Trans comedian and activist with Philly roots dies by suicide

Daphne Dorman, a trans activist and comedian who was a Philadelphia native, died by suicide last weekend. She was 44 years old. 

“To those of you who are mad at me: please forgive me. To those of you who wonder if you failed me: you didn’t,” Dorman wrote on Facebook in the early hours of Oct. 11. “To those of you feel like I failed you: I did and I’m sorry and I hope you’ll remember me in better times and better light.”

Becky Kugler, who identified herself as Dorman’s sister on the social media platform, confirmed the comedian’s death in a comment on Dorman’s original post.

“It is with great sadness and despair to hand out this information. Sweet, sweet Daphne,” wrote Kugler, who added she lives in Pennsylvania. “I so wish we could all have helped you through your darkness. We’ll always love you, fly high sweet angel.”

San Francisco’s Office of Transgender Initiatives also tweeted confirmation last Friday of Dorman’s death and encouraged folks in need of support to reach out to support hotline Trans Lifeline or Trans:Thrive, a drop-in community center for the trans community in San Francisco. 

“To our TGNC community, we love you,” the office tweeted. “We are saddened to learn about of loss of Daphne Dorman today who was a beloved community member [sic].”

Professional profiles indicate Dorman, who also describes herself as a writer and actress, previously worked as director of operations for Philadelphia-based The Actors Center, where she taught improvisation and stage combat from 2003-05. She then launched her own web development agency and worked as a software engineer. 

Dorman recently was featured in comedian Dave Chappelle’s live Netflix special “Sticks & Stones,” which came under fire after its Aug. 26 release for including anti-trans jokes and dismissing the concerns of sexual assault victims. 

In footage added to the special, Chappelle defends the content by saying a friend of his who is a trans woman was the person “laughing the hardest” at his jokes. This person was Dorman, who appeared in the credits of “Sticks & Stones.” 

“Yeah, you know, it’s just that moment when you realize that after Dave Chappelle talks about meeting you in the secret ending of his new Netflix special, you see your photo appears immediately after Barack Obama’s photo in the credits,” Dorman posted on Instagram Aug. 26. She also wrote “Yep, I’m the Daphne that Dave Chappelle is talking about in Sticks and Stones” in her Twitter bio. 

On Sept. 7, Dorman defended Chappelle and the Netflix show on Twitter. 

“As the transwoman he talks about in the epilogue, I’ll tell you that he 100% supports trans people,” she wrote. “And the LGBT community. Comedy isn’t a documentary or a sermon or a Ted talk. It’s comedy.”

According to 2015 findings by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law, 41 percent of trans or gender non-conforming people have attempted suicide compared to less than 5 percent of the overall population in the United States. 

Dorman’s funeral will be held in Pennsylvania, according to Kugler’s Facebook comments.

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