An 18-year-old transgender teenager in North Dakota named Haley Gabriella Feldmann died by suicide on November 12, just six days before her 19th birthday. Her parents blame anti-trans Republican policies and inaccessible trans-related medical care for her death.
Feldmann’s obituary — which was written by her mother and has since gone viral — reads, “She was called boy and so we gave her a boy name — now a dead name. We gave her boy clothes, boy toys, boy things. We didn’t know she was our daughter and so we called her son and brother…During her adolescent years she retreated into herself and we lost her.”
Feldmann enjoyed board games and playing with her dog. She created her own language, loved dark humor and called herself “Imperial Empress of the Galaxies, Conqueror of Solar Systems, Creator of Planets and Nations, Destroyer of Stars.” However, as she became more aware of her own trans identity, she “built formidable walls that became impossible to breach,” her obituary states.
“She had begun to grow afraid of the world as she began to understand herself and who she was,” it continues, “and the reality of her situation became apparent.”
Her parents told The Daily Beast that they accepted her trans identity. One of their daughter’s siblings identifies as non-binary and one of Feldmann’s parents, who was assigned male at birth, is also considering the possibility of transitioning late in life.
However, their daughter’s despair deepened in response to anti-transgender legislation being introduced nationwide and the transphobic rhetoric that became a mainstay during the administration of Republican President Donald Trump.
Her mother said that her daughter never wanted anyone to know that she was transgender because the young woman feared being abused and mistreated over it. The fear caused her daughter to completely isolate herself everyone.
Feldmann needed transitional medical care, but the family’s health insurance saw such care as “elective” and “cosmetic” rather than life-saving. Feldmann’s mother said the inaccessibility of this care also contributed to her daughter’s despair.
“We are not a poor family, but we have by no means a great deal of money,” her mother said. “Affording surgery for her was not something we could do…If our insurance would have covered it, it would have saved her life. She would still be here.”
“Her life and existence never should have been up for political debate,” she added. “It should have been easy for everyone to agree that everyone has the right to personal autonomy. She should have been able to be comfortable in her day-to-day existence with the knowledge that society found anyone, and any laws, that shunned or rejected her existence to be distasteful and unacceptable.”
“Instead, she felt the opposite of that to be true and it is shameful that our country continues to promote the stripping of hope from people simply because those people make them uncomfortable. If my daughter had received from society in general, the only things that mental health professionals insist can successfully ‘treat’ gender dysphoria—affirmation, validation—she might still be with us.”