Reports floating around the Internet have claimed that several transgender teens have committed suicide as a result of Donald Trump winning the presidency. However, an article in the libertarian magazine Reason has found these claims to be lacking any evidence at all.
Rumours that began to circulate on Wednesday evening of these suicides were seemingly confirmed and spread further by Guardian US columnist, Zach Stafford, who said in a since-deleted tweet that “at least 8 trans-youth have committed suicide in the wake of Trump’s win,” naming his source as a “private support group.” He was retweeted around 13,000 times before the tweet was removed, with Stafford citing “suicide contagion” as the reason for taking it down.
It was already too late to stop escalation however, and by Friday, a list of specific names was out in the public of 10 transgendered individuals who supposedly committed suicide – not just teens and youth, as Stafford had originally claimed.
Some of the supposed victims included a 13 year old trans-girl, who “felt it was necessary to take her own life so that her brother could have his transition after her parents told her that, with this election, they can only afford to focus on one child’s transition”; a 16 year old “nonbinary” teen who “took his own life after being told to do so by his community (a town full of white supremacists and Trump supporters”; and one woman who was apparently a “Native-American two-spirit.”
Elizabeth Nolan Brown at Reason took issue with the spreading of this unsubstantiated information and decided to investigate further. “If I could find anything affirming these heartbreaking incidents, I wanted to share it,” she wrote. “If not… well, what kind of sick person makes things like this up?” Her search found no record of any of these individuals online, even when accounting for misspelling, any other notification of their deaths, or any teen suicides or deaths that fit the bill at all.
Nolan Brown noted that “it would be unreasonable to expect all of the stories to have some identifiable record online already. But it’s also unreasonable to suggest that none of the them making it online in any way is normal… surely there would be at least a grieving friend, gossipy classmate, other family member, or someone in the community who would grieve them anywhere online.”
It is unclear at the time of publication where the list of names originated. Whilst there have been no confirmed deaths, there are confirmed reports of dramatic spikes in calls to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, with more than 95% of people calling since Tuesday night having talked about the election. Nick Adams of the GLAAD Transgender Media Program told Buzzfeed in an interview that this shows the importance of “mainstream media outlets and people on social media [not spreading] incomplete or inaccurate information about suicides, as it can lead others to attempt self harm.”