Co-written with Chelsea Fristoe.
The roller derby world has connected with a powerful collective impetus to honor and celebrate the life of a junior skater who was a key player in the Darlings of Destruction Junior Derby League (DoD), in Detroit, MI. The skater, who asked to be known as Casper, a core part of the league and competitive playing team, and #57 on the track, also happened to have recently begun conversations with those closest to them about gender identity.
By its very nature roller derby is a sport that fosters inclusion and support, and the community is rallying to bring awareness to this complex, preventable cause of death, to put in everyday work to prevent any repetition, and celebrate the life of one of its own.
Suicide affects a little more than 4,600 individuals between the ages of 10 and 24 each year. According to the CDC, lesbian, gay and bisexual youth are four times as likely to commit suicide than their peers, and nearly half of transgender youth have seriously thought about suicide.
Casper had been known to be struggling with gender identity and the resulting bullying from peers.
It’s also important to contextualize this, as the Huffington Post reminds us that while bullying may be easily linkable to preventable deaths, it is only one part of a larger context of mental health and stress. We can work to resist both bullying and broader mental health issues by speaking up and creating a caring and supportive community everyday.
That article quotes Madelyn Gould, a professor who studies youth suicide and prevention efforts: “But probably, the accessibility of the Internet has made it such that there are many more stories about suicide, not necessarily more suicides.”
“If someone is being bullied, they should not jump to the conclusion that one of [their] options is suicide. What they should jump to is, one of the options I have is to get help.”
And our community has every ability to continue to have those conversations about getting help and supporting one another, which can change lives for the better.
We also need to remind one another of the many things we can do to respect everyone’s gender identity – from establishing accessible all-gender bathrooms at all of our games and tournaments, to not making assumptions about people’s pronoun choices, to refusing to gender-police haircuts, make-up, clothing choices, and more.
But Casper is also many more things than a conversation about gender identity and bullying can encompass. They are, were and always will be a person with foibles, endearing qualities, and some annoying quirks. They are a whole human being whose struggles are outshadowed by the ways that their person took up space in the world, conversed with people and is missed and loved. These things are important to honor and recognize in the people around us, daily.
It’s always important to create visibility (on their own terms) and the chance to honor the many very happy and successful trans lives being lived in the world. From the amazing peoplespeaking out and living their derby dreams, to groups like the Vagine Regime that celebrate derby’s queerness, to the broader community at large – such as the amazing ever-changing list of The Trans 100.
DoD invites every derby person to help honor Casper’s life, and reach out to one another this weekend by wearing turquoise, the color representing suicide prevention. This can be done with bandanas, wristbands, duct tape, stickers, uniforms, writing #doitfor57 on one’s person or any other type of representation.
The league is also using #doitfor57 to help spread the word via social media.
There are many warning signs of suicide. If you or someone you know exhibits any warning signs, or may be at risk, please utilize the many resources available, such as:
Trevor Lifeline: (866) 488-7386
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: (800) 273-TALK (8255)
Trans Lifeline: https://www.facebook.com/translifeline | http://www.translifeline.org (877) 565-8860
There are also a great many local resources near you, which can be easily found with your localized search engine.
LINK TO ORIGINAL ARTICLE