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Chloe Sagal was a game developer who developed the indie horror game Homesick. This Thursday, she walked into a park in Portland, Oregon, delivered a written statement and set herself on fire. Sagal had been the subject of a transphobic harassment campaign since 2013. She was 31.
In 2012, Chloe Sagal released the indie horror game Homesick as freeware. The game was about an unnamed woman who visits her friend’s new house. The house has been built at the site of her brother’s murder. As she explores the house she discovers a mysterious killer who’s intent on making her his next victim.
Homesick was popular, and in 2013 Sagal launched an Indiegogo campaign. Sagal initially claimed it was to pay for a life-saving operation to remove metal shrapnel from her body after a car accident. She quickly reached her goal, but the campaign was taken down by the crowdfunding platform as it had been flagged as suspicious. It eventually came out that the shrapnel story was a cover — Chloe Sagal actually intended to pay for gender confirmation surgery with the money.
Sagal made a mistake, and though gender confirmation surgery (or GCS) has indeed been called life-saving, given the transphobia of the gaming community we can see why she might want to keep the true purpose of the surgery to herself. Still, it was a fraudulent claim, and many who donated were rightfully upset.
But when the truth emerged that Sagal wanted to pay for GCS with the Indiegogo funds, she became the subject of harassment from trolls. Most of the trolling came from those who would go on to found Kiwi Farms. Founded in 2014, Kiwi Farms is a message board devoted to harassment, and it has a long history of transphobia.
(Though the harassment of Chloe Sagal began in 2013, before the Kiwi Farms name, we’re going to refer to it as such for the ease of understanding.)
Kiwi Farms’ harassment campaign took place across many social media platforms, and friends say Sagal had suicide “constantly on her mind” due to the attacks. In 2013 she attempted suicide while livestreaming on Twitch.TV. Eleven days ago, Sagal opened a Go Fund Me campaign with a $675 goal. The campaign was intended to help her move to a place with “medical care.” On the page, she says, “I need a passport and money for travel. I don’t know what I’m going to do about the medical expenses but I just want to get there first. Please help, I am literally at the end.” The campaign has no donations.
A few days before her death, police took Chloe Sagal into custody after they found her with a machete. Police were told Sagal intended to hurt herself. She was sent to a mental crisis center and later released. One of Sagal’s friends, AJ Luxton, said she “spent two days sitting in triage,” and was never properly hospitalized. Luxton was one of Sagal’s emergency contacts but was never notified, only finding out Sagal had been there after she’d been released.
Luxton said it was difficult for Chloe Sagal to reach out for help: “One factor that made it much harder for her to get help was that whenever she talked about suicide [Kiwi Farms members] would report her Facebook page and get it locked down. This had happened multiple times in the month prior to her death.”
Many of her friends hadn’t heard from Sagal after her discharge on Monday. She left notes for her friends, giving her van to “whoever needs” it.
According to witnesses, on the afternoon of Thursday, June 21, Chloe Sagal walked to the park across from the Multnomah County Courthouse. She delivered a written statement about people having a right to housing and that police custody can result in people being abused and hurt.
Donna Maxey, a witness interviewed by The Oregonian, says that after Sagal finished her statement, “she got out a gallon bottle and poured what looked like dirty water over her head. I thought maybe she’s really hot. All of a sudden I saw a blue lighter.”
Bystanders were able to put out the fire, but it was too late. Chloe Sagal died at Legacy Emanuel Hospital. Posters on Kiwi Farms are currently celebrating her suicide.
If like Chloe Sagal you are contemplating suicide, please reach out for help.
Featured image courtesy of AJ Luxton via The Oregonian