Leelah’s Legacy

Leelah%27s+Legacy

Carla Wood Alcorn loved her son–but not her daughter. It was this that drove Leelah Alcorn, a 17-year-old transgender girl, to commit suicide on December 28th, 2014. She is not the first trans teen to be driven to suicide in this way, nor will she be the last, but her death has elicited a response from the trans community like few before it.

Before Leelah killed herself by jumping in front of a moving truck, she had scheduled a suicide note to post to her Tumblr at 5:30 pm. In this note, she details her reasons for committing suicide, blaming it on society and, more specifically, her parents’ treatment of trans people and trans women in particular.

In her suicide note, she states, “[When I told my mother I was transgender]…she reacted extremely negatively, telling me that it was a phase, that I would never truly be a girl, that God doesn’t make mistakes, that I am wrong. If you are reading this, parents, please don’t tell this to your kids. Even if you are Christian or are against transgender people don’t ever say that to someone, especially your kid. That won’t do anything but make them hate them self. That’s exactly what it did to me.” Furthermore, she reports that her family sent her to biased Christian conversion therapists in the hopes of convincing her she was a boy, and that they completely cut her off from her friends after coming out at school as gay.

Even after Alcorn’s death, her parents, Carla and Doug Alcorn, refused to acknowledge their daughter’s gender, or even the real circumstances of her death. Carla made this clear on her Facebook timeline, writing, “My sweet 16 year old son, Joshua Ryan Alcorn went home to heaven this morning. He was out for an early morning walk and was hit by a truck. Thank you for the messages and kindness and concern you have sent our way. Please continue to keep us in your prayers.” The post has since been deleted, and Carla’s Facebook made private, but is still visible in screenshots.

In an interview with CNN, Carla further misgenders her daughter, saying, “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.” This seems to be the root of the issue; although Leelah’s parents loved the son they thought they had, they failed to love the daughter that they did have.

However, Leelah’s parents have not been the only ones responding to her death. As mentioned, Leelah’s death has caused mass uproar within trans activist communities. These groups place the blame for her death squarely upon her parents, who failed to provide her with proper support and love she needed to survive. They have taken her up as a martyr for the advancement of the wellbeing of trans people, along with the many other trans women who have been murdered or committed suicide, including far too many disabled trans women and trans women of colour.

In the final paragraph of her suicide note, Leelah pleads, “My death needs to mean something. 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 fu—d up’ and fix it. Fix society. Please.” In accordance to these wishes, petitions have been started in her name hoping to bring awareness to the problems facing trans women in society. Preeminent among these is a petition called Leelah’s Law, which looks to ban conversion therapy for trans youth. This is when someone in a position of power of a trans person, typically a parent, sends them to a counselor in the hopes of convincing them they are not trans.

Leelah writes of this in her note, saying, “My mom started taking me to a therapist, but would only take me to Christian therapists, (who were all very biased) so I never actually got the therapy I needed to cure me of my depression. I only got more Christians telling me that I was selfish and wrong and that I should look to God for help.” This petition to ban conversion therapy has reached over 300 000 signatures as of January 8th, 2015.

Now two months since Leelah’s suicide, it is still unclear exactly what her death will bring about for trans women alive today. With a current life expectancy of approximately 30 years and a suicide attempt rate of 41%, trans women are not safe in today’s world. Leelah had hoped for that to change, and it is up for the living to carry on her message.

 

If you would like to read Leelah Alcorn’s full suicide note, or learn more about her, an archive of her blog is available at thelazerprincessarchives.tumblr.com, although her parents had her original blog taken down.