17-Year-Old Bucks Co. Trans Man Ends His Life by Stepping in Front of an Amtrak Train


Photo from Facebook.

GALAEI’s TransHealth Information Project (TIP) just released information about the passing of 17-year-old transgender man Riley Matthew Moscatel*. The young man, a student at Bucks County Technical High School, was killed when an Amtrak train hit him Monday afternoon. Coroners are ruling it a suicide.

Riley's mom spoke to the Bucks County Courier Times, saying that he had been battling depression for five years. (We've taken the liberty of changing the pronouns in the story out of respect for Riley's true identity).

“Things were just building up and building up and [he] just couldn’t take it anymore,” she said. “[He] hid behind a mask. [He] had a mask for me, my husband, my son, my parents ... everyone [he] had a different face for, but they were all happy (faces).”

[Riley] was transgender, his mother said. [He] identified as being a boy by using the name of Riley Matthew with [his] friends and on social media.

But [Riley's] mom also said, “[he] went from so many different things that [he] didn’t know what [he] was and all of that added on to [his] depression. We were trying to accept it, we were dealing with it as best we could. We supported [him].”

TIP  is taking this opportunity to shine a spotlight on the lack of resources for young transgender people who may be battling with depression:

Trans* and gender non-conforming individuals face exponentially higher rates of depression and suicidality than our cisgender peers. A 2011 survey conducted by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and National Center for Transgender Equality indicated that 41% of respondents had attempted suicide, as compared to 1.6% of the general population. The mental health and substance abuse issues with which we struggle are oftentimes exacerbated further by the habitual and pervasive negative discourses around trans* identity in the media.

Moscatel’s death was an avoidable tragedy. By continually denying young people the resources to access competent and sensitive care in an environment where they feel both safe and validated, we are conspiring with the systems of social marginalization that push these kids to their breaking point.

If you are a trans youth in need of resources, TIP has released the following contact information:

The Trans-Health Information Project (TIP)
1207 Chestnut Street, 5th Floor
Philadelphia, PA 19107

Andrew Spiers
TIP Co-Coordinator

Naiymah Sanchez
TIP Co-Coordinator

*After reviewing the comments below and having a discussion with a representative from GALAEI's Trans-Health Information Project, I have removed mention of Riley's birth name. I regret the error.

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  • Ally

    So tragic…but what’s with all the bracketed pronouns? He was he, and always was.

    • grammerPendent

      Quoting other sources, his mother and a local paper, that used “she.”

    • PJ

      The brackets indicate a change from a quoted source. So where you see “[he]” the original source wrote “[she]”.

    • PJ

      Also: “He was he, and always was”

      Try telling that to his mother, who seems to be having difficulty with that. -_-

  • Stefanie

    Because his mother didn’t use the correct pronouns, the editors of the story fixed it. Such as when someone says something/spells something incorrectly, you will see [sic] afterward.

  • Lola Fromm

    This poor boy is dead! Is it really that terribly important that you reveal his former name? How humiliating is that? Can’t you just this once respect who he is?! HE’S DEAD!

  • Ryder Avalon

    with “support” like that from his mother its pretty obvious why he was so depressed. So sad and she probably still thinks she was a great parent. smh

    • Bob Don’t worry about it

      These are issues families deal with everyday. Some people handle it better than others. She didn’t expect her to kill herself. I don’t know anyone who adjusts the way they interact with someone just incase that person gets depressed and decides they want to take their own life. That’s just not something you anticipate. Not everyone can be perfect like you.

      • Angel BabyBear Robinson


      • Ryder Avalon

        Himself @Bob. He was a trans man. Why can’t you show him respect even in death? It’s that sort of attitude that makes society so hard for trans ppl. Trans youth are especially vulnerable. They need real support and Its that sort of callous disregard for his gender that makes kids like this want to commit suicide.

        • Angel Thompson

          Very well stated, Ryder!

      • Angel Thompson

        Bob Don’t worry about it….. hmm, seems to me your very screen name is quite disingenuous. Disingenuous: Not truly honest or sincere: giving the false appearance of being honest or sincere.

