Last week the trans community in France lost a sister, with a 17-year-old trans girl taking her life only days after she was shamed by a school administrator for dressing as her true self and wearing a skirt.

Avril was a student at Lycée Fénelon in Lille, in the north of France. The school has admitted that they were aware of her transition, but in a video Avril is seen crying as the guidance counsellor reprimands her for wearing a skirt.

The December 2 video taken by Avril and shared on Snapchat shows the counsellor yelling at her saying, “I understand that you want to be yourself, I understand that perfectly.” At the end of the video there is a picture of Avril in a modest jean skirt with the caption “This is what I was wearing.”

“Everything I’m doing now, it’s to better help you, that’s what you don’t understand!” the counselor says in the video as Avril cries. “Because, once again, some people have different opinions than you do and aren’t your age. It’s that simple. They don’t have the same upbringing.”

“But they’re the ones who need to be educated, not me,” Avril responds.“I totally agree! I agree with you!” the counselor interrupts, condescendingly. “Then I don’t understand why you have a problem with me,” the teen asks.

“Shameful,” wrote David Belliard, who works at the Paris Mayor’s Office. “Yes, transphobia kills.”

 Following the conversation, Avril was sent home. One of her fellow classmates told a local news outlet La Voix du Nord that she was told not to come back “unless she was dressed like a boy.” The student also said that this event sparked conversation about gender and transgender people, and as it turns out Avril had copious supporters to be her authentic self. 

Two days after the world sadly losing Avril, on December 17, the school district released a statement that misgendered her, and said that she wanted to “change sexual identity” adding that she was “supported in their process.”

“Valérie Cabuil, superintendent of Lille schools, learned with great sadness that a high school senior at Lycée Fénelon in Lille put an end to their life at their home in a youth shelter on Wednesday,” the statement said, using the masculine article “un” in front of the word for “student,” misgendering Avril. The statement stressed that Avril was living in a youth shelter, not with her parents. 

“This dramatic event has upset the entire educational community,” the statement continued. “Grief counselors have been sent to the school.”

 In the wake of this statement, trans and gender diverse advocates accused the school administration on Twitter of “psychological violence” for “humiliating” the teen, according to French LGTBQI website Komitid. 

France’s Minister Delegate for Gender Equality, Diversity, and Equal Opportunities Élisabeth Moreno also weighed in saying, “A transgender teen girl died by taking her life Tuesday… The rate for transgender people for taking their life is seven times higher than the average. We absolutely need to fight against transphobia, everywhere.”

But Jean-Yves Guéant, president of the local parent-teacher association FCPE, accused transgender advocates of propagating “fake news.”

He confirmed to the press that she was sent home that day for wearing a skirt to school, but he also said that she had “other difficulties” and also noted that she lived in a youth home, implying that she had been rejected by her family.

 Acknowledging that “a discussion took place” on December 2 about Avril wearing a skirt, he said “no element of that day” is linked to her death. “It is very complicated to understand what happens in the head of a young person who makes this kind of decision,” Guéant said, according to French news source Le Figaro. “But it’s obvious that the school bears no responsibility for this.” 

“We are alerting the Education Ministry tonight about the situation for trans children and teens: without special attention, discrimination and acts of violence leave permanent marks with serious consequences,” said the transgender organisation Acceptess-T in a series of tweets. 

“We must at all cost prevent these situations with a real engagement from the government,” the group continued. “We have to give transgender children and teens the possibility of a future where they won’t have to constantly fight to survive.”

“Tolerance is not enough, survival is not enough. We want to live with joy.”

If you feel distressed reading the story, you can reach out to support services.

For 24 hour crisis support and suicide prevention call Lifeline on 13 11 14

For Australia-wide LGBTQI peer support call QLife on 1800 184 527 or webchat.

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