Today is June 10th and we’re going to talk about Leelah Alcorn, a transgender teenager. This story is an emotional and heartbreaking one, it talks about suicide and depression. Be warned.
Leelah Alcorn was born on November 15th, 2997. Assigned male at birth, Leelah came out as transgender at 14 but her parents were ultra-religious people and they reacted to her coming out negatively. Leelah talked about how her parents’ rejection had made her hate herself for who she was. Her parents refused to accept her identity and at 16, when Leelah requested to undergo transition treatment, they sent her to Christian conversion therapy.
A bit later, Leelah told her parents about her attraction towards men, hoping that having her parents see her as a “gay man” might make then grow to accept her as a woman. Sadly, it resulted in her parents putting her in online school and taking away her social media. During the five months that Leelah was cut off from the world, she began to feel isolated and suicidal. Even when her parents returned her phone, her friendships were strained so she continued to feel alone. Shortly before her death, Leelah began to seek help from Reddit. There she talked about what her parents said to her and how it was all affecting her mental health. She also said she was being prescribed increasing dosages of Prozac.
Leelah Alcorn committed suicide on December 28th, 2014 before 2:30AM. She walked into traffic on Interstate 71 at the age of 17. She scheduled for her suicide note to automatically upload to Tumblr at 5:30PM on the day of her death. In her note, she talked about her life and why she chose to end it. She asked that all of her possessions and money be given to transgender advocacy charity. She concluded with:
“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 fucked up’ and fix it. Fix society. Please.”
There was a second note called “Sorry” which was an apology to her closest friends and siblings. In it, she addressed her parents saying, “Fuck you. You can’t just control other people like that. That’s messed up.” The notes were spread across the internet but Leelah’s mother had them taken down and the account privated. Following Leelah’s death, her parents released a statement misgendering her and calling her by her dead name. Even in death, her parents refused to give their child support. Her parents were called out by social media users and LGBT activists alike for what they did and IMO rightfully so.
For me, I remember seeing the Tumblr post. I was 14 years old at the time. I knew about myself but I was in the closet to my family. I remember the article in People Magazine, I ripped it out and hid it away in my room. I was afraid of someone seeing it and making jokes. I remember reading it over and over and wishing I could have helped her. Even to this day, 6 years later. If you’re a part of the LGBT+ community, I see you as my people, I know some of the things you went through and I want to help you as much as I can. The LGBT community are my people, Leelah was my people, and her suicide affected us all.
Teen suicide rates are higher in those of the LGBT community, people need to understand that. People need to understand how fucked up conversion therapy is. Following Leelah’s death, there was a petition to have conversion therapy banned in every state but sadly it did not come to fruition. People also need to know how absolutely draining and heavy it is to carry self-hatred about your sexuality or gender with you every single day. Add on when you have other people telling you that you’re wrong and an abomination? Well, that is one of the most dehumanizing feelings of it all.
I might not know what it is like to be transgender but I do know that I want to use my voice to help anyone who is feeling alone or hating themselves. I know that I want to help kids who have been told they are unloveable and wrong because they’re gay, bi, transgender, queer, etc. I want to help those kids live long happy lives, and I’ll do anything I can. I’ve lived through the storm of self-hatred and doubt- the whole mess of it that I won’t delve into – and I never want another kid to feel like that.
Leelah was gone way too soon. Her death is not for nothing. We must help change the world we live in. Help make the world safer for transgender people, everywhere.
We miss you, Leelah.
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Featured Image:Time Magazine