Wisconsin Queer Youth commits suicide: Bullying partly to blame claims family and friends
|Landon/Lexi Lopez-Brandies via Facebook|
By Brody Levesque | RACINE -- A gender non conforming youth committed suicide last Sunday and now friends and family are coming forward saying that bullying is partly to blame for the death.
Alexis “Lexi” Lopez-Brandies, 14, who preferred to be called Landon, and had recently transferred to Horlick Senior High School in northwest Racine, Wisconsin, was honoured by family, classmates, and the community in a remembrance vigil held this past Monday.
As news of the death spread Sunday evening, two student led groups at the school, the GSA and the Youth Empowered in the Struggle (YES!)- a group for Latino students and friends- organised the vigil and set-up The Lexi Project on Facebook in an effort to spread awareness over the issue of bullying that resulted in Lopez-Brandies' suicide.
According to one media report, more than 200 people; teens, parents, teachers and even young children had gathered outside the teen’s home in falling snow Monday night to remember the teenager that friends described "as a nonconformist with a big heart."
In an interview Wednesday, Stacy Tapp, a spokesperson for the Racine Unified School District, told LGBTQ Nation that principals and staff at the school were working with the two student groups to come up with an effective programme to address the bullying issue as a result of this incident and also address the issues surrounding students in the school who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer/gender non-conforming.
Tapp said that administrators are committed to addressing the needs of all of their students. She added that until this tragic death, school administrators were not aware of any issues of bullying against Lopez-Brandies, saying that the suicide caught them unaware as there had been no incident reports filed.
At Monday's vigil, Lopez-Brandies' grandfather spoke briefly telling the crowd,
“We all know what happened. But there is more to it. There was mental health issues, and there was bullying. Both need to change, and they need to be addressed in our society and our community,” he said.
“As parents, and grandparents, we can advise and we can direct, but the ones that need to change it are you ... Silence is complicit. So when you see each other struggling, and you see somebody suffering, reach out."
The Executive Director of the LGBT Center of Southeast Wisconsin, Jolie McKenna, told LGBTQ Nation that she would be meeting with faculty and other staff members and students Thursday regarding this incident.
"I am bringing the Kenosha County Suicide Coalition director and myself are going to go speak to kind of debrief with the kids about what this means and answer some of their questions. I’m sure there’s a lot of issues and questions that kids have,” she said.
A visitation will be held this Thursday evening at a local funeral home. The family is encouraging friends and others to dress causally as that was very much in keeping with Lopez-Brandies' personality.