15-Year-Old Trans Teen Commits Suicide After School Refuses To Accept His Identity

Even after Leo Etherington's death, administrators refused to use his male name.

A transgender teen in England took his life after his school refused to identify him by his male name, an inquest has revealed.

Leo Etherington, 15, was found dead by his father in his bedroom in May. At an inquest this month Leo’s father, Martin Etherington, testified the teen told the family in 2013 he felt he had been born in the wrong body and struggled with his gender identity as young as 8.

He had been “angry” at his school, Martin added, after teachers refused to call him Leo.

Leo Etherington

The family accepted Leo’s gender identity after he came out to them—Martin had even offered to cover transition-related expenses after they were denied by the NHS. And Leo’s brother, Robert, also asked teachers and classmates to call him Leo.

But staff at Wycombe High School, a girls’ grammar school in Southeast England, reportedly refused.

“The school told him he had to be 16 to change his name,” Martin stated. “I asked him if I should speak to them and he said no. I said we could wait until he was 16 and then change his name.”

Wycombe High School

Even after the tragedy, Wycombe head teacher Sharon Cromie still refused to call Leo by his proper name. In a tribute, she said, “[name redacted] was a wonderful person in every way and is missed by us all.”

Coroner Alison McCormick told Mr. Etherington he and Leo clearly “had a very loving, supportive relationship.”

“You provided all the support he needed. I know this must be very hard but I hope you can take some comfort from that.”

September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. If you or anyone you know is struggling, reach out to the Trevor Project at 866-488-7386.

Dan Avery is a writer-editor who focuses on culture, breaking news and LGBT rights. His work has appeared in Newsweek, The New York Times, Time Out New York, The Advocate and elsewhere.