When Joanne Lee thinks about her son Skylar, she remembers a loving child, a passionate young person committed to so many things – from racial justice to LGBTQ equality to fundamental rights for students in his Wisconsin high school. She remembers an artistic person who loved the ballet, and who loved to draw. Unfortunately, Skylar took his own life near his home in Madison, Wisconsin in 2015, explaining in a note that he was depressed and in pain. Skylar was transgender, meaning he was born female but knew from a young age that he was male, and so he transitioned to live each day as a boy.
Since his death, Joanne has worked to carry the torch that Skylar left behind, still lit, still working to illuminate injustice and share the reality of what it means to be transgender – and why there is no reason for transgender people to face discrimination. “My husband and I, we promised that I never wanted to see any transgender children go through the same things that Skylar did – and I do not want anyone to lose their life,” Joanne said. “I want people to understand what we went through, and I think I can help people avoid this unnecessary death and pain, and that’s why I came out as an activist.”