CW: suicide, suicidal ideation
On Monday, October 10, the QED Journal hosted a panel discussion called “Queer Conversations: Suicidality, Conflict, and Repair” at Le Cagibi. The event was held in response to the recent suicide of trans writer and activist Bryn Kelly.
The panel, hosted by author Sarah Schulman and trans writer and artist Morgan M Page, centered around suicide prevention and conflict resolution in the queer community.
“We are in the middle of a suicide epidemic within queer and trans communities that reaches across all segments of our community and has very disproportionate impacts on the most marginalized in our community, particularly Indigenous people who often cross over with our community and who, in Canada, have the highest suicide rates of any group, as well as Black and other people of colour,” Page said in her introductory remarks.
“We are in the middle of a suicide epidemic within queer and trans communities that reaches across all segments of our community and has very disproportionate impacts on the most marginalized in our community […]”
“It is a large and extremely sensitive topic that we can’t possibly hope to unravel in one evening, but we’re hoping through discussing one person’s suicide [that] this will be fruitful as we all move forward,” she continued.
Schulman and Page both talked about their relationship with Kelly and their involvement with her funeral, including their contribution to the eulogies. Schulman described the process she went through in preparing a eulogy, which Kelly’s partner, Gaines Parker, preferred to call a “political sermon.”
Discussion about the “political sermon” focused on whether to include how Kelly had killed herself. Schulman said she and others close to Kelly felt strongly that it was important information to share.
“It is a large and extremely sensitive topic that we can’t possibly hope to unravel in one evening, but we’re hoping through discussing one person’s suicide [that] this will be fruitful as we all move forward.”
“Saying the way the person killed themselves was not the same as telling people how to kill themselves,” Schulman said. She added that she hoped including the more graphic and real aspects of what had occurred would discourage other people from doing the same thing.
Page shared that she had also read the political sermon. “The effect on me was very immediate,” she said. “I felt that it dissuaded all of the suicidal ideation that I’ve been feeling for me personally.”
She further emphasized that suicides within the trans and queer community happen far too often.
“Suicides happen fairly regularly in the community around me, whether they are friends I have or coworkers or community members that I’ve shared space with,” she said. “They happen with an astounding regularity that I think contributes to many of us who see this happening feeling hopeless and ourselves feeling suicidal ideation.”
“The effect on me was very immediate. I felt that it dissuaded all of the suicidal ideation that I’ve been feeling for me personally.”
Both Page and Schulman read what they had shared at Kelly’s funeral before opening the floor to questions and a discussion.
The conversation that followed touched on many issues relating to suicidality and the queer community. Some audience members shared their own experiences with suicidal thoughts or actions.
Issues that came up many times included de-escalating conflict, conflict resolution, and the importance of solidarity within the queer community. Many attendees also spoke about conflict on the internet, the difficulty of being a leader in the queer community, and the impact of substances on suicidality.
The general response to the discussion was positive. One attendee, Carina, told The Daily she thought it was a very valuable conversation, and highlighted the importance of talking about these issues in small-scale situations like this event.
“These are literally life and death situations,” she said.
Speaking to The Daily, Lana, another attendee, said that for her, the event brought up thought-provoking ideas that she believes are important.
“These are literally life and death situations.”
“[The event] dealt with enormously complicated questions in a really relatable way,” she said. “It raises things I’ve been talking about with my friends for years without the vocabulary.”
In an interview with The Daily, Eli, a student at Concordia, highlighted how well the panel and discussion dealt with a potentially distressing situation.
“I was talking to people and they were saying that it was anxiety producing to come into this space, but then it was so healing,” they said. “There wasn’t any conflict, which was really nice, and everyone was listening to each other–that was just refreshing.”