10-Year-Old Ashlynn Conner May Not Have Been Lesbian, But She Killed Herself Over Gender Identity

When 10-year-old Ashlynn Conner began cheerleading for the youth football team in her small Illinois town, the fifth grader got a bob haircut and the other children at Ridge Farm Elementary School began calling her “a boy,” “fat,” “ugly” and “slut.” Over time, the teasing got so bad that Ashlynn asked her mother if she could be home schooled, and her mother promised to talk with her school principal about the teasing.

Then on Friday night, Conner’s mother overheard her daughter talking on the phone to a friend about being teased. Barely 30 minutes later, Conner’s 14-year-old sister discovered her hanging in the closet. Conner’s grandmother untied Ashlynn and tried administering CPR to save her granddaughter’s life, but it was too late—Conner was already dead.

County Sheriff Pat Hartshorn has promised to investigate claims of bullying but says, “We don’t have any firm evidence to support bullying.” Nevertheless, Conner’s tragic death illustrates the role gender norms and identity play in LGBT related bullying.

While there’s nothing suggesting that Conner was LGBT, the expectation that she look and act “like a normal girl” may have played a role in her death. Anti-queer bullying doesn’t require the victim to be LGBT; it only requires that the bullies torment someone for acting different than they expect a young man or woman to act.

We’ll post more as this story continues to develop.

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  • Ginasf

    I don’t want to minimize the horrific nature of this story… but just to clarify, this is about the child’s gender expression not gender identity (unless she also felt, internally, that she was somehow trans).

  • the crustybastard

    Years ago, when I found out my kid was being bullied, I didn’t fuck around. I showed up and demanded a meeting with the school administrators the next morning, where I notified them that I also had a zero-tolerance policy and informed them that, as they were now aware of the problem, they were henceforth legally culpable for any additional injury incurred from school property. That afternoon, I went to the ringleader’s home, where he was, shall we say “cautioned in plain terms,” about the hazards of continuing his behavior. I was prank-dialed from various numbers for 2 or 3 weeks after, but her harassment ended that day.

    Rational behavior deserves a rational response. Ugly threatening behavior merits an urgent ugly response.

    If you intend to be heard, you speak the language of your audience.

  • fuzzy

    10 years old?? Since when does anybody care how a ten-year-old dresses? I got crap for wearing boys’ clothes when I was a kid, but not at ten, and never to the point that it made me cry, let alone want to kill myself. Are we actually raising a whole generation of kids who are more vicious than before? That’s a terrifying thought. These are the people who will be in charge when we are older and need to depend on their kindness and humanity.

    Condolences to the family. Ashlynn must have been a warm, big-hearted, sensitive kid, to take such cruelty in so deeply. How terrible to lose such a bright spirit, when they are the ones we need the most.

  • perdeep

    JFC, this is sad. I wish I had something more intelligent to contribute, but all I have a sadface emoticon. D:
    Yet another sign that schools need to teach kids about sensitivity and compassion as early as possible, to counteract any viciousness that kids might pick up at home/in the media/etc. Instead of teaching them that bullshit about how thay’re all beautiful unique snowflakes, they should start de-programming them and tell them that few people are conventionally beautiful but beauty isn’t as important as kindness.

  • jean

    She was only 10.
    I can’t believe a kid this young already thinks about suicide. Her family should have given her more support, especially when she told her mom she wanted to get home-schooled, she already knew something was wrong.

    Rest In Peace, Ashlynn.

  • Anna

    Children emulate their parents. That being said, I wonder what kind of households these bullies are come from. A 5th grader should never feel that SUICIDE is the only way out. So sad. Really says a lot about our society…. RIP.

  • Henry

    @Anna: They come from households where the fathers touch their sons’ wieners.

  • kalavinka

    It’s sad that this is how things are and it came down to this for this girl but I can relate. Not that I was bullied like that but I clearly remember wanting to kill myself in 3rd grade, about age 7-8. In elementary school, I really didn’t believe I would live to see high school.

    I think kids have always been mean. My mom has told me stories about when she was a kid, like once a kid stabbed her with the sharp edge of a compass. She ran home crying so her mom ran to the school with a broom to beat up the kid that did it. I remember telling an adult who watched recess of a mean kid but she did nothing. I think adults really need to step up.

  • erin

    first thought can only be unbelievable… she was a LITTLE girl. the brutality that was not corrected for this child is irrehencible. due to a hair cut…. parents, we cannot stand for this. my son is 5 and i plan on talking to him about bullying when i pick him up for school this is a conversation that should be continued though out a child’s life and placed in perspective as what if this was you. it is so obviously easy to target any child reguadless of their gender preference being straight, bi, gay or transgendered. it’s something to tackle BEFORE something as horrific as what happen to Ashlynn happens to your child

  • Jacqui

    @fuzzy: I am 44 years old now & was teased & picked on mercilously when I was in elementary school. There were even some girls who got the “popular” boy to pretend to like me, just to mess with me. My clothes were made fun of constantly. Honestly, this is nothing new. EXTREMELY sad, but not new.

  • Henry

    The thing that stands out to me about these bullying stories is that it’s hard to pick a target who won’t fight back. It really is. The quiet boy who seems harmless might be quiet because he has a disorder, not because he’s shy about picking up a gun and using it. The smiling, laughing boy with 700 superficial friendships might be putting on an act, and slit your throat in the shower. No one really knows anything about anyone, and the more intelligent you are, the more you realize that. I think that for bullies, the gears just don’t turn.

