On June 19th, a 31-year-old artist sat on a park bench, downtown in Portland’s Lownsdale Park. According to witnesses there was conflict over the person’s gender identity. They were on crutches, and dressed for summer in shorts and a tank top. They had dreaded hair, and wore a red scarf as they sifted through papers. A few minutes later they poured what appeared to be “dirty water” over themselves.
Next, according to witness Donna Maxey, “All of a sudden I saw a blue lighter.”
Before that they read a manifesto on issues such as mental illlness, and homelessness. One bystander took off his shirt in an attempt to stop the flames but, it was already too late. They were taken to the Oregon Burn Center at Emanuel Hospital, where they passed away later that day from their burns.
"We asked them why they'd done it," Peter Stratacos told Oregon Live. "They said it was because they were homeless and they didn't know what else to do."
In the first news stories from last week, their name was not immediately known. It was later updated the person was known as Chloe Sagal. If you search for their name you quickly find it across a broad spectrum of publications. Oregon Live, Variety, and curiously KnowYourMeme. At first, in terms of the last website, I thought someone had already created a mocking meme. When I saw it was created in 2013, I read through to learn Sagal was a talented artist and gifted designer of video games. According to KnowYourMeme:
On November 22nd, 2012, Sagal released the video game Homesick, a murder-mystery horror game, in which players attempt to catch a killer. The game received a 72 score on the review aggregator Metacritic (based on eight critical reviews).
The entry then goes on to discuss an incident which happened in April of 2013, involving an Indiegogo campaign. According to Sagal, they needed funds for a medical procedure to remove a “foreign object” after being in a car accident.
“Since the object is metallic, it is causing me to suffer from Metal Poisoning, a particularly nasty thing to get, as it makes me prone to illness, weakness, involuntary twitching, etc. I'm also more than likely going to suffer permanent brain damage (if I haven't already) if the object is not removed. Eventually it will kill me; at this point in time, my doctor gave me a few years before I had to remove the object."
Next, the entry alleges the campaign was shut down because Sagal was not seeking donations for the surgery described in Indiegogo. Instead, they sought to use the funds for gender reassignment surgery. Perhaps because of the notariety gained from the Homesick video game, Kiwi Farms began to harass her online.
The website claims to be a:
“Community dedicated to discussing eccentric people who voluntarily make fools of themselves. Explore abnormal psychology and the minds of Internet crazies.”
The entry in RationalWiki however paints a darker picture.
“Kiwi Farms is a controversial American internet forum that stalks who the site's users refer to as "lolcows", supposed internet eccentrics.”
The New Yorker goes one step further, calling them: “the web’s biggest community of stalkers” specializing “in harassing people they perceive as being mentally ill or sexually deviant in some way.”
Given that Sagal was known to suffer with mental illness and identified as transgender, seeking resources for transitioning, this would make them a prime target for such a band of cyberbullies. Suicide was apparently a subject Sagal repeatedly discussed on their Facebook page. KiwiFarms would then alert the social media giant ordering her posts be taken down.
If you search for Chloe Sagal on Facebook a few matches come up. One such account has not really been active since 2017. The “Intro” reads as a warning; literally, be aware:
“Terrified of everything. Frequently has traumatizing emotional outbursts, be aware.”
Posted to it, there are references to the rise of fasicm. Respnders calling Sagal “crazy as a loon” and urged them to leave the country. There’s link to Patreon, where creatives can try to make money from games and other pursuits.
There’s a picture of a horse, instead of a professional headshot, or selfie. Under that it says:
“Chloe Sagal is creating games and art.”
Given the use of a photo of a duck on the Facebook page, the use of the horse as the image on the Patreon account makes sense. But why? The harrassment from KiwiFarms was too much for Sagal to bear. Both animals seem to be peering out at the world, but not letting anyone else look in.
In 2013, according to Hornet, Sagal attempted suicide by livestreaming it. Her friends apparently knew suicide was constantly on her mind. They point the finger at Kiwi Farms. However, it seems Sagal was also guilty of harassing others. Including transgender activisit Zinnia Jones, who in August of 2016 shared claims of a death threat by Sagal.
“I feel like when I get a death threat it’s probably a good idea to save it for the record. Here’s one from just now.”
In response to Sagal tweeting,
“I’m going to get together whatever money I can and I’m going to go find Zinnia Jones and I’m going to kill her.”
A symptom of being bullied, a response to being disenfranchised and abused, is often to bully others. Clearly, this must of been at least part of the threat made on twitter. What caused the rift between the two transgender women? On the face of things people might say Jones and Sagal should have, at least in theory, have been civil to each other as being part of the same community. PQ has reached out to ZInnia Jones via her Twitter. We hope to bring you more as this story continues to develop.
This is a developing story. PQ is actively seeking out friends in the community who knew Sagal. Email email@example.com if you were a friend or can put us in touch with someone who knew Sagal.