A year ago, we learned that a member of our Portland transgender community had died by suicide. Adi Staub was only 18 years old, and a fierce advocate for equality in her school and community.
We first got to know Adi through our Fierce Families network – a volunteer group of parents and family members of transgender youth who have joined together to support their trans loved ones. Her parents, Lon and Christine, approached us for resources to help Adi during a difficult time in her life. Adi was only 18 years old and had faced a challenging time fitting in at school in the two years since she transitioned.
After Adi’s death, her family wrote, “Adi found purpose in advocating for others, so we’d like to honor her by sharing her story and continuing her efforts to promote a world of kindness and acceptance.” They asked that those who wished to honor Adi’s life donate to Basic Rights Oregon, and the outpouring of compassion and support from the community was overwhelming. In the year since we lost Adi, her memorial fund has raised $76,958 – which we have used to support our transgender justice and education work.
We have hosted Transgender 101 trainings in Beaverton, Coos Bay, Newport, Astoria, Bend, and multiple locations in the Portland area to help community members become better allies. We also held our annual Statewide Leadership Summit in Eugene, with a focus on transgender justice and supporting LGBTQ youth.
Our staff and volunteers have also been hard at work ensuring that all students in our state have access to a safe and affirming learning environment. The ACLU has partnered with us to fight back against lawsuits targeting transgender teenagers in schools. This spring, we pushed back against schools who have tried to remove LGBTQ-affirming literature from their curriculum.
We also launched our first transgender leadership program: Catalyst. Over the past year, we’ve worked with 21 emerging activists from all walks of life throughout the state to help them connect, learn and grow. Through this program, we aim to help cultivate a new generation of social justice leaders here in Oregon. Before her death, Adi talked about applying to Catalyst – and we want to honor her memory by giving a voice to the next generation of transgender leaders.
Even with all these efforts under our belt, there is more work we have yet to do. The most recent Oregon Healthy Teens survey contained a set of numbers we found shocking and heartbreaking – their research showed 50% of eighth graders who identify as LGBTQ had contemplated suicide, and 30% of trans eighth graders had attempted suicide. Every young person in our community is precious, and we’re committed to preventing their tragic loss.
That’s why we’ve made youth suicide prevention one of our top priorities for the upcoming legislative session. Though our advocacy in this area is still taking form, we’re deep in discussions with lawmakers and advocates to determine the direction those efforts should take.
Thank you to everyone in the past year who has helped us honor Adi’s life. Together, we can create a world where all children feel loved, safe, and supported for who they are.