The suicide of a seventeen year old transgender teen, born as Josh Alcorn, has ignited a whirlwind of public attention on social media over the past few weeks.
Signed as Leelah, the teen wrote an online suicide note on her Tumblr, which has now been removed at her parent’s request. In this note, Leelah expresses the struggles she experienced as she tried to accept and understand her identity as a transgender person. Once Leelah discovered what transgender meant at the age of fourteen, she turned to her mother for guidance. Rather than reacting with support and care, her mother responded with fear and distress telling Leelah that she was going through a phase. While her mother’s intentions may have come from a place of love, the only help that Leelah received was from Christian therapists who held the same negative biases as her parents.
This wasn’t a phase for Leelah and the longer she waited for her parent’s approval, the deeper her depression grew. Leelah came out as gay at school, thinking that it would come as less of a shock if she eased into coming out as transgender. This only added to the tension between Leelah and her parents and it was at this point that she was pulled out of public school and pulled into isolation.
She ended her suicide note with a plea for action:
“My death needs to be counted in the number of transgender people who commit suicide this year. I want someone to look at that number and say ‘that’s fucked up’ and fix it. Fix society. Please.”
According to a recent study, 41% of transgender people attempt to commit suicide at some point in their life. These numbers are extremely alarming. The research reveals that rejection from family and friends and discrimination at work, school or when seeking healthcare results in higher rates of suicide attempts among transgender people.
Following Leelah’s death on December 28, 2014, her parents continue to disprove of their child’s gender identity. “We don’t support that, religiously,” Alcorn’s mother told CNN,”But we told him that we loved him unconditionally. We loved him no matter what. I loved my son. People need to know that I loved him. He was a good kid, a good boy.”
Leelah Alcorn’s death has inspired endless support for the transgender community and above all stresses how important it is that both parents and their children have adequate resources to eliminate transphobia and support healthy relationships.
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To learn more about the transgender gender identity