Another transgender teen suicide: the combined effects of depression and bullying

This time of year is often a sad one for transgender people.  Family time hits people hard if they have been rejected by their families.  And the reminders that it should be family time are unceasing.

But it can be hard even for those who have supportive families and friends.  It was apparently too hard for a Wisconsin 14 year-old.

 photo Lexi-Lopez-Brandies_zps8e3ee025.jpgAlexis “Lexi” Lopez-Brandies recently asked to be called Landon.  That makes this a tough article to write because all of the reports refer to the Horlick High School freshman as a girl and use female pronouns…so much so that when I heard that Lopez was transgender, I was unsure what direction of change Landon was pursuing.

William Horlick High School is in the city of Racine, Wisconsin, has about 2100 students and 200 faculty.  And apparently none of them knew how the bullying Lopez was enduring was affecting him.  

Landon took his own life last Sunday morning.  Landon’s parents don’t lay all the blame at the feet of the bullying, saying that Landon also suffered from severe depression.

 photo vigil_zps93ff71bb.jpgThere was a vigil on Monday evening.  Fellow students gathered to express their thoughts and memories about Landon.  At the vigil Rudy Brandies and Kelly Hetchler, the father and stepmother, and Rudy’s father confirmed that Landon had been bullied but said that they did not know to what extent.

Around 200 people attended the vigil, including students, teachers, parents and younger children.  It was snowing.

[F]riends recalled Lexi as a nonconformist with a big heart.

 photo Landon_zps33ae6c2e.png

There really wasn’t a reason not to like her.  She loved music.  She was very artistic.

A few times she would come up to me and tell me that people were calling her names and it was upsetting her.

–Destiny Zaehler, who identified herself as Lopez’ best friend

It really needs to stop because I’m afraid we are going to lose more and more people like this.  She was a beautiful girl and I don’t see how somebody could do that.

–Sierra Braun, who also identified herself as Lopez’ best friend

The message of the candlelight vigil was “Speak up.”

“Speak up.”

If you are being bullied – say something.

If you are hurting – tell someone.

If you see a fellow human being getting verbally or physically assaulted, don’t stand by idle.  Reach out and help them.

We all know what happened.  But there is more to it.  There was mental health issues, and there was bullying.  Both need to change, and they need to be addressed in our society and our community.  As parents, and grandparents, we can advise and we can direct, but the ones that need to change it are you … Silence is complicit.  So when you see each other struggling, and you see somebody suffering, reach out.

I would like to think, and I am going to hold on to the thought, that if she saw this today, and she knew how much she was loved, she would still be here.

–Wallace Brandies, grandfather

If you see somebody picking on somebody else, just say something, that is all you have to do.

–Mikeal Dollacka Posch, friend of the deceased

Landon’s parents decried reports that some of those who did the bullying were being targeted and beaten.

Lexi would not have wanted that,  It’s not good.

–Hetchler

Because of their child’s depression Brandies and Hetchler had sought to monitor Landon’s social interactions, both online, on the phone, and in “real life”.

Lexi didn’t want to talk about it.  She’d come home and say, ‘kids are picking on me, but I don’t care, they are just stupid.’

–Hetchler, who said that the child would just shrug it all off

It is like her grandfather said, if Lexi was just bullied or if she just had the mental illness, maybe she would still be here today, but because she had both, maybe it was enough to push her over the edge.

Hetchler says Landon was on medication and had been seeing a therapist, both in and out of mental health facilities.  The resulting family strife just compounded the depression.

She would cut her arms, that is how she dealt with a lot of her pain.  Kids would come up to her and say, you are just doing that for attention, because if you really meant it you would go down to the bone.

–Hetchler

The parents say they hold no bad feelings towards the high school staff.  Racine School District officials say they were not aware of any bullying issues surrounding Lopez.

There is more video here.

In light of this tragic situation, the principal is working with her students, and we have some student leadership groups that have really stepped up and want to do something in regards to bullying.

Stacey Tapp, Racine United Schools

Hetchler had some final words:

Let him them know you love them, let them know you are there to support them.  Just telling them will lift them up.

A friend has established a Facebook page:  Rest in Paradise Lexi Lopez.

A video has been created in remembrance.  I believe it records an incorrect birth date.

1 comment

    • Robyn on December 21, 2013 at 12:02 am
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