Uncertainty surrounds student’s death

Sharida Rejon, Features Editor

Suicide-1-SR“This might seem a bit morbid, but I am curious. So don’t be mad that I’m asking. And don’t read too much into my question.
If someone dies, what happens to their Facebook account?”
This is one of the last posts that Hunter LeBaron, a transgender student at Bakersfield College, published on his personal Facebook account before committing suicide. According to Blake Clendenen and Casey Walker, two of LeBaron’s closest friends, he had battled depression for a while, constantly experienced self-harm, and had attempted to take his own life multiple times before.
“He would cut. Not the type of cut that was a cry for attention or to make the emotional pain go away, but he actually cut so that he would lose blood. He would lose a lot of blood,” said Walker.
Haunted by that particular Facebook post, Clendenen says that there were early signs of LeBaron’s suicidal intentions that no one realized soon enough.
“I know people say it gets better. I feel like there were signs and I didn’t catch on soon enough,” he said. “I feel like he did what he did because of multiple things: stuff that happened when he was a child –he told me he was abused—his family, school, and just everything. It just got to the point where it didn’t feel like it would get better,” Clendenen said.
According to his friends, one of the factors that might have led to LeBaron’s depression was the negativity that he received from his family during his transition from a woman to a man, which he started a year ago.
Walker said, “He got a lot of negativity, especially from his family. He had to distance himself from his family because they didn’t accept him for the transgender male that he was.
“They are the ones in charge of his funeral and they are going to use his former name and gender, which I think is wrong because they should use his legal name. He is legally male and his legal name is Hunter.”
According to Clendenen, LeBaron’s family’s lack of acceptance is still present.
“I’m the one talking to his family,” he said. “They made me refer to him as a ‘her’ and I didn’t want to get into a fight with them, but I feel like I disrespected Hunter by sayin ‘her’ and using his former name.”
According to Clendenen, the family felt that LeBaron was “born Angelina, she died Angelina. She has always been female no matter what.”
Clendenen said that this is not the first time that he has found out about a suicide due to lack of acceptance toward the victim. He also stated that although there are several support groups, part of the problem is that transgender individuals are often being under-represented.
“Hunter didn’t need to take that step because I feel like he did have support systems like friends, [Gay Straight Association], and LGBTQ support groups,” he said. “But there definitely needs to be more advertising for these groups.”
Walker said that LeBaron’s motives for suicide were numerous.
“I feel like it was multiple things, that’s how it is for a lot of people when they consider suicide. It’s not just one thing, it’s a whole bunch of things going on in their lives,” Walker said.
However, there are resources one can go to when being hit with negative thoughts or depression.
BC offers the Safe Space program, created by SGA, in an effort to provide a place where members of the LGBTQ community and their allies are heard and understood, and most of all, feel safe. Any individuals, whether they are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or straight, can go to any faculty member with a Safe Space flag on their door.
In addition, BC also provides a Student Health and Wellness Center for all students where they can receive counseling, get referred to the community to get more resources, and even get prescribed drug therapies if needed. The Student Health and Wellness Program at BC will also offer a “Question, Persuade, and Refer” training session on April 2 at 10 a.m. According to Lorre Webb, the social work intern at the BC Student Health and Wellness Center, this training session will target the issue of suicide prevention and will teach attendees the early signs of depression and how to properly handle these situations.
“I encourage that anybody who thinks a friend has a problem, to let them know about our services or even walk them over here, because being proactive and asking the questions, and not being afraid is the biggest thing to prevent it,” said Webb. “Sometimes we are taught that we don’t talk about those things, but there’s stuff we need to talk about.”
In addition to the resources on campus, there are several support systems in the community such as the Kern County Mental Health Hotline, National Alliance on Mental Illness, suicide prevention classes at the Mary K. Shell Mental Health Center, and The Trevor Project, which will present a “Lifeguard Workshop” on March 1 in Bakersfield.
“There are all types of resources out there, you are not alone,” said Clendenen. “There’s people out there just like you who feel like they have no one, but in reality you do. You just need to go out and search for them. If you take that time then you’ll feel better because you’ll be surrounded by people who care and you’ll feel safe.”