Content Note: suicide, gender identity, Lancaster
Lancaster LGBTQ communities have experienced deep loss this past year. Three young trans teens died by by suicide over the past year, including two in the past month.
Say Their Names
River Paige Olmsted, age 17, October 16, 2023
Theadora “Thea” Cassidy, age 18, September 22, 2023
Brayden Snyder, age 15, October 25, 2022
Learn Their Stories
I learned about this tragic triad of death through an online article published by the Lancaster online. We are failing our children to death explores the wave of tragic loss in Lancaster County, the deaths of three transgender youth by suicide.
[They] were made to feel by many in our town as if it would be better without them here.
It is hard to be a teenager. It is especially hard to be a teenager who is different from the majority of their peers. How much harder must it be to also have to listen as adults debate your very existence?
She’s writing as a former child in this community who returned to raise her own children, including one transgender teen. The community she experienced as a child herself is a far cry from what her children live each day.
We are seeing what it does to their self-worth. I am watching it happen in real time. I have lived back in my hometown for less than a year and a half. I have mourned the loss of two of this town’s children in that time. I cannot sit idly by and wait for a third one to die.
Adding to the heartbreak, one of the trans teens quotes in her article became the third. River Olmstead, age 17, died by suicide between the date the article was written and when it was published. Creating safe spaces for trans youth to describe their experiences is not enough. We must also actively work to create safety in the all the spaces.
And just a few hours north, a federal lawsuit was filed against the Wyoming Valley School District by the family of a 15-year-old trans girl who had died by suicide in 2021.
The Realities for Pennsylvania
I typically write blog posts about trans victims of fatal violence. But how could any LGBTQ adult in Pennsylvania fail to acknowledge these horrible atrocities, deaths of our young people that tie directly to our words and actions as adults?
I have yet to know a lot of details about Brayden Snyder, Thea Cassidy, and River Olmstead or even Adreya Harden. I’m not sure of how they identified, what pronouns they used, and the names they chose. In many ways, it seems fitting that their families clutch their stories close like the most precious of gems, knowing that their stories have ended, that there will be no more chapters.
And what matters now is whether we sought to know before their obituaries. Did we understand the trauma they endured? Did we take actions to hold educators, community leaders, and our own families accountable for safe and respectful environments? Are we going to do anything different now that we’ve learned about their deaths?
In truth, being an LGBTQ blogger in Pennsylvania is exhausting on a good day. Pennsylvania is the fifth most populated state in the US with over 13 million residents. A perpetually misaligned LGBTQ media market. Still, no statewide nondiscrimination protections. Pro-MAGA Republicans control the Pennsylvania Senate. 500 school districts with varying policies. 67 counties, 2560 municipalities. Still, no active statewide LGBTQ equality organization. Just tracking down information is a lot of work.
I try to keep up, but it is almost impossible. When stories about Pennsylvania LGBTQ folx rise to the surface, I am compelled to share them. Where else are you going to read about death by suicide of four trans teen agers in Pennsylvania? Providing some coverage is one way I can make things better. But I can’t be content.
Some will criticize my publicizing a post about suicide either out of a mistaken understanding of contagion or a very real desire to turn away from things that make us uncomfortable.
You don’t have the right to turn away. It isn’t a luxury afforded you by the privilege of being cisgender and/or the parent to cisgender youth. For every moment of fe
Rest in power
Rest in power, Brayden Snyder, Thea Cassidy, and River Olmstead. Rest in power, Adreya Harden. Your lives should have been cherished and protected by your communities. I am sorry we did not create a safer world for you to explore and experience.
May your memories lead the revolution.
If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs immediate help, contact the following organizations:
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, call or text 988 or chat at 988lifeline.org.
- Those who are deaf or hard of hearing can contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline via TTY at 800-799-4889.
- Trans Lifeline – 877-565-8860
- LGBTQ+ Adults Lifeline* – 1-800-273-8255 Crisis Text Line* – Text HOME to 741741
- LGBT National Hotline – 1-888-843-4564
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