A letter to a suicidal transgender teen

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To the suicidal transgender teen I had the pleasure of meeting,

I have been thinking about you a lot recently.

I have been thinking about your struggle and how to support your transition into a healthy and happy adult who feels like the world is a safe place.

I have been thinking about how to best help alleviate your fears about being ridiculed, discriminated against, bullied, threatened, abused, assaulted, or killed.

I have been thinking about how much I wish I could tell you that you have nothing to worry about, that you will be supported and accepted and that nobody will go out of their way to hurt you.

But I can’t tell you that.

Recently, there has been a lot of talk about “bathroom laws” and whether transgender people “should be allowed” to use the restroom of the gender with which they identify. This has created an uproar from all ends of the spectrum; particularly as the American Academy of Pediatrics publicly opposed the North Carolina law that says that transgender people who haven’t taken surgical or legal steps to change the gender on their birth certificate can’t use the public restroom of the gender with which they identify.

Let’s get the facts out of the way: Regardless of our personal beliefs, there are people who clearly identify as transgender. This, to them, is unchangeable. It is also true that for any adolescent, being bullied or feeling unsupported can lead to mental health problems. Studies show that as many as a quarter of LGBTQ adolescents have been threatened or hurt with a weapon on school property. These adolescents have a high risk of depression and suicide, and the risk is even higher among transgender youth.

The message that the AAP is trying to send by speaking up against the North Carolina law is clear: It is our job to support adolescents and to stand up for them. It is our responsibility, as a society, to take care of our children and promote their health and well-being. Children need the support of nurturing adults; they need acceptance and compassion, they need to feel safe, and it is our responsibility to make this happen.

So when you tell me that you wish you could die, and that you are afraid of what may happen to you, I want to be able to offer you a reassuring and honest answer. As I mentioned before, I can’t tell you that you have nothing to worry about and that your fears are unfounded, because I would be lying to you.

But I can tell you this: I will always support you. I care. Your life is worth living. You are worthy of love.

When things get rough — when it feels as though everyone is against you — I want you to take a moment to notice. Notice the people who are standing up for you. Notice the ones who will use this kind of momentum to increase awareness and promote tolerance and respect for others. Look for those who care about your well-being and safety. I know that there’s a lot I can’t promise, but I can certainly promise you that you will find them. And I will always be among them.

With sincere appreciation,

Your primary care provider

Florencia D. Kantt is a pediatric nurse practitioner and can be reached on Twitter @florenciakantt.

Image credit: Shutterstock.com

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