Honoring Sam Ehly a Non-Binary Trans person #RememberSam
When 21-year-old Sam Ehly’s obituary
went live after they died by suicide this past June 26, 2015, in Atlanta, Georgia, their family grieved the loss of a “son” and a “brother”. But Sam’s very close friend Rabbit has since come forward to ensure that Sam’s wish to be remembered as a non-binary person is respected and not erased or invalidated like so many others who have died over the years.
“Sam’s gender identity was extremely important to them. Feeling that they had to hide it & fearing rejection if they came out was a big part of their feelings of isolation. One of my biggest regrets is that they didn’t have more time to explore it, and I didn’t have more time to help them with that,” explained Rabbit, who themself identifies as neutrois, during an interview we had via email earlier this week. “It was an exciting time for them, like it is for a lot of us, but it was also a really scary time. They told me that they’d known for a long time that they weren’t a man or a woman, but they didn’t really know that there were other people like that until they met me. They very much wanted to express their gender in a much more feminine way, and they struggled with being constantly misgendered as male.”
Though Rabbit is uncertain of precisely when the obituary was written, they allege to have spoken with Sam’s family concerning their gender prior to the piece appearing online. Unfortunately, no changes were made and Sam was continuously misgendered by most who spoke of them over the following days. “I told several of Sam’s family members about their gender before the obituary was published. I know that Sam’s eulogy also referred to them as “he” and failed to acknowledge their gender, and the people who wrote it definitely knew they were nonbinary by then.”
As upsetting as it has been to see Sam’s identity disregarded, Rabbit has also been very concerned about the well-being of other non-binary individuals who regularly struggle with erasure and invalidation both within and outside of the greater trans community. “[Sam] had to hide so much when they were alive, and so many people still do. Nothing can hurt Sam now, but there are so many of us who are still hurting and still in danger. I don’t want people to feel alone like that, and neither did they.”
So, Rabbit has since taken to Twitter with the hashtag #RememberSam
, which they hope will ensure that Sam is remembered for who they truly were while also encouraging other nonbinary, genderqueer, and gender nonconforming people to connect with one another by sharing their own experiences. “When I created the tag, I was desperate to spread Sam’s story. I still am. But there’s more than that. Sam couldn’t tell their story when they were alive, but some of us who are still here can. I hope other nonbinary, genderqueer, and gender non-conforming people will use it to talk about their experiences & get support, and that those of us who can’t come out can read it and feel a bit less alone. I hope that cis people who look at the tag will see how real and potentially deadly our struggles are. Nonbinary identities aren’t a joke. We’re not a joke.”
The hashtag has started to pick up steam, with people all across the Twittersphere leaving their condolences and messages of support for those with non-binary identities:
Rabbit leaves us with these words of advice: “This sounds horribly cliché, but… you’re not alone. We’re not alone. If you can’t find community and support in real life, find it online, because there are more of us than you probably think. Those things you’re afraid of– invalidation, oppression, ridicule– those things are real, that fear and pain is real, but we can survive it all together. Anyone who tells you you’re self absorbed or makes fun of you because of your gender is wrong, and you deserve better. We all do.”
If you or anyone you know are exhibiting warning signs of suicide PLEASE call the Trans Lifeline toll FREE at 1-877-565-8860 (in the US) or 1-877-330-6366 (in Canada).