Tuesday, January 7, 2014
Her Name is Donielle
When I saw that transphobic emails were sent about a transgender Republican delegate, the first person that came to mind was Donielle--the similarities seemed to coincide too much to be another person. I mean, how many transgender women who are passionate about Republican politics get to serve as a delegate to one of the party's conventions?
Donielle's body was discovered July 2, 2011.
She moved to Utah from New York following a job opportunity here. Many people in the transgender community remember her sense of humor and her long silky, curly black hair. Her 4th of July Barbeques and Halloween parties, that she hosted in the trailer park where she lived so that transgender people had a safe place to socialize, were the talk of the community. I don't know how many times I heard, "She threw the best Halloween parties." My wife tells me that she was very driven, and had a strength about her that seemed like nobody could bring her down.
Something must have happened at the convention, because she started talking about staying in male mode and at the next three events where we would normally have seen her female persona, she came as male (She frequently felt that her desire to be female was an addiction that she could conquer--few rarely do).
She put her effort over the next month and a half into planning the fourth of July picnic, Sending out a reminder on May 28. We didn't hear from her again until a great sadness rocked the community.
Someone contacted me to get ahold of Deborah Dean, the founder of Engendered Species, a transgender positive group of which she was a member. They told me that someone had taken their own life and their roommate needed Deborah's help. By the time I got in touch with Deborah, she had already been to see the roommate and the body. Donielle had taken her own life with no forewarning or explanation. According to her roommate, Donielle had lost both her job and her girlfriend in the three weeks leading up to her suicide. It must have been a triple whammy coming off of such high expectations only a couple of months before. Sometimes it feels like the universe is out to get us.
As a founder of a social support group for people in transition, I felt survivor's guilt. I felt that I did not do enough to recruit her into the group, where she would have had the chance to vent whatever was on her mind. We, as a community, were at a loss as to why she went from a peak of happiness to suicide. I asked around, trying to find out what may have triggered this reaction and to see if there were any indicators that we could be more observant of in the future. I got the same response from everyone. They didn't see it coming.
Now, I hear that a transgender woman was not welcomed by certain individuals at a convention in 2012, particularly staff members of the Attorney General who was up for reelection. They didn't bother to ask her name, and sent transphobic messages to one another. One of the staff members standing next to her got a photograph of her and sent it to the other staff member, calling her a notorious crossdresser, a tranny, and a thing. That attitude most probably was picked up by that woman that day, whether they said something nasty, outing, or just had a disgusted look on their face.
As far as Donielle was concerned, she was never the same again. Less than two months later, two days before she was supposed to host the 4th of July barbeque, she was gone, dead at her own hands.
Her name is Donielle.