I was very sad to hear of the passing of Kyle Smith Scanlon last week. I did not know him well; in fact, I only met him a couple of times. I was saddened not only because of his passing, but because he committed suicide in his Toronto home. He worked at our local LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual & trans) community centre, The 519., where he was the Education, Training and Research Coordinator. (And yes, it’s a job I would have loved, but that’s beside the point.) He worked with a number of trans organizations in the city, helping “to redefine the face of trans community services in Toronto and across Canada” (The 519). I had always hoped that those who worked in such organizations as The 519, helping others to overcome difficulties and discriminations in their lives, would build up some kind of immunity against suicide. I’d hoped that seeing people overcome all those obstacles would be encouraging: but I suppose sometimes seeing all the need in the world can prove overwhelming.
We’ve heard a lot about the spate of teen suicides in recent months (Huffington Post, 2012) and there have been a number of responses. The Ontario Legislature has passed its “anti-bullying” bill 14, with specific protections for LGBT youth (CBC, 2012). The “It Gets Better Project” was launched almost two years ago, with the purpose of LGBT adults telling youth that “it” really does get better: many queer (and non-queer) adults have come forward to record videos to try to encourage struggling youth and keep them going. Unfortunately sometimes I think we think make such videos and pass such laws… and then we go on to other things. We forget that not everyone is a Rick Mercer or Diane Flacks: fabulous though they are. Repeating the rhetoric that “It Gets Better” is a bit hollow if we’re not willing to work to help make it “better” for everyone.
I’ve thought this for a while now: Kyle’s death is a reminder to me that, although it can get better, and it should get better… indeed, it shouldn’t even have to get better (it should be better right from the start) …but it doesn’t necessarily always get better. Not for everyone. And the worst part there is that for those who don’t connect with our social or economic values, and for whom it doesn’t get better as they get older and out in the world: they can’t help but wonder why it does for some, but not for them. We need to follow through on our words in the videos: actually make it better for everyone. We need to bind together as a community and support each other. Every suicide is a loss, no matter how much of a life is cut short.