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A transition within a transition: learning from San Diego transgender teen Kyler Prescott's death

SAN DIEGO, California - On Monday, May 18, San Diego transgender teen Kyler Prescott died by suicide. He was 14-years-old.

Imagining what it feels like to live inside a body that doesn’t feel genuinely yours might be hard to understand for some, but close friend of the Prescott’s, and mother of a transgender teen herself, Kathie Moehlig talks about Kyler’s life and the challenges transgender children face within the world and within their ever-evolving selves.

Kathie Moehlig got to know the Prescott family through transgender support groups around San Diego. The two families became friends and created a support system within their own circle. The grief stricken Prescott’s have given Moehlig permission to speak to SDGLN on their behalf.

Moehlig explained that Kyler was slowly emerging as a transgender teen a few years ago. The family was in full support of Kyler’s journey, even asking the teen if he minded the pictures around the house of him in dresses. Kyler was fine with that Moehlig said.

Some transgender teens are more comfortable making their announcements, or transitioning at a slower speed than others.

This was the case for Kyler, “Probably starting a few years ago there was some gender fluidity; transition has been at Kyler’s pace," Moehlig said. "Some teens when they come out, they come out and that’s it. Other teens tend to flow between the genders. He chose male pronouns, but was completely comfortable with the family still having all the pictures up of his childhood. Because in Kyler’s world a guy can wear a dress.”

Kyler was involved in the youth group in North County, the youth group in Hillcrest and The Transforming Family support group.

These organizations helped Kyler to understand what he was going through and offer a stable environment for talking about and sharing feelings on his transitioning. “Kyler wasn’t necessarily an activist for the trans community,” Moehlig said. “However Kyler was a very outspoken activist for marriage equality--and since pre-school age, a huge animal activist. The family has a small little zoo, and Kyler really connected to animals. He did amazing art, sketching. He was also a very talented pianist and he loved to write stories and poems.”

Moehlig said that Kyler was well supported within most aspects of his life. There were a few times when he was mis-gendered by others and had to endure the rigorous challenges of just being a teenager, but overall Kyler was met with acceptance and approval. Unfortunately, the developing teen was unable to come to an armistice between the battle of puberty and the pace of time.

“It just was too hard.” Moehlig said. “Teens once they start that seed of puberty, or whenever age it is they come out we typically start them on hormone blockers. And that just stops whatever puberty is happening in their body. For some kids they just stay on blockers for a while. And with more gender-phobic kids that gives them time to kinda figure out who they are.”

The medical community in San Diego makes it very difficult to assist transgender youth when they are going through puberty. Although a doctor can prescribe hormones for a teen when they decide it’s time to transition it is the cross-hormone medication that is time-sensitive.

Typically a medical professional will want to wait until a transitioning youth is sixteen before introducing the cross-hormones. This can cause a young person a lot of mental hardship, trying to exist in a world amongst their gender peers, but never truly feeling included because of extreme dysphoria. In a sense Moehlig explains it is your own body betraying you.

“Your body doesn’t match the image of what you feel it should match,” she said. “And that becomes difficult on your mental health and the dysphoria can be overwhelming. We can sit here and try and dissect as to why this happened. I don’t think it that there’s anything that can be pinpointed, I think it’s a matter of it just got too hard. He just couldn’t continue anymore. Mom was educated in suicide prevention, support people were around. Everything that could have been done was done. It just was too hard.”

Moehlig says she is starting her own non-profit organization called "Trans Family Support Services." She hopes to educate families, schools and the world about the importance of acceptance to all children whether they are gay, lesbian or transgender, "This does not happen because someone had bad parenting , or a couple broke up and there wasn't a strong male role model in the house. They are born this way, they are intended to be this way."

Kyler Prescott was 14-years-old and the world will never know him as an artist or an animal rights activist or an accomplished pianist. But one thing is for sure, his death will bring awareness to people and their need for education on issues that reach beyond the physical aspect of growing up and into the hearts of children and their coping spirits.

Tonight at 7 pm, there will be a vigil in honor of Kyler at the San Diego LGBT Community Center, 3909 Centre St, San Diego, CA 92103

There is also a GoFundMe page which hopes to raise money for the Prescott family in helping them with funeral costs. You can donate HERE.

How to find help if you feel suicidal

-- Trans Lifeline: (877) 565-8860

-- The Trevor Lifeline: (866) 488-7386

-- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: (800) 273-8255

-- Suicide Awareness Voices of Education: save.org

-- Suicide Prevention Resource Center: www.sprc.org

-- Every county operates immediate mental health crisis response services. For information, contact your local county human services agency.

Timothy Rawles is Community Editor of SDGLN. He can be reached at [email protected], @reporter66 on Twitter, or by calling toll-free to 888-442-9639, ext. 713.