Another transgender woman of color has taken her own life. Melonie Rose was a beautiful 19-year-old trans woman from Laurel, Maryland. From the start, Melonie had a hard life, having been shuffled from foster home to foster home. She dealt with emotional problems, as a result. No doubt, the discrimination Melonie endured did not help the young woman, who attended a therapeutic, alternative high school, Pathways, where she graduated in 2014.
I learned about Melonie from her close friend, Hunter. Like me, Hunter is a transman. He attended Pathways, with Melonie, and they graduated together, last year. Hunter describes Melonie as, “bright, and full of life and energy.” Melonie was Hunter’s female counterpart. His love for his dear friend is clear, as he writes about speaking at her memorial, telling the story of the last movie they saw together.
Hunter was quite upset, when he attended the memorial service for Melonie. He was shocked to see that her family had an open casket, and instead of dressing her the way Melonie would have wanted to dress, they put her in a suit. Additionally, family members spoke about her by using her birth name and using male pronouns, even though Melonie had legally changed her name. All of the paper materials handed out at the memorial, listed her as her former name, although a picture of Melonie, presenting as a male notes her chosen name of Melonie Rose in parenthesis, next to her birth name.
Melonie is not the first transgender person to commit suicide recently. She joins a growing number of young transgender people who have killed themselves, since 2015 began. She also isn’t the first to be denied her basic human rights of being buried, presented in death, and listed in her obituary and funeral materials by her chosen name and gender pronouns. Twitter is filled with hashtags, including #HerNamewasLeelah (for trans teen, Leelah Alcorn), #HisNameWasZander (for trans teen, Zander Mahaffey), #HerNameWasEylul(for Turkish transwoman, Eylül Cans?n), and #HisNameIsDamien (for trans teen, Damien Strum, who was stopped before he could go through with killing himself, and is now in a psychiatric ward). With that in mind, I ask you all to celebrate the life of Melonie Rose by sharing her story, and refusing to let her be forgotten through the hashtag #HerNameWasMelonie.
I have attached the information that Hunter received, at the Memorial, so you can see how Melonie’s family refused to acknowledge her status, as a proud transwoman, and even in death denied her the comfort of being referred to by her chosen name. Friends of Melonie say she had endured a lot, but that her death was unexpected. Hunter claims was she one of the least likely people, he knew, to commit suicide. Melonie, and the friends who truly knew her and loved her, for the vibrant woman she was, feel a profound sadness, at the loss of their dear friend.
We need to do better for our transgender youth. Melonie deserved to be accepted. She deserved to be remembered the way she felt comfortable, not how her family thought they should remember her. It is very important for transgender people, and their loved ones, to protect themselves from intolerant family members going against their own wishes. For transgender people who are over 18, it is imperative to have a will and power of attorney, clearly listing who can make medical decisions and end-of-life/death decisions. This is one of the only ways to prevent family members from exerting their own will into such sensitive matters. For transgender youth under the age of 18, this can be hard, because family is considered the default authority.
What needs to happen is, parents and other family members need to start accepting their children, no matter their gender identity. As parents, it is our job to love our children, no matter what. Sadly, the parents of Melonie Rose, and the other transgender youth mentioned above, have forgotten what being a parent means.
I will never forget you, Melonie. Rest in power, and know you are loved.
Please spread Melonie’s story far and wide. We cannot let ignorance lead us to forget her name: #HerNameWasMelonie. To find out more about Hunter, visit his blog.