#HerNameWasTaylor Honors California Transgender Teen's Life By Spreading Awareness

Taylor Alesana, 16, took her life in her California home earlier this month.

ByABC News
April 14, 2015, 6:50 PM
In this still image from a YouTube video posted on Feb. 28, 2015, Taylor Alesana gives tips on makeup in one of a series of online videos describing her daily experiences and struggles as a transgender girl.
In this still image from a YouTube video posted on Feb. 28, 2015, Taylor Alesana gives tips on makeup in one of a series of online videos describing her daily experiences and struggles as a transgender girl.
YouTube/AP Photo

— -- Twitter users are honoring the life of Taylor Alesana, a 16-year-old trans teen who took her life earlier this month in California. They've set up the hashtag #HerNameWasTaylor to encourage others to be more accepting and to educate themselves about the issues transgender people face.

"Too many transgender teens being bullied and taking their own lives, please take a moment and explore #HerNameWasTaylor," one Twitter user, Soniasuponia, said.

Alesana committed suicide on April 2 in her Fallbrook, California, home, the North County LGBTQ Resource Center's executive director, Max Disposti, told ABC News today. Disposti said he met and talked "constantly" with Alesana over the past year-and-a-half in support groups at the center.

A San Diego County Sheriff's Office spokesman confirmed police responded to a death at Alesana's home that day, but a medical examination department spokesman said he could not release information regarding deaths of minors. No working contact information could be found for Alesana's family, although Disposti said he's been in contact with them, and they told him they do not want to talk to media at this point.

"It's tragic," Disposti said. "No one should ever have to go through what Taylor went through. It's shocking because she was incredibly strong and vocal, and though she got a lot of support here at the center, she had a breaking point. She really needed help at school."

Alesana had recently moved to Fallbrook to start her transitioning as a woman, she explained in her first YouTube video last October. Her channel, where she uploaded makeup tutorials and personal vlogs, has over 1,400 subscribers, and one of her videos has almost 200,000 views.

Alesana added she came out as gay in middle school and as a transgender girl at 14. In a later video uploaded in December, she can be seen dressed as a boy because she had to "go back in the closet" to protect herself, she said. Alesana explained she was getting cyber-bullied by students at her high school, and it was escalating.

One student posted a Snapchat screenshot on Facebook of a photo Alesana sent of herself in a swimsuit, she said in the video. Alesana added that a lot of hurtful and negative comments were made on the photo. Disposti confirmed this and said he tried to work with Alesana and the school, though a lot of the talks were "in vain."

The school did not immediately respond to ABC News' requests for additional comment.

Though it's unclear if bullying was linked to Alesana's suicide, Disposti said there's no doubt bullying and lack of support is a huge problem for people in the trans community.

Greta Martela, who founded one of the first U.S. nationwide suicide hotline for trans people staffed by trans people, told ABC News there has been about one trans teen suicide reported every week this year.

"It's hard to keep track of all of the names, sadly, and there are probably more suicides than actually reported," she said. "We get over 60 calls a day, and right after news about Leelah Alcorn broke out, we had 147 calls that day."

Alcorn was a 17-year-old trans teen in Ohio who killed herself by stepping in front of a tractor-trailer last December, according to police. Her suicide note on Tumblr went viral and sparked a petition to nationally ban all "LGBTQ+ conversion therapy" endorsed by the White House.

Martela added the risk of suicide is higher for trans teens who are being bullied and don't have the support of their family. She said she started Trans Lifeline after being hospitalized for suicidality five times and feeling a lot of hotline operators and hospital staff she encountered weren't culturally competent and knowledgeable about what being trans meant or what issues trans people faced.

Though Trans Lifeline has over 200 operators, Maretela said it can't meet the need to operate 24/7.

Both Martela and Disposti said they believed larger institutions like schools need to work together with LGBTQ+ resource centers and groups to help foster a more welcoming environment for trans people.

In a public meeting last night with the Fallbrook High School district school board, Disposti got up and asked to allow his center to help the school provide better support for its LGBTQ+ students.

"[W]e are not here to add to the already unbearable pain of losing one of your students," he said in his speech, which he shared with ABC News. "However, the world is watching, they are expecting from all of us real answers, but mostly, a real effort to prevent any other tragedies in the future."

If you or anyone you know is considering suicide or just needs to talk, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24/7 at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), and the Trans Lifeline is available at 1-877-565-8860.