Transgender Teen Leelah Alcorn Sends Challenge by Suicide

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transgenderLeelah Alcorn, age 17, of Cincinnati, Ohio, died this past Sunday by suicide, leaving a social media note challenging society. In the note, she talked about a “societal lesson” regarding discrimination and intolerance of transgender people.

The teen had identified as a girl since age 4. At age 14 she learned about the concept of transgender and “cried tears of joy” that she had found her identity. When she told this realization to her mother, however, Mrs. Alcorn did not share her daughter’s happiness.

In fact, Carla Wood Alcorn denied her daughter’s new reality. In Leelah’s note that was programmed to go live yesterday on Tumblr, she described telling her mom three years ago. [Her mom] reacted very negatively, telling [Leelah] that it was a phase, that [she is] wrong, that God doesn’t make mistakes, that [she] would never truly be a girl.”

Leelah wrote that she was in a no-win situation and would always be lonely and would never be happy. She felt that she would either live the rest of her life wishing she were a woman or living life as a woman, but hating herself.

On Sunday Leelah walked onto Interstate 71 outside of Cincinnati and was struck and killed by a tractor trailer. In her online suicide note, she described her unbearable loneliness, telling her story about her personal struggle and that her parents were both religious and unaccepting.

transgenderIn her suicide note, Leelah tells that when she turned 16, she asked her parents for help to start transitioning. Their response was to take her out of public school, and further isolate her by removing her phone and laptop and refusing to allow her to do social media of any kind for a period of five months. When she got back in touch with her friends, however, their support was absent.

Leelah wrote that she knew that she was not isolated in her pain. Statistically, according to some studies, almost two-thirds of those who identify as transgender have contemplated suicide. Out of her severe distress, the transgender teen Leelah Alcorn said that she wanted her death by suicide to challenge society by teaching a lesson. In her note, she pleaded that society be “fixed.”

Leelah said that she wanted her death to bring about change. She expressed that she would rest in peace only when transgender people are understood to have “valid feelings and human rights.”

Leelah’s mom, Carla Wood Alcorn, also took to social media to write about her daughter’s death. In her now-deleted Facebook post on Sunday, she wrote about her “sweet son, Joshua Ryan Alcorn [going] home … to heaven. She described that her “son” was out for a walk when he was accidently hit by a truck and she asked her supporters to keep the family in their prayers.

Now that the social media note has gone viral with the hashtag #leelahalcorn, people are responding to Leelah’s final wish that her suicide mean something. A crisis line at Trans Lifeline is staffed by transgender people ready to respond to those in need.

transgenderThere is an outpouring of compassion and grief for Leelah’s death. Andreja Pejić, is an Australian model and a transgender woman who is ethnically Serbian, Croatian, and Bosnian. Until 2014 Pejić was described as an “androgynous” male model. She describes herself as “living in-between genders.” Pejić tweeted about the tragic familiarity of Leelah’s situation, and remarked how her death was both preventable and a disgrace.

In her note, transgender teen Leelah Alcorn said she viewed her death by suicide as an challenge to society to “teach it a lesson.” She said that it doesn’t “get better.” In her case, it gets worse. She signed her note (Leelah) Josh Alcorn. Many who are in the role of supporting LGBTQ teens are posting now about the necessity of reaching them before it is too late.

By Fern Remedi-Brown

Featured Image by Morten Wulff – Flickr License
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