“It Gets Worse”: The Importance of Leelah Alcorn

We here at the Daily Geekette are saddened by the death of Leelah Alcorn. Although many of you may not have heard of her until today, we ask that you not let her name fall into obscurity as New Year’s festivities clog up media coverage that matters.  All lives matter, but not all lives are threatened by the persecution transgender people face.

It is difficult to give you a hard statistic on how many transgender lives are lost each year because such studies are still relatively new. The short answer is, too many. According to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, the prevalence of suicide attempts among the respondents was 41%! The only hard fact we can give you is that Leelah Alcorn is one of far too many of those losses.

leelah2

Leelah Alcorn was a seventeen year old transgender woman who committed suicide two days ago. The Ohio native published her suicide note via a queued Tumblr post: in it, Leelah cited her parent’s strict Christian beliefs and unacceptance as a detriment to her mental health and identity.

[When I told my mom] 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.

The following expressed opinion about the death of Leelah Alcorn is a reflection of the author, Brianna Murch, and not Daily Geekette as a whole.

Rolling Stone, Cosmopolitan, USA Today: online support is pouring in from all over the globe. On the Justice for Leelah Alcorn page, there are comments from the Netherlands and Central America, and links to articles posted in France, Italy, Australia, and the UK. Celebrities like Gerard Way and Perez Hilton have even commented about the tragedy on social media, and both Twitter and Tumblr are fired up over Leelah’s death.

One of the images Leelah reblogged on tumblr
One of the images Leelah reblogged on tumblr

State troopers are still officially investigating, but between the scheduled tumblr post and the original news report which used Leelah’s birth name, most people have already come to the same conclusion. It’s hard to imagine there is any other explanation for why Leelah is dead besides what she told the world in her own words. After years of knowing she was born in the wrong body, Leelah was ecstatic when she learned the word transgender. But her family didn’t share in that joy. Instead, they encouraