What the Death of Camila María Concepción Tells Us About the Reality the Transgender Community Faces in the United States

Camila María Concepción
Photo Credit IG @camilamariaconcepcion

She was 28 years old and was the assistant writer on one of the most important shows on Netflix when it comes to representation and inclusion. Camila María Concepción, however, took her own life on February 21, 2020.

Writer, actress, and activist, Concepción became known for her deep commitment to the rights of the transgender community and for its fair representation on the small and big screen, especially after her participation at the 2018 United States of Women Summit, in the company of icons of the struggle such as Micah Bazant, Audrey Kuo, and Sally Kohn.

The writer also partnered with artist Favianna Rodriguez and Transparent‘s Jill Soloway to assist in the 5050by2020 initiative, seeking “new models of power, access, and representation in television and film,” Hollywood Life reported.

Concepción studied English literature at Yale University, and became an assistant writer for Linda Yvette Chávez’s team on the Netflix comedy-drama Gentefied, the latest bilingual hit from the streaming platform that follows the lives of three Mexican-American cousins in search of the American Dream.

After helping to write the fifth episode of the show, “Project Tacos” directed by Andrew Ahn, Concepción joined the team of Daybreak, another Netflix comedy-drama, this time framed in the zombie genre.

In a statement obtained by Deadline, the Gentefied team stated: “We are heartbroken by the loss of Camila Concepción. She was hired as our writer’s assistant on Gentefied but quickly made her way into our hearts as a sister, writer and friend.”

The statement added: “She co-wrote episode 109 ‘Protest Tacos’ and we were so blown away by her amazing talent and unique voice. She was definitely a force to be reckoned with and we are deeply saddened by the loss of one of our brightest stars.”

Similarly, Netflix wrote:

“We are deeply saddened to learn of the tragic passing of Camila Concepción. Camila was a talented writer with a passion for storytelling, lifting up underrepresented voices, and fighting for representation in front of and behind the camera. She made bold and critical contributions to our industry, most recently through her incredible writing on Gentefied, and her legacy will live on through her work. Our thoughts are with her family and friends in this time of loss.”

Despite her struggle for respect, inclusion, and the incorporation of intersectionality into the discourses of entertainment, Concepción seems to have fallen victim to the consequences of a system that still has much to change.

As the National LGBTQ Task Force explains, “multiracial transgender people are experiencing disproportionately higher levels of attempted suicide, poverty and unemployment,” thanks to a scheme that combines racism and transphobia.

Figures collected by the organization show that at least 54% of respondents reported having attempted suicide, “compared to 41% of all study respondents and 1.6% of the general U.S. population.

“This is a wake-up call: racism and anti-trans discrimination together are having an appalling impact on multiracial transgender people’s lives, and it has to stop,” said Darlene Nipper, Task Force Deputy Executive Director. 

Despite the success and presumed stability, the risk factors for the mental health of the LGBTQ+ community are very intricate.

While the overall suicide rate in the country has increased by 33 percent over the past few decades, the rate in the LGBTQ+ community is nearly nine times higher, increasing exponentially among the youngest, according to a 2018 study by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

This is where media representation becomes truly effective.

According to GLAAD’s 2017-2018 annual report on LGBTQ inclusion, “Where We Are On TV,” broadcast television showed programs with 58 regular characters who identified as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and/or queer.

“That number represented 6.4 percent of all 901 regularly occurring characters. And 17 transgender roles were portrayed across broadcast, cable and streaming television services,” explained the Washington Post.

The increase in these figures is more than urgent today, since visibility allows the community to feel truly perceived by society, creating “an important shift in the social consciousness to include people from a range of different backgrounds,” according to Psychology Today.

“Another crucial piece to consider is that when people see representations of themselves in the media, this can foster a great sense of affirmation of their identity,” she added. “Feeling affirmed with one’s own sense of self can boost positive feelings of self-worth, which is quite different than feeling as if you are wrong or bad for being who you are.”