'I wanted to die': Gender diverse teen talks self-harm and support after bullying

A new study shows more than half of transgender youth in the Prairies have self-harmed or attempted suicide.

More than half of Prairie transgender youth have self-harmed, study says

Dustin Dyck, left, says the risk of self-harm and suicide among gender diverse youth like his child Jordyn, right, drops to about the same level as non-gender diverse youth, if they have a supportive adult figure in their life. (CBC)

Jordyn Dyck didn't want to live anymore after experiencing incessant bullying. 

"I wanted to die," the 14-year-old said. "People didn't like me, I guess, because of who I am." 

In Grade 7, Jordyn came out to peers as transgender at school. Jordyn now identifies as gender diverse and uses they as a pronoun rather than the gender-specific pronoun she or he.

After they came out, bullying became frequent and targeted. People would ask Jordyn if they were a boy or a girl. People sent Jordyn pictures of the teen's birth name. Others sent crude drawings of genitalia.

"I felt like I couldn't support myself and all these other people didn't support me," Jordyn said. "I just felt like I was lost and scared and alone."

A new study shows that transgender youth in the Prairie provinces reported higher rates of bullying than their peers across Canada. Young transgender people from the Prairies also have attempted to harm or kill themselves more often.

I wish people knew that it hurt a lot, because then maybe they wouldn't have done it.- Jordyn Dyck

The Prairies study is based on the responses of 67 Manitoba and Saskatchewan teens and young adults who participated in the Canadian Trans Youth Health Survey.

Bullying almost daily 

"They were the first gender diverse child in their school to come out," said Dustin Dyck, Jordyn's father and chairperson for the Trans Umbrella Foundation.

He said some form of bullying would take place almost daily. 

The bullying didn't end until Jordyn's family went to the police. The overt harassment stopped, but the feelings lingered.

"I wish people knew that it hurt a lot, because then maybe they wouldn't have done it," Jordyn said.

"I was treated differently, because I was born a female and wanted to be a different person than I was."

Jordyn self-harmed and eventually attempted suicide.

"I'm surprised that I didn't end up dying, to be honest," Jordyn said. 

The teen is currently working with mental health and medical professionals to deal with the lingering effects of the bullying and other issues. They also took the year off school and plan to start fresh at a new high school in the fall. 

Journey of self-discovery

Jorydn formerly went by the name Lucas when they identified as transgender, but that's no longer the case. 

Through their personal transition, Jordyn realized transgender wasn't the right fit for what they felt in their mind. Now Jordyn identifies as agender, which means they don't identify as being male or female.

The journey of self-discovery has been tough for Jordyn, but having support has made it bearable.

The 2017 Queen City Pride Festival runs June 9 to 18, and the parade will happen June 17. (CBC)

Last year, they participated in the pride parade for the first time and for the first time they didn't feel so alone. 

"I just felt like I was safe and I felt like I was loved," Jordyn said.

The study also found young people who feel supported by those around them are less likely to engage in self-harm. 

"I feel more accepted. I feel like I can accept myself more than I could before because of all the people that have helped me through my transition," Jordyn said.

Education key to stopping bullying

Jordyn is stronger because of the severe ups and downs they've faced, Dustin said.

"They've blossomed," he said.

"I'm starting to see Jordyn now. I'm seeing their true colours, their loving spirit, their kindness, everything that I knew them to be, but they're starting to show everybody again."

Dustin Dyck wants to see more supports for youth, like more Gay-Straight Alliances in elementary schools. (Arielle Zerr/CBC News)

He said Jordyn's journey has fostered his understanding of gender diversity. Dustin said he felt lost when his child first came out. 

"I didn't know anything. I didn't know what the word transgender meant," he said, adding he's had to educate himself.  

When the bullying began, his first reaction was anger, but now he tries to use those situations to teach others. 

'It doesn't hurt me anymore. It hurts me to see Jordyn upset, obviously, but the education's happening."

Now he wants to educate people about gender diversity, and on how to ask questions and why certain comments can hurt.

"'Are you boy or are you a girl?' Well, my child is agender. That means they don't particularly have a gender. They're not a boy or a girl so that question can be quite hurtful," he said. ​

Camp fYrefly opens for registration 

A summer camp that offers leadership and life skills to gender diverse people ages 14-24 has opened for registration. It's the ninth year the camp has operated. 

The camp was founded in 2004 in Alberta and is one of Canada's biggest summer leadership retreats for gender diverse youth. It came to Saskatchewan in 2008 and this year runs Aug. 10-13 in Saskatoon. 

A new fYrefly in Schools program is also coming to Saskatoon and area schools in the fall, aimed at reducing discrimination through awareness of gender minorities, destigmatizing gender diversity and increasing social inclusion of gender diverse people.  

If you're worried someone you know may be at risk of suicide, you should talk to them, according to the Canadian Association of Suicide Prevention.

Mental health resources are available throughout the province with the Healthline at 811.