A transgender woman who was a former national Scrabble champion took her own life last year after receiving abuse for being different, an inquest heard yesterday.
Mikki Nicholson, 36, had told a psychiatric nurse that she "felt stigmatised" for being transgender and was being taunted in the street. She wanted to leave Carlisle where she was living because she hoped she would be less abused elsewhere, but had recently discovered that she would risk homelessness by moving.
Campaigners said the case illustrates the fatal consequences of intolerance towards transgender people in Britain - an issue that remains stubbornly widespread. The Metropolitan Police saw offences against transgender people soar by 44 per cent in 2014, with 95 crimes recorded, up from 66 in 2013.
Ms Nicholson, who was once ranked as the fourth-best Scrabble player in the world, was born a man but identified as a woman. She was receiving psychiatric treatment in the months before she was killed by a train on 7 November.
Tabloid reporting of Ms Nicholson's win at the National Scrabble championships in 2010 mocked her as a man in dress, and one columnist insinuated - under the headline "Why we're all Scrabbling to put on a frock" - that it was unseemly how many people were "cross-dressing".
Ms Nicholson was treated at a psychiatric clinic last year and later supported at home by community psychiatric nurse Clive Guyo. He told the inquest she had previously considered suicide after visiting Manchester as she was scared of returning to Carlisle.
"She described Carlisle as hostile to people who are different," Mr Guyo said. "She spoke of facing verbal abuse while walking in the streets because of how she appeared to other people. Schoolchildren were often the worst for making fun of her and verbally abusing her."
Mr Guyo said she clung to the belief that her life would be better if only she could leave Carlisle. "She had a negative view of Carlisle based on past experience," he said. "She felt stigmatised."
The inquest heard that Ms Nicholson wanted to move to Newcastle but was told she would be classed as "intentionally homeless" if she left her flat, making it hard to find other social housing. She had no money to rent privately.
In the five weeks before her death, she was not contactable, though Mr Guyo tried to visit and help her.
Rebecca Mellor, a close friend of Ms Nicholson's, said: "Mikki was fiercely intelligent, exploring her gender identity, and had a vivacious character. She frequently felt at odds with the world because of her intelligence [and] gender identity."
Coroner David Roberts concluded yesterday that Ms Nicholson had deliberately killed herself but that she had been well supported by psychiatric services. Cumbria Partnership Trust, which provided psychiatric care, is now discussing providing specialist support for transgender people in north Cumbria.
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- The Independent