        The fact that you called Riley Matthew [she] when he was MALE, and Riley would still be alive if HE had received the proper and appropriate resources to assist HIM in transitioning to HIS TRUE SELF. His own family was unable to cope as evidenced by the mother referring to Riley as [she], which is completely disrespectful, as you are to call Riley [she] (“She didn’t expect her to kill herself.”)

        It is the very nature of your own inability to accept an individual as they are, that so many youth today suffer from the disease of depression that lead to the tragic consequence of suicide. It is because of the lack of support that so many individuals view suicide as ‘the only way out’, due to feeling as insignificant as they are made to feel. Positive coping skills are of utmost importance!!!! Even as you stated, “Not everyone can be perfect like you”, leaves me to return to the term, disingenuous; because it appears to me that you view yourself as ‘perfect’.

        Our GLBT youth need respectful intervention, support, love, loyalty, quality care, and a host of other positive support measures to assist them in becoming productive and positive members of society. IF each community and society can, as a whole, provide these much needed services to individuals, then, their coping skills should be vastly improved; therefore, attempted suicide rates as well as completed suicide rates could very well drastically decrease!!!

        • Lauren

          If I may… I completely agree with the sentiment that, respectfully, we ought to use Riley’s correct gender pronoun of “he”.

          And I agree, had the appropriate resources and networks been available to he and his family, this may not have happened.

          And I agree further that the trans community are the most vulnerable minority group, with a great lack of understanding and support worldwide.

          However, I think “disrespect” is defined by intent, not a lack of education or understanding on a particular subject. Riley’s Mum has just lost her child. She’s going through an ordeal. It’s clear to me that she loves him and it was never her intention to treat him disrespectfully, she just didn’t understand. I don’t hold her responsible for this… Without support around you, I think it must be difficult for some parents to know what the right approach or response is when your child tells you they’re transgender.

          That’s why, ultimately, we are on the same page in that I believe so much more needs to be done to support trans people AND to develop an understanding across the world so people are no longer confused by this concept. That will bring the most positive change of all, but sadly will come with much patience, lobbying and correct education starting at a school level.

          Rest in peace Riley, my thoughts are with your family at this difficult time.

      • kayla

        Please use proper pronouns for this young man. Show some respect.

  • Thom

    If you were trying to edit out his birth name you missed one in the last paragraph of the statement from his mother.

  • Elle Waller

    Thank you so much for picking up this story. We can’t let Riley be forgotten, ever.

  • Sally T Conning

    more media wrong…. its irrelevant what a former name is…..
    the relevance it that another trans* person has taken their own life…
    and it will continue to happen until the media wakes up and bullying and bigotry stop

    • Angel BabyBear Robinson

      Rip Mr. Matthews

  • borntobeabanana

    Wow, even in death his mom is still disrespecting him. Great mom.

    • lea

      leave her alone. She sounds like a mom who was doing the best she could with her childs struggles at a very challenging time for most teens.

  • Thom

    I’m also curious why you chose to edit his mom’s words to the right name and pronoun out of “respect” for his identity but you mention his birthname in the article.

    • Katherine D.

      I completely agree. I think they are very backwards. If you are respecting him as a person, you would not say his birth name nor refer to his mother with his old name. This article needed a proofread with common sense.

    • emdashpoet

      It seems that because of the discrimination he faced, he only went by his real name on social media. Most people who knew him knew him by his false name. As a mother of a trans teen (who I haven’t misgendered since he came out), my heart breaks for this poor baby. It is hard to learn to change some pronouns, but it’s hardly the toughest part of parenting, and it’s nothing like the difficulty of having your identity invalidated by everyone around you.

