After news broke of the suicide of Michigan teen Sam (Casper) Taub, a 15-year-old transgender skater, I’ve not felt like writing about derby business.
As someone immersed in roller derby culture, active in the junior derby community and a father of two teenagers, the news hurts even though I had not met Sam. Being a teen today is much harder than it was in the past—especially with bullying, as social media makes it impossible to get away.
We have to find comfort in our own skin to be happy. That’s hard for everyone, especially teens. I can’t fathom how emotionally trying it is for a teen who realizes their sexual preference is different than their peers’ or who is struggling with gender identity.
Right now, you might be sad, angry or in shock. I realize it’s easy to jump into wondering who is responsible. I ask everyone disturbed by this tragedy not to do that. This is a product of many different factors, no matter what is discovered or decided. The way we honor Sam is to pursue change.
If blame is what people need, it doesn’t have geographic nor demographic boundaries. The blame lies within all of us. Ask yourself, “Have I done enough?” I’m not preaching; I’m right there in the conversation. How many straight derby members have marched in pride parades? What have we done to support organizations that help transgender individuals? I’ve often thought of our subculture to have moved beyond “don’t ask, don’t tell,” to “don’t ask, doesn’t matter.” The derby culture needs to live and preach acceptance, not just tolerance.
As a whole, we have learned to see people for who they are, regardless of lifestyle. It’s great that we can co-exist having fun and respect for each other, yet maybe we’re not sensitive enough to our peers’ personal obstacles and needs. Today, I realize I haven’t said, “Hey, you’re my friend, I care about you, how can I help?”
So what’s the business message in this? Take care of business by taking care of each other. Organizations like the Vagine Ragime (VR) are important. Many of us have friends associated with VR, but let’s support the cause. This goes further than our differences; it’s also celebrating what all of us share.
Dig deep, look at your league to see if you’re having the fun and camaraderie you should have. Stop sweating the small stuff and creating needless drama. Simply love each other.
To echo my Facebook post, “Sam, I’m sorry derby didn’t save your life like it has for others. Yet I do believe it touched your soul. May you skate in a better place.”