“She felt good in class. Everyone accepted and integrated her,” a close relative said.
Trigger warning: This story contains details of suicide that may be disturbing to some.
A 17-year-old student from France, who goes by the name Avril and identifies as a trans woman, wore a skirt to school one day because she felt like it. But little did she expect her choice to be mocked and questioned by someone who is expected to be patient and understanding with young teens like herself. The guidance counselor at Avril's school was reportedly not okay with her outfit, and went on to mock her for her choice of clothes, according to Out. A week after the incident, on December 15th, 2020, Avril is said to have died by suicide. The teen recorded a video as she was being yelled at by the woman and shared it on her Snapchat. It has since been re-shared on multiple social media platforms.
In the video, a counselor is heard saying in French, “I understand that you want to be yourself, I understand that perfectly. Everything I’m doing now, it’s to better help you, that’s what you don’t understand!” the counselor later screamed at her. “Because, once again, some people have different opinions than you do and aren’t your age. It’s that simple. They don’t have the same upbringing.”
“But they’re the ones who need to be educated, not me,” Avril responded in the video, and she's visibly disturbed. “I totally agree! I agree with you!” the counselor interrupted, to which Avril said, “Then I don’t understand why you have a problem with me.” Towards the end, she shows a picture of her in a knee-length skirt and leggings, with the caption, “This is what I was wearing.” Apparently, Avril was also sent home early for wearing the skirt.
French LGBTQ+ publication TÊTU reported that Avril was living in a foster home at the time of her death. Her school, Lycée Fénelon, immediately responded to the death by saying that they were not responsible. In the school’s statement to Le Figaro, it reportedly deadnamed Avril and used masculine pronouns while referring to her. “It is very complicated to understand what happens in the head of a young person who makes this kind of decision,” Jean-Yves Guéant, leader of the school’s PTA, told the publication. “But it’s obvious that the school bears no responsibility for this.”
The director-general of school education at the Ministry of Education, Edouard Geffray, said that sensitivity training about trans issues is included in the “moral and civic education programs for fifth, fourth, and third.” However, students close to Avril say they never received any such training. Zya, a nonbinary friend of Avril’s, said that “she was always smiling, when she was in a skirt she felt herself.”
Witness the Cruelty and Horror: “Trans teen dies by suicide after posting video of school counselor yelling at her for wearing skirt – In addition to the video, Avril also posted a photo of her outfit to Snapchat.” #transisbeautiful #girlslikeushttps://t.co/PPWiks77M5— Lynn Conway (@lynnconway) December 23, 2020
Another friend said, “At the beginning of December, she felt confident enough to show up to class in a skirt. I think she had no idea how much violence she would receive in return. She had no intention of provoking, but just [trying] to be herself.” “She felt good in class. Everyone accepted and integrated her,” a close relative told the publication. After the tragic incident, Elisabeth Moreno, who serves as Minister Delegate for Gender Equality, Diversity, and Equal Opportunities at the Prime Minister’s Office expressed her remorse via Twitter.
This could have been so many of us.— bebe edwards (@mtfbebe) December 28, 2020
She wrote: "A trans teenager died on Tuesday after taking her own life. The suicide rate of trans people is 7 times higher than the average. We absolutely must fight against transphobia, everywhere.” The mayor of Lille, Martine Aubry, also tweeted, "I learned with great emotion and deep sadness the death of a transgender high school student in Lille. All my thoughts are with her relatives and her comrades.”
On December 18, 2020, hundreds of mourners attended a vigil in Lille, a city in the northern part of France, to honor the life of Avril.