  • Kuro

    Poor thing. Only 10 and feeling like its the only way. Gender confused or not, I had a bob cut and tons of girls did, it wasn’t a sign of being male like It was just a hair style. The fact that the kids teased her like they did for it is insane. I was teased in school over a lot of terrible things but never once over my hair cut. Maybe society needs to take a better look at it’s children. We are raising kids to think bullying is okay as long as you aren’t caught. And A teacher can never prove the words, only the marks.
    Children can be brutal and I wonder where they learn it …..I get it things are different but isn’t this a society we say is “tolerant” …
    Poor girl may she rest in peace….I’m so sorry she had to go so young because of foolish children who don’t know how to get that other people have feelings too.

  • ProudAuntoflots

    This has nothing to do with being insensitive… Kids these days are WAY to grown for the number of years they are alive. I have a niece now who is 16 and at the age of 7 she was worried about getting her period… It’s life these days and how many ADULT things are pushed on them… The clothing that are geared towards them, makeup, Magaizines, TV shows… These days it doesn’t matter if kids are socializing you can bet your butt that they aren’t talking about “barbies” those days are over. Don’t be ignorant to the fact that a poor child committed suicide from Bullying or that bullying could have pushed her to just feel like she wasn’t good enough. LGBT or not… This is sad what the world has come to. In one hand we are becoming more accepting of the LGBT community and on the other hand we have stepped back a hundred feet because our youth are growing to fast with too much pressure. I give praise to the LGBT community for stepping up for all PEOPLE… Open your eyes people… There are huge problems that are going on that are easily avoidable! Teach your children to be accepting of all shapes, colors, genders and CHOICES that people make like cutting their hair! Also keep in mind that some don’t have a choice. Gay is not a choice and in some cultures a sari is not a choice either! Support our Youth and bring them back their childhood!


  • Stephanie

    @fuzzy: Well, when you consider the fact that all through-out the media there are talks of outlawing gays and gay marriage, you cant be surprised when that outlook trickles down to our children as well.

  • Neva

    What people need to realize is that most bullies have alot of trouble in their own homes and people as a society need to quit judging people. I am a proud lesbian and I don’t care who says what or does what but when it comes to my son the fight is on. I can proudly say my son stands behind me 100% because I have raised him to judge somebody on how they treat him not by their race, sex, gender or their sexual orientation and I feel more people need to raise their children like that.

  • Carole

    Thanks, Crusty. Good advice to those of us with young children who are bullied.

  • Claire

    I dont understand. I know how it feels to be bullied. It hurts, you feel worthless but NEVER did I EVER think about killling my self just because people bullied me about my new haircut. R.I.P Ashlynn

  • Evelyn

    I am a 25 year old bisexual woman happily married to someone who loves her unconditionally.

    But when I was a child, I was bullied and teased mercilessly about everything from my name to my height to being smart.  Nothing I did changed it. No matter how I tried to change, I was an outcast. The popular girls developed nick names for me…Bucktooth, Ugly, and Not-a-Girl being the ones I still remember. I became so desperate for friendship, I turned to anyone, regardless of how toxic they were for me. They could bully me all they wanted as long as they told me that we were friends. I was 8 years old when a “friend” of mine decided it would be funny to beat me up. I told my parents I fell off the bunk bed.  Things continued getting worse and worse. I felt hopeless, lost, and alone. Finally, when I was 11, I tried to hang myself.

    Fate had different plans for me apparently, but the bullying continued. Another “friend” threatened to kill me, so my parents changed my school. At age 13 I became a cutter. Several times I considered suicide again, usually after someone had begun throwing things at me or called me an ugly whore…but only stopped because I realized it would break my parents’ hearts.

    This happens more than many people realize. I was tormented, permanently damaged. Even now I am very neurotic about relationships.

    PLEASE, PLEASE take a stance on bullying. No child should have to go through what I did or what Ashlynn did. No child should have to feel like the only solution is death.

  • Reason

    Okay. This is what makes GLBTQ sites and the GLBTQ community in general look like they have an agenda. This has absolutely nothing to do with gender identity.
    This is about being bullied over a HAIRCUT.
    This girl is TEN. She does not have a sexuality nor a self-consciousness of her gender yet.

  • Kate

    This is heartbreaking. I’m actually about to cry. At work. I wasn’t bullied as a kid, but I remember wanting to kill myself at her age for other reasons and almost going through with it. I can’t imagine what her family must be feeling right now… especially her sister.

  • Lisa

    This has nothing to do with gender identity. This poor kid took her own life because she was tormented by, no doubt, little bitches who had trailer trash for parents.

  • well.

    honey i got pelted at the bus stop with rocks every day for two weeks for “being a boy”
    kicked in the crotch, pinched, and hit

    in 1985.
    in 5th grade.

  • William

    @Reason: Don’t be a moron. It’s about Gender Status Quo, not her own personal identity. They made fun of her for being a boy because she got short hair. In our society dominated by images of how boys and girls ‘should be’, this is a Gender Issue.

  • Dave

    To the author – No single person can be LGB and T. Don’t you think this sentence could be better written? “While there’s nothing suggesting that Conner was LGBT,” That said, this is a pretty common error, but a professional journalist shouldn’t make it.

  • jorge luis vargas

    its aesyyyyyy dont let your kids do it!!! as a paent you showl know if you kids are miss behaving come on don play fuckin blind.. i have two dowgters and they know for shure not to do something like that and if i ever find out that they are doing this to other kids they are gonna have to go to their house parents and talk and apologise.
    excuse my english.

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