      • Guest

        Wait – what? Are you saying that from the time a biologically born female baby was born and could not speak for herself, you called her a him and dressed him like a little boy? Did I misunderstand this statement of yours? “As a mother of a trans teen (who I haven’t misgendered since he came out)…”

        • Danel215

          I really hope you actually misunderstood what she was trying to say… If not, you’re an ass =/
          “Since he came out” refers to her son letting her know he’s trans, you know? All that “come out of the closet” deal.
          @emdashpoet:disqus It’s great to read about parents like you =) It gives me hope that my parents can get to that point with me xD

        • Thom

          Since he came out as in came out of the closet, not as in came out of the mom’s vagina.

        • over all the bigots

          Get off the internet.

      • Letthemeatcake

        Or the difficulty of having to validate everyone around you whether they call you a he or a she.

  • Tug Spano

    His mother’s constant misgendering must have played no part in this.

  • PJ

    “We were trying to accept it, we were dealing with it as best we could. We supported [him].”

    Not if you repeatedly misgendered him, lady. I’m 35 and it sucks when my father misgenders me. I can’t imagine having to deal with it at 17. My heart breaks for Riley.

    • Bobbie Jo Justice

      “Not if you repeatedly misgendered him” – great comment, and I agree.

  • kyla denea.

    I love you Riley.. its heart breaking that people are starting to respect you now that you are no longer here and its too late… i miss you with every ounce of my being.. you will forever be my Riiii Guyyyy. Rest Easy Riley Matthew

  • Jake reese

    Even tho I didn’t know him my wishes and prayers go to the family dorry for your loss

  • PMC

    It is very, very disrespectful to list a trans person’s birth name, particularly in an article discussing their death. If you’re going to take the time to use someone’s correct pronouns, then take that extra step to resist the urge of using someone’s birth name, as well.

    Also, people, stop blaming his mother. I am a trans man and my family interchangeably uses pronouns… it’s a part of the process and experience for everyone involved. It is seriously such a terrible thing to boil someone’s depression and struggle down to their mom using incorrect pronouns.

    • ico

      Being constantly misgendered, even if it is done with no conscious malice in the least, is a stark hurt and shows that many people will struggle to ever fully embrace your ‘true’ identity. To many it seems unfair that their ‘true’ identity will always be second-guessed and mistaken when the identity of others, like cisgendered people, is always foremost and taken at face value. The fact the mother continued to misgender him even in an obituary when she is claiming to have always supported him – at a time when he deserves the most respect – is pretty self-evident that she could never really grasp what the man probably wished she could. TL;DR; even if it’s an accident on the mom’s side it just probably showed the man that his identity would always be casually invalidated. even if it’s not the main cause of the suicide, it’s ‘background radiation’ that certainly wouldn’t have helped changed his mind.

      • Guest

        The woman is grieving. It’s entirely possible that she was referring to him with the wrong pronouns because it was easier for her and she knew he wasn’t there to be bothered by it.

        The woman just lost her child, so I doubt she needs a bunch of strangers on the internet telling her it was her fault and she should have done x differently. I’m sure she’s doing enough of that on her own.

        Supposedly it’s only been a few months and he was going by his birth name and pronouns in some arenas. It took my parents nine months to start getting my pronouns right because in our society, most people are not educated on trans issues and don’t understand how or why it’s important to get a trans person’s pronouns right.

  • switcherdawna

    God, you are a disrespectful moron Kristy Thomas.

  • Letthemeatcake

    I grieve for a culture that no longer let’s a child be a child without superimposing all kinds of external interpretations of who and what a child is or is not. Yes, now that the child is dead, the child is free from exploitation. This child was still in high school and all along should have been allowed to have a childhood free from adult issues. Growing up, the child should have been playing and age appropriately learning free of having to validate others whether those others called this child he or she.

  • Bobbie Jo Justice

    “We’ve taken the liberty to change the pronouns in the story out of respect for Riley’s true identity”…but then you say formally known as Jessica. As a transgender female, I think you could have left out that part.

  • shouldbeashamed

    One day after this story is posted, TONS of comments asking that this person’s former name be removed from the article as a gesture of basic respect and human decency, yet still no edits have been made. Philly Mag once again demonstrating what an awful publication you are.

