Rockford woman turns trans son’s suicide into mission of advocacy for LGBTQIA+ community

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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — After her son’s death, Phyllis Gallisath set out on a mission to help others struggling with their sexuality and gender identity.

Her son, Liam, came out as transgender at 15-years-old and became an advocate for the Rockford area’s LGBTQIA+ community.

“Liam was a great advocate for his own community,” she said. “He helped build a policy at Harlem High School to protect trans kids. He was out in the open about being trans, and I think if he were here, he’d be working alongside me and we’d be doing this work together.”

But, at age 18, Liam took his own life.

Gallisath founded the Liam Foundation to continue his mission and help others like him.

“After his passing, I wanted to do something for him. I wanted to get him a Christmas present the first year he was gone. So, I decided to do a name change for a trans individual, which, at the time, was $300 in Winnebago County,” she said.

One of the organization’s goals is to help those in the transgender community with their transition.

Lucian Kuranz says the foundation helped him get started on hormone therapy.,

“Doing that on my own would have been incredibly nerve-wracking, and I just would’ve been really scared to do it on my own,” Kuranz said. “So, having them there to help me was just a game-changer for somebody like me.”

The foundation also helped Jay Swanson change his name in court earlier this month.

“It’s one thing to be able to access resources with whatever name you choose, but it’s another to have that congruence in yourself that my ID reflects who I really am,” Swanson said.

Swanson said that having an advocate for the LGBTQIA+ community in Rockford is something that’s sorely needed.

“We are people and we just want to live our lives, and the way that society is set up, there are so many barriers to that,” Swanson said.

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