The letter below was received by EILE Magazine yesterday from P. Roberts*, a mother whose transgender daughter has recently attempted suicide:
“Yesterday afternoon my daughter tried to commit suicide. She swallowed some Xanax, took a taxi up into the Dublin mountains, filled her backpack with large stones, and walked into a lake.
I don’t know where the lake is, I don’t know if it was rocky or sandy underfoot, or if the sun was shining, I don’t want to know—but step by step she walked out into that freezing dark water, until she stopped.
I am one of the lucky ones, the lucky parent, whose child didn’t succeed in killing herself. Why didn’t she go through with it? She stopped because while she was slowly walking towards death, she thought about the people who love her.
This is not the first time she has tried to take her own life, but it’s the first time she left a suicide note— a note for me, her mother —and when I read it, on her computer screen, with her sitting cold and damp beside me holding my hand, it was only then the tears began to flow.
My daughter is nineteen years old and transgender. She was assigned male at birth, for those who are not familiar with trans terminology. She is an amazing, highly articulate, highly sensitive, highly intelligent, and highly creative being, who has found her short time on this earth to be so profoundly painful that she does not want to keep living.
She is not a victim of mental instability, as many would like to believe—she has simply weighed up the pros and cons of living, and has decided against it.
According to a recent trans mental health and well-being survey, 78% of trans people throughout Ireland have thought about ending their lives and, even more sinister, 40% have actually attempted suicide.
My daughter has a loving, supportive family, wonderful friends, and a comfortable, secure home, and, yet, with all these things, she has still found the world to be such a hostile place that she doesn’t want to be here.
What must it be like for all those trans children and young people in our society who have no support, who are thrown out of their homes on to the street, who have no safe place to retreat to, and no access to help transition to escape their indescribably painful gender dysphoria? And if they do manage to negotiate all the paperwork and red tape to make it on to a waiting list for a state-funded gender clinic (there are only two in this country), they then face a minimum wait of 24 months (at time of writing but increasing every day) before being offered a first appointment on the long and difficult road to gender transition.
Is it any wonder that the attempted suicide rate is so high amongst the trans community?
And these are only the reported statistics. What about all those trans children, young people and adults who are too despairing, too overwhelmed, and too terrified to come out, and who kill themselves without anyone even knowing they are trans?
Why did my daughter make the decision—a clearly well-thought-out and pre-meditated decision—to end her life?
A month ago—after two months of gathering the relevant documentation, the three referral letters from our GP, a psychiatrist and a clinical psychologist, as well as blood tests, and a further six months of waiting, every day checking the letter box—she finally went to her first appointment at a private gender clinic in Galway (the only one in Ireland).
We had made the decision to go private as the public list was eighteen months long (back in January 2018), and we were told there was only a five-week wait for the private clinic. In the two months it took for us to gather the necessary documents, that five-week wait jumped to six months.
After nearly three hours of driving we reached the clinic in good time, and my daughter was shown into the doctor’s office. I sat outside in the waiting room, knowing full well the importance of a good outcome of this meeting. Barely fifteen minutes later, the doctor called me in and told me she would be unable to treat my daughter due to the geographical distance between our home and the clinic.
The doctor, one of only two endocrinologists in the country who treat gender dysphoria, had failed to use my daughter’s correct name and pronouns, failed to treat her like a human being and look her in the eye, and used inappropriate terminology when asking questions. When my daughter calmly corrected her, she was told by the doctor she would be unable to treat her, and was shown the door.
To be treated in such a manner, the ‘gatekeeper’ system at its worst, with a doctor so inundated with private patients that she can pick and choose her clients at will, and after waiting eight long months with the hope that her pain would finally be addressed, was a terrible blow.
Afterwards she told me that the way the doctor had treated her caused something to snap inside, and that she would never be able to trust the medical establishment again. In effect, this meant the end to her dreams of transitioning. That day the suicide watch, an old ‘game’ for me, began again.
My daughter, however, is one of the lucky ones. She has a mother who will not give up, who tenaciously keeps going, exploring every possible avenue available. The next day I found an online gender clinic based in the UK, gendergp, which provides hormonal therapy during the long waiting period before being seen by the NHS.
Once again, Ireland is exporting its unwanted, embarrassing problems, just as it does with unwanted pregnancies and abortion. During the four weeks we have dealt with this online clinic, we have experienced a team of professional, caring and hugely supportive individuals who have treated my daughter as a person, not a name on a file. Three days ago, we finally heard that she had been given the go-ahead to commence hormonal therapy.
I relaxed. I rejoiced. I let go of my suicide watch.
But for my daughter, it was too much to bear. Traumatised by her previous experience of the gender medical establishment, convinced that hormonal treatment would never actually materialise, and terrified that even if it did go ahead it would not help her in the cruel, bigoted, hostile world of transphobia that she battled every day, she decided to end it all, all the seemingly endless pain, confusion, despair and fear.
It was the love of her mother and her best friends that stopped her, as she stood weighed down by the stones in her bag in that cold, cold water.
And I am one of the lucky ones, as I said at the beginning of this letter.
How many more of our young people will feel forced to give up their lives before something is done?
How many more will die before we treat our trans community of young and old alike with the respect, understanding and support they deserve. As the trans community chanted in the streets of Dublin a couple of months ago—Trans Rights are Human Rights.
How many more children will wish they’d never been born before our schools are given the resources necessary to help those children overcome their fear of being bullied and rejected, and allow them to embrace their true selves?
Before we set up a humane healthcare system of gender clinics accessible to all, without the ‘gatekeeper’ mentality and the endless months of waiting?
How many more parents will lose their children before our society accepts that trans people are here amongst us, and here to stay, whether we like it or not?
When will Ireland become a kinder more tolerant place, a place where my daughter can grow up and live to be the truly wonderful, vibrant and beautiful being she is?”
[*Editor’s note: The writer has changed her name to protect her daughter’s identity]