, thank you for another valuable service you've performed.  You couldn't save Sam Taub's life--or Leelah Alcorn's, or that of any other trans person who's committed suicide.  But at least there's less chance that their deaths will be in vain.  

No comments: