Bullied Transgender Youth Dies by Suicide in N.H.
A 14-year-old transgender youth left his school, walked down Huse Road to the overpass over busy Interstate 293, climbed the 6′ chain-link fence installed by the New Hampshire Department of Transportation to prevent people falling off the older bridge and its low guard rails, and lept into eastbound traffic.
A spokesperson for the Rainbow Youth Project confirmed in a phone call Monday that Nova Dunn, a student at Southside Middle School, died by suicide. The New Hampshire State Police while not commenting, citing an ongoing investigation, confirmed the incident and the resulting “hours-long traffic jam at the location” just east of the Mall of New Hampshire.
A friend of the family, Stacey Greenberg, wrote in the GoFundMe post to raise the funds to defray the cost of the funeral:
“Hello, this is Stacey a friend of Melissa and Mom to one of Nova’s close friends. No one should have to outlive their child, but Melissa has now experienced this twice. On Wednesday afternoon, 14-year-old Nova left this earth and found the peace and acceptance he was searching for.”
The New Hampshire Union Leader reported that Manchester School District Supt. Jenn Gillis sent an email to district families last Wednesday night that said in part: “It is with deep sadness that we inform you that one of our students has died unexpectedly.”
Gillis wrote that: “This loss may raise many emotions, concerns and questions for our entire school community, especially our students.”
Manchester School District spokesperson Andrew Toland, in a press statement, noted that counselors from other Manchester area schools and the state’s Disaster Behavior Health Response Team spent May 18 at the school “directly impacted” by the death.
“Our focus in the coming days and weeks is to be supportive of our students, families and staff,” said Toland.
Multiple sources alleged that bullying and transphobia factored into the death of the teen, although the Washington Blade has been unable to verify any of those claims.
In the past few months there has been considerable attention focused on trans youth nationally, particularly around school policies regarding trans youth health care and gender identity. Last month, New Hampshire Public Radio reported that the New Hampshire Supreme Court heard arguments in a case brought by a Manchester parent challenging school policies around trans and nonbinary students.
The parent says she was kept in the dark when her child began using a different name and identifying as a different gender at school — something the parent objected to, NHPR reported.
At issue is a district policy that says Manchester school staff generally shouldn’t disclose when a student identifies as trans or gender nonconforming without that student’s permission.
Republican New Hampshire lawmakers are rallying behind legislation that would force schools to disclose a student’s gender identity to parents when asked. The state House of Representatives narrowly rejected one such proposal last month, but another remains on the table after passing the state Senate along party lines.
In an interview on Rated LGBT Radio with Rob Watson this past week, Lance Preston, founder and executive director of the Rainbow Youth Project USA, noted that the toxic legislative atmosphere had tripled calls for assistance to the RYP’s crisis counselors, as nearly 18 states have banned trans youth gender-affirming therapy for minors, and have also passed laws the forbid discussion of LGBTQ issues, history and people in classrooms.
Preston also pointed out that more than a half dozen states enacting measures, like New Hampshire’s proposed disclosure of a youth’s gender to parents, in cases of non-affirming households specifically places those youth at risk for suicide or leaving, oft times ending up living homeless on the streets.
At the beginning of this month, the nation’s leading suicide prevention organization for LGBTQ youth, the Trevor Project, released the results of its latest survey of queer young people ages 13 to 24.
The survey of 28,000 youth nationwide, conducted last fall, underscores the negative mental health impact of anti-LGBTQ legislation and policies. Among the key findings:
- 41 percent of LGBTQ young people seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year — and those who are trans, nonbinary and/or people of color reported higher rates than their peers.
- 56 percent who wanted mental health care in the past year were not able to get it.
- LGBTQ young people who had access to affirming homes, schools, community events and online spaces reported lower rates of attempting suicide compared to those who did not.
- Trans and nonbinary young people reported lower rates of attempting suicide when all of the people they live with respected their pronouns and/or they had access to a gender-neutral bathroom at school.
- LGBTQ young people who experienced victimization because of their orientation or identity — including being physically threatened or harmed, discriminated against or subjected to conversion therapy — reported more than twice the rate of attempting suicide in the past year compared to those who did not have any of these anti-LGBTQ experiences.
- Nearly 2 in 3 LGBTQ young people said that hearing about potential state or local laws banning people from discussing LGBTQ people at school — also known as “Don’t Say Trans or Gay” laws — negatively impacted their mental health.
Link to the GoFundMe campaign to assist the family is here: (Nova Dunn)