  • John

    There was 1 Levittown, PA newspaper that corrected their pronouns and noted it. I think we should commend media outlets (Unlike the Courier-Times) that recognize their mistakes in identifying us. I spoke with the reporter from the online newspaper yesterday, he was very polite and acknowledged the story was updated after LGBT people pointed his error out.


  • Thom

    So you are going to fix the birth name in the quote but not in your article? Well that’s not ignorant or anything.

  • JaredTWG

    His mother is grieving. It’s entirely possible that she was referring to him with the wrong pronouns because it was easier for her and she knew he wasn’t there to be bothered by it.

    The woman just lost her child, so I doubt she needs a bunch of strangers on the internet telling her it was her fault and she should have done x differently. I’m sure she’s doing enough of that on her own.

    Supposedly it’s only been a few months and he was going by his birth name and pronouns in some arenas. It took my parents nine months to start getting my pronouns right because in our society, most people are not educated on trans issues and don’t understand how or why it’s important to get a trans person’s pronouns right.

    This article, however- delete his birth name. It’s unnecessary and rude. Philly Mag has no excuses.

  • Chris Jonasson

    What you are showing us clearly in this article is that even in our deaths media won’t respect our preferred names, pronouns and genders. Please remove any reference to Rileys old name which is of no relevance for the article and also remove all of the [ and the ] from the correct pronouns in the article. You already declare that you corrected it, please don’t make it stand out so much.

  • Cassandra Pierre

    I am very sad and sorry to hear about this tragic event. The mother not identifying her son as a male hints that things at home may not have been as supportive as she suggest in her letter. Even if the family was 100% in the corner of their son, society which starts with the peers we go to school with can have a serious impact on a trans youth’s life.
    America really needs to consider educating both adults and youths what it means to be transgender, how to identify and treat others who do not fall in the straight/ heterosexual category. We need to normalize people not make them out to be less or some types of poison. They lack of education and support in society perpetuates the high suicide rates of transpeople

  • LoveMyJob

    Some of these comments are interesting. I work with families of LGBT children. Currently, I’m working with a mother who, over the last 5 years, has seen her daughter declare she is lesbian for a while, bisexual for a while, and now transgendered. She came to our support group because she wants to support her daughter, who now wants to be called Jake. She was beating herself up because she slips sometimes. Now remember, for 15 years, Jake as been Sandy and has been a she/her to the family. This mother is one of the most loving and caring people I’ve met. She’s doing all she can to educate herself. Last week, while sitting across from his mother at the dinner table, talking, and laughing, Jake was simultaneously texting a suicide hotline. Imagine the surprise of all those involved when 30 minutes later, a policeman arrived at the home and Jake was taken to the hospital for a 72 hour hold…… they are now (mom and Jake) trying to figure out what life looks like. Mom beating herself for not knowing her kid was suicidal. We all wear masks and just like Riley’s mom states- he had one for everyone. Riley’s mom lost her child and I’m pretty sure right at this moment, the pronoun is the least of the pain she’s feeling. Riley could not see a way out of the darkness, and that’s not to be put solely on his family…. transgendered teens are torn between accepting themselves and realizing the gender stereotypes the world still imposes…. between feeling free with their decision and guilt because the messages they often receive. But the reality is, their families are learning too. I’m pretty sure Riley’s mom loved him and would not have wanted her child to jump in front of a train for any reason.

    • lea

      Bravo..sound, reasonable and empathic.

  • A Mom.

    I am unable to understand, after reading the comments, if this beautiful human being was born a male or a female. But, I guess that makes no difference. This tragedy is so unthinkable, that I weep for the child AND for the mother, who, it seems to me, birthed a complex puzzle within a suffering and fragile child,(with no preparation for comprehending the nature, nor needs, of such a tortured little person, loved her child, did the best she was capable of doing, endured the horror of such a death, and gets to live the rest of her days with immeasurable heartache.

  • http://thegirlwiththepurplecane.com/ thegirlwiththepurplecane

    it doesn’t matter what the stigma is. stigma kills.

  • johnny

    Sad to hear, rest in peace