Transgender Teenager Killed Himself After School Refused To Allow Him To Change Name, Inquest Hears
A transgender teenager killed himself after his grammar school refused to allow him to change his name, an inquest heard.
Leo Etherington, 15, was told he could not officially stop being called Louise at school until he turned 16, a coroner was told.
The teenager was said to have been "angry" at the policy at Wycombe High School, a grammar school in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire.
The inquest was told Leo had came out as gay in 2013 when, still going by the name Louise, he began attending the all-girls school. It was after school one day in 2016 that he revealed to his father that he was trans.
The grammar school, which caters for girls from ages 11 to 18, refused to let Leo change his name until he was 16, the coroner was told.
However, friends referred to him as Leo and sometimes as Alex, a name which he had chosen before but decided was too gender ambiguous.
"The school had told him he had to be 16 to change his name," Leo's father Martin Etherington told the inquest. "He said that he was angry with the school. I said we could wait until he was 16 and legally change his name then."
However, Mr Etherington said that, despite Leo's anger at the school not letting him change his name, he had a supportive network of friends and family.
Leo killed himself in his bedroom at home in High Wycombe when his family believed he was revising for exams.
He had previously revealed to his father, who was a lone parent after his wife died of breast cancer in 2013, that he felt he had been born in the wrong body.
Mr Etherington said in a statement read to the coroner that he was not initially worried when Leo did not come downstairs for dinner.
"I heard him start playing his ukulele in his room," he told the inquest. "It then went quiet and I thought he was studying for his exams."
He said he had rung a bell that the family used to call everyone to dinner.
"I rang the bell and Robert came down, but I didn't hear Leo," he told the inquest. "I thought he might have been listening to something on his headphones.
His bedroom door was locked, which was again not unusual. I thought that perhaps he had fallen asleep. I used a coin to unlock the door and I saw that he was not at his desk.
Emergency services were called to the house, but he could not be saved. Leo had left a suicide note that was found by Detective Constable Andrew Hall.
Mr Etherington added that he had always been accepting of Leo, first when he came out as gay and then after saying he was trans. He said that he had heard a programme about transexuality on the radio.
"I talked to (at the time) Louise about this on the way home from school so she would know I was open to talking about it," he said.
When we got home, Louise went to the window and started playing her cello. Then she stopped and said: 'I think I am trans."
Mr Etherington said that while it took Leo's brother some time to come to terms with Leo's gender identity, no relatives had a problem with it.
He said that he and Leo had attended gender identity sessions and that Leo's GP had said the NHS would not fund gender re-assignment surgery.
"I told Leo I would fund any surgery when the time came," said Mr Etherington.
Assistant Coroner Alison McCormick recorded a conclusion of suicide at the inquest in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire.
She told the family: "You provided her with all he help and support she could have hoped for. I hope you can draw some comfort from that."
Speaking after the inquest, Wycombe High School head teacher Sharon Cromie said she was a "wonderful person who would be sorely missed by the entire school community".
She added that the school has an "established and positive policy" on transgender issues.