Casper #57

Rest in Power Sam Taub, Roller Derby Community Mourns Following Suicide of Trans Junior Skater

Written by Nillin Dennison

Today, I was absolutely devastated to learn of the suicide of a junior derby skater from West Bloomfield, Michigan named Sam Taub, who also happened to be a young trans man, on April 9th, 2015. Known as Casper in the derby community, Sam skated under #57 alongside his teammates in the Darlings of Destruction Junior Derby League out of Roseville, Michigan. My sincere condolences to all of those affected by this tragic loss, who knew and loved Sam.


Sam’s tragic death highlights one of the most important issues and struggles that trans people face, that of suicidal thoughts. Over the past several months, 12 other trans individuals have taken their lives for a variety of reasons including bullying, abuse, depression, forced conversion therapy, as well as the general fear, loneliness, and hopelessness that also comes with being closeted. These are hard things to think about, let alone recognize, but they are important nonetheless as they are literally leading to the deaths of people who are trans. It is also important to note that approximately 62% of the reported trans suicides that we know about were of trans boys between the ages of 15-24.

Last year we learned of the reported suicides of 17-year-old Riley Moscatel on August 18 in Croyden, Pennsylvania; 24-year-old Andi Woodhouse on December 13 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; 23-year-old Jay Ralko on December 24 in Warren, Michigan; and 17-year-old Leelah Alcorn on December 28 in Union Township, Ohio. 2015 has since seen the reported suicides of 23-year-old Eylul Cansin on January 5 in Istanbul, Turkey; 19-year-old Melonie Rose on February 11 in Laurel, Maryland; 15-year-old Zander Mahaffey on February 15 in Austell, Georgia; 22-year-old Aubrey Mariko Shine on February 24 in San Francisco, California; 16-year-old Ash Haffner on February 26 in Charlotte, North Carolina; 18-years-old Taylor Wells on March 15 in Springfield, Illinois; 18-year-old Blake Brockington on March 23 in Charlotte, North Carolina; 16-year-old Taylor Alesana on April 2 in Fallbrook, Carolina; and now 15-year-old Sam Taub on April 9 in West Bloomfield, Michigan.

One of the unfortunate issues following the murder or suicide of a person who is trans is that they are often misgendered by media, police, friends, and family. In almost all of the above cases, the individuals who died were originally reported on under their birth names, not their real names, and were misgendered as their sex assigned at birth. That is to say that young trans men were being remembered as girls, and young trans women were being remembered as boys. Misgendering is often one of the most hurtful things that a trans person can experience in their life and the act of misgendering is often a core part of the bullying and abuse they experience prior to their deaths. To misgender somebody is to invalidate their identity, to undermine their self-concept, and to disregard their existence as a human being worthy of respect. While it may be difficult, please ensure that you are making every effort to not misgender a person who is trans in life or in death as doing so just leads to perpetuation of the harmful behavior.

For further reading:

Transgender People are Misgendered, Even After Death

Being Misgendered, Whether Intentional or Not, Causes Pain

This is Why Trans People Rarely Speak Up When They Are Misgendered

In response to this growing concern, the trans community has decided to remember those lost through a hashtag campaign which reaffirms their identity. It looks a little something like this:

#‎HisNameWasAndi‬ ‪#‎HisNameWasAsh‬ ‪#‎HerNameWasAubrey‬ ‪#‎HisNameWasBlake‬ ‪#‎HerNameWasEylul‬ ‪#‎HisNameWasJay‬ ‪#‎HerNameWasLeelah‬ ‪#‎HerNameWasMelonie‬  ‪#‎HerNameWasTaylor‬ ‪#‎HisNameWasTaylor‬ ‪#‎HisNameWasZander ‪#‎HisNameWasSam

The greater derby community too has created a campaign called #doitfor57 which calls on all skaters bouting this upcoming weekend to wear turquoise as tribute to Sam and to discuss the epidemic of bullying in all communities.

How  You Can Look Out For and Support Your Leaguemates Who Are Trans

1. Reach out to the nearest LGBTQI+ centre, or pride organization, to inquire about Safe Space training or general sexual and gender diversity training. Make it mandatory for all members of the league to participate in this training.

