Kyle Scanlon, 1969-2012

I did not know Kyle Scanlon…except in the way that one recognizes one of one’s own.  Scanlon was a transgender activist in Toronto, “a valued leader, gifted mentor, and much-loved friend.”  He was education, training and research coordinator at 519 Church Street Community Center, co-founder of Toronto’s Trans PULSE project, a member of the AIDS Bureau, Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care‘s Gay/Bi/Queer/Trans Men’s Working Group, and co-investigator on a new study focused on the sexual health needs of transmen who have sex with men.  He previously worked for Sherbourne Health Centre, the FTM Safer Shelter Project and the Youth Migration Project.

Kyle took his own life on July 3.

[D]epression, hopelessness and suicide are very real issues for trans people and Kyle’s death has and will continue to hit the community very hard; take care of yourself and each other at this time and if you are feeling distraught please call a friend, go to your emergency department, or call a distress line.


While the suicide attempt rate is 1.6% for the general public, it is over 40% for transpeople.

Because of intense and pervasive societal pressures like stigma, prejudice, and discrimination, people from marginalized communities run a higher risk of experiencing depression at some point in their lives. Financial constraints, racial and cultural factors, limited access to resources, and a lack of nuanced understanding from helping professionals exacerbate the challenges that those in marginalized communities with mental-health issues may face.

Some of his friends had some words to share.

Kyle knew what needed to be done when it came to social justice, and he did it.  He didn’t seek accolades, and was happy to be either right on the front line or helping quietly in the background, with really no thought given to being recognized.  He was selfless to an extent you rarely see.  He just wanted to get the work done.

Kyle struggled for a long time with mental-health issues.  I think it’s important to mention that they did not come from him being trans or queer.  Mental health issues cross all demographic boundaries.  We all need to work together to destigmatize mental illness so people in Kyle’s situation know they can ask for help and receive respectful treatment.

–longtime friend Alaina Hardie

I often had to tell Kyle how proud I was of him and what he’d accomplished.  He couldn’t seem to take in the value of his work or the role he played in other’s lives.  For a lot of years he struggled to find a place to belong. He had trouble with university life and took on some unsatisfying jobs before finding his space at the 519.  He had many friends and acquaintances and did find peace with his family.  But it wasn’t enough.  It could never be enough.

–close friend Janet Knights

I worry that Kyle, a guy who was such a helper-of-all, may ultimately have found himself, in a brutal moment, feeling like there was no one he could turn to because in all his relationships, the current of help moved from him to others.  Queer and trans people often end up working directly with our communities and, even in a big city, LGBT2Qville can be a pretty small town.  When you add in over a dozen years of community work and experience, as Kyle gave, who is left for him to reach out to?

Obviously, we can’t know much about other people’s internal landscapes. It may be that nothing could have helped in that moment. Part of the truth of mental health is that not all mental or emotional issues can be ‘solved’ by people being nicer or by inviting the guy out for a coffee more or whatever. I do want to flag the narrative of ‘we should have done more,’ because the flip side is ‘if we do enough, we can help someone to feel better’ and that’s just not always true.

–S. Bear Bergman

Kyle’s funeral was today.  A community memorial service is planned for July 19.

We all know that each day is uncertain and we may not live through it.  It is the way of our lives.

Each day I tell myself that today is not the day, that tomorrow will be better and that I want to be here to see it.  Normally I am disappointed.  

But today is not the day.

1 comment

    • Robyn on July 14, 2012 at 00:00

    …even while I grieve a life too short.

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