A year ago today, a young woman named Natalie Nguyen committed suicide, and her death reverberated through the community on Mastodon that I had only been a part of for a few months. I learned about it the next day.
She was not a part of my immediate circles, though we shared many friends. I could feel the pain of her loss through them. She was a light in their lives and extinguished far too soon.
But as if it wasn't cruel enough that the world took her from those friends, what happened afterward hurt them all more. The news reports originally called her a young man. And after a brave crew of those who knew her sought out her parents and shared the Natalie they knew, those same parents buried her in a suit under a name that wasn't hers.
I'd say those friends were shocked, but it was a story they were all too familiar with. Natalie was a transgender woman, a beautiful soul, subjected to the tortures of a world that refused to accept her for who she was. So many of her friends shared that experience—the happiness of living as they were, but the pain of constant denial from those around them.
Some of our community memorialized her in the network messages that move even today through the Mastodon network, piggybacking on communications between the servers. Every time one of those servers answers a request, it says “X-Clacks-Overhead: GNU Natalie Nguyen”, keeping her memory alive.
Today, my friends are crying, remembering. I'm crying for them—I don't want them to hurt. I write this now, mostly because it's heavy on my heart and I must, but also in the hopes that some hearts, somewhere, unfamiliar with the pain our queer family shares, understands… and perhaps takes some small action to make things better for all of us.
We all watch out for each other, however we can, in this big family I'm a part of. Many of us know what that pain is like. We hope that together, we can hold each other, be there for each other, help each other. Because we all deserve to live.
Natalie will live on in so many hearts. She touched mine, even though I never knew her. I hope that, through me, she touches yours as well.
“if my existence makes random people on the internet happier, then i did good in this world.” —Natalie Nguyen, September 16, 2017