2. Call out ANY homophobic and/or transphobic insults or harassment that you see either on the track or off of the track, even if the people doing it “don’t mean it”. Do not stand idly by while this behavior happens. Reality is that there are likely MANY people who are trans in roller derby who are not out to their leagues for any number of reasons, possibly even because they do not feel safe being out in such a sex segregated sport such as roller derby. As such, allowing the use of anti-LGBT language is just going to further hurt those people who are trans and reduce the likelihood of them ever feeling comfortable with being out.

3. Many mental health service providers offer suicide awareness, prevention and intervention training as well. Consider seeking out this education by contacting your nearest Canadian Mental Health Association, or health care provider.

4. Always use the name and pronouns that a person who is trans provides you.

5. If a person who is trans comes out to you, recognize what an incredible gesture they are making having shared such a sensitive, personal thing about themselves. Never out them to others by introducing them as being trans. Furthermore, if you suspect that somebody is trans, never ask others what they think. That creates an environment of rumors. Instead, if you are unsure of a person’s gender identity, speak to them privately and ask what their pronouns are.

If you are transgender, gender non-binary, or gender nonconforming, or gender questioning, and you are experiencing a crisis or you have been contemplating suicide, PLEASE call the Trans Lifeline at 1-877-565-8860 (in the US) or 1-877-330-6366 (in Canada). This is a FREE, non-profit helpline service dedicated to the well being of transgender people, staffed by transgender people.

UPDATE:  a follow up Call to Action has been posted. We have the chance, right now, to legitimately take profound steps toward TRUE inclusivity, support, respect, and acceptance for people who are trans in the sport of roller derby, to be a trailblazer in the world of athletics… but we have to do a lot more than just wear teal and #doitofr57 stickers. We have to start having the hard conversations required to actually address these overwhelming issues.


        1. Please understand that while the trans* community seeks to validate and affirm your child’s gender experience and educate in the hopes of preventing further tragedies, I do not wish to invalidate your very real and personal grief. Sorry for your loss.

          1. Hi. I am Sams father. Sam had told me the “he” had been born with the wrong parts. Samantha, as I had known, wanted to tell me something over Christmas break 2014, that in fact “she” was really a “he”. I replied, I love you just the same! We hugged. I said “it will take me some time to adjust”, after all I had know Sam as my princess Samantha! We told Sams older sister and brother, who were both very cool about it and supportive. We shopped for all new clothes, personal items, and got similar haircuts. Sams doctors, close friends, and “some” but not all of her teammates knew of Sams transgender. Sam was active in support of all people with gender struggles and struggles of any kind. I have letters and have met those whom he had helped personally. Sam had not seen or had contact with his mom since before his reveal. I can’t begin to understand what Sams mom is going through, though I know my grief is unbearable at times. Sam said, “its about hearts, not parts”. I love that saying. It is unfortunate my ex didn’t get a chance to enjoy trans-Sam, same awesome, beautiful, smiling, fun, loving child.

            1. Thankyou for clarifying, when I heard about Sam it hit me hard, I still don’t know why, maybe it’s the fact I’d found a welcoming and supportive group and extended family in Roller Derby (I’ve been part of Derby of about 9-10 weeks) and instantly I felt at home. So to have another person with Gender Identity Disorder (I generally avoid anything using the word trans), and part of that community and family, take their own life hit me hard.

              I think part of it was it came as a shock, even when I first heard about it, it was obvious how much support Sam had, you’ve just affirmed that and I am really sorry for your loss. Thankyou, however, for being clearly very supportive of him, he was a very lucky person which makes it all the more sad. Story’s like Leela Alcorn are very sad, but you can understand what drove them to do what they did, but I think what hit hard was just how clearly Sam had support.

              I think he’ll leave a legacy though, and hopefully a bit of inspiration because all I hear about him was that he was a fantastic young person and it just makes it even sadder what’s happened. I really hope that his legacy is one of increased awareness of transgender, gender dysphoria and mental health issues in young people and the deadly effect they can have.

              I’m starting to train as a Mental Health nurse in January and a month ago, if something had asked me ‘what area do you think you’d go into’ I’d have answered ‘I don’t know’ – there are so many areas in mental health that I simply wanted to sample them all and then decide, however I think my leaning now is towards youth and young adult support, it’s a sad fact that, certainly in the UK (I can’t comment for the US) the support is simply inadequate so I really hope I can help some of our young people through tough times in the future and turn them into successful adults.

              I’m hopefully taking my first ever Minimum Skills Test on Friday, That picture of Sam at the head of this article will definitely be with him.

        2. Ma’am no disrespect to your child. Please understand. The entire community is standing up for and celebrating “his” life. Obviously you have your own grief to face and I wish you well and send prayers to you and your family.❤

            1. I hope that you can one day move past your negative feelings about your child’s gender identity and be at peace with who he was. My condolences again for your loss.

            2. Dear Cristina,
              I am so very sorry for the loss of your beloved daughter. As a mother and grandmother I cannot even begin to feel the ache and broken heart you must have daily for such a tragedy. I am sorry for the pain you bear and the insensitive words from others who blithely try to tell you to “move past your negative feelings” about gender identity and be at “peace” God you just lost the child you bore, raised and loved! In their insensitivity they demand that you be sensitive. Cristina, you are in my prayers.

  1. Brilliantly written piece, had me in tears (not for the first time), especially the bit about gender. In Caspers case I think it wasn’t helped by it not being clear he was even Gender Dysphoric. The first post I saw simply said ‘identity’ so when I did my video on my blog I used the female gender as that fitted with the information to hand.

    This simply highlights how tricky it can be. Leelah Alcorn we all knew was female and she was only mis-gendered by her parents to any degree, but in Sam’s case, initially at least it was really tough to know which was the correct pronouns.

    Misgendering is hard, I still get it from time to time 5 years into transition but I think it must be said that is HAS to be contextual. Especially, as in my case, if a person voice is distinctly one gender, then without visual cues accidental misgendering is VERY easy to do (heck I’ve done it myself!), and in that case while frustrating something that we just have to be strong about.

    What is WRONG is bullying and deliberate misgendering.

    1. I agree that pronouns are difficult and that misgendering is often contextual, however, the issue I personally have is not so much with the accidental misgendering and initial confusion but moreso with the INTENTIONAL misgendering that continues to occur DESPITE the realization that Sam was a young trans man. I would absolutely understand if somebody, or a league, made a post that referred to Sam by his birth name and sex assigned at birth IF that individual or league then made a conscious effort to apologize for and correct the misgendering afterward. Sadly, in some cases that is not happening. There are still quite a few individuals and pages that are referring to Sam as Samantha, and who are using feminine pronouns of she/her/hers for a variety of, what I feel are, excuses such as: “Sam wasn’t out to teammates”, “We want to remember Sam as we saw her”, etc. I feel that form of misgendering is unacceptable.

      This concerns me especially when I consider how other trans kids in roller derby could potentially see it. I would think it would be rather devastating to see a peer lost to in this way only to then see their identity disregarded over and over again.

      Sam was much more out than a lot of people seem to realize. His personal Facebook page utilized male pronouns, he was out to much of his school peers as well as to his father and a few derby friends, and he was very explicit on his ask.FM page that he was a boy, not a girl. This is all observable even now. One can only speculate as to why he was not out to his roller derby league, some have suggested it could have been because he was worried he would no longer be allowed to skate with the Darlings of Destruction, which describes itself as a “A Jr. League for GIRLS ages 7-17 from all walks of life” (direct quote from their Facebook page, note that “girls” is in all caps for emphasis). We’ll likely never know the real reason he chose not to be out to he league and teammates, and really it doesn’t matter as we all know that the choice to come out to specific people is a deeply personal one.

      The important thing is that NOW we know he was a young trans man and I feel that we all need to respect and acknowledge that. I feel that ignoring it does a great disservice to the greater roller derby community; as well as to to people who are trans, non-binary, GNC, or intersex, who engage in any sport as they struggle to find their place in sex and gender segregated athletics.

      Thank you for sharing your post and for adding the correction before the embedded video! I’ll take a look around the rest of your blog this weekend🙂

      1. Oh absolutely, it wouldn’t surprise me if your thinking is right regarding coming out to his league, but it’s all speculation which isn’t something this situation needs.

        Completely agree with your reply regarding gender. I actually run two blog’s, you’ll probably find both interesting and the second is linked in the ‘about’ of my derby blog. The Derby one is very new, barely 2 months, while the other is well over a year old now.

        1. Quite true, you’re right that speculation is counterproductive and will not help in discussion in the issue.

          That’s cool that you have two blogs going, I’ll check out the longer running one as well!

  2. Casper wasn’t out to his league as being trans. Only a few people knew, and the majority of them knew him as “her”. So, be kind to the people who wrote the memorial from the DoD page. They didn’t know.

    1. I understand that many did not know, which also plays into the struggle that people who are trans experience in terms of being seen as their authentic self without having to explain themselves to people. The above portion on misgendering spoke to a larger issue in general that the trans community faces, both in life and in death. I hope that everyone is now using the correct pronouns.

  3. It sucks that a young person has died and all you idiots can do is bicker about gender pronouns.

    1. I understand that this is a difficult topic to understand for somebody who has not had much exposure to gender diversity. Transgender, gender nonconforming, non binary, and intersex, individuals struggle every single day with invalidation, rejection, harassment, bullying, abuse, antagonism, violence, and more. At the best of times, we are constantly being erased and dehumanized socially and culturally. One of the countless ways this happens is through misgendering, which is arguably the most common tool used as a form of suppression and oppression toward all gender diverse people.

      I hope that you will educate yourself on these issues further, as well as how they tie into the shockingly high suicide rates for young trans people, to better understand why these discussions are so important.

      1. @Matthew please look up Leelah Alcorn and what happened there. In Caspers case I don’t believe misgendering was part of the race for his suicide as he was only just coming out, however with Leelah it absolutely was and with, as DF says, with the shockingly high number of teen suicides, the majority of whom are suffering from Gender Dysphoria, the least we can do is refer to them by the gender they wished to live as.

        In this case it’s clear that Casper considered himself male, however I do think that if anyone from the Darlings, even now, refer’s to him as female I don’t actually think it’s being deliberately dis-respectful. That’s all they knew and asking them to suddenly change gender AND deal with grief is a tough. However it’s only respectful that those who didn’t know Casper, but are shocked by what is happening, respect him and refer to him by the correct gender.

  4. Very touching tribute and I thank the author for taking the courage to write it, but as I read all the back and forth comments if Sam’s gender, or who knew, it breaks my heart that everyone fails to comment that this was a beautiful human being, a life, someone’s CHILD! And no parent should ever have to experience such a tragedy. I truly love all the support that the derby community has shown this past week and I’m proud to be a part of it, but it’s time to give this grieving the privacy to heal and find the strength to move forward in their day to day lives.
    I send my thoughts and prayers out this family and the Darlings of Destruction. SoCo Jr’s will be skating this weekend in Loving Memory of #57/Sam
    Derby Love to all💚

    1. As “Ever” mentioned above in another response, the transgender community is not seeking to invalidate the very personal and profound grief that Sam’s loved ones are experiencing. As a transgender person and activist myself, I am not initiating these conversations to cause further hurt and if that has occurred than for that I am truly sorry. However, I still strongly feel that it is of the utmost importance to affirm Sam’s gender identity and to engage with the roller derby community about these topics. It is through education and understanding of these issues that further tragedies such as this may be averted. Furthermore, these discussions are imperative to ensuring that all transgender, gender non conforming, gender non binary, and intersex individuals involved with this sport feel safe, respected, accepted, and validated.

  5. Very well written. Rest in Power, Sam. I can relate to the difficulties of being misgendered and being trans in general. A few weeks before I started skating I was in the hospital for attempted suicide due to bullying. I don’t know about Sam, but I started skating because it was the most free feeling thing. And around derby, everyone welcomes with open arms. It’s a shame that we lost a great mind and a great player these past weeks. Once again, Rest in Power.

    -Aria | Ctrl-X of Rolling Arsenal of Derby/Dixie Derby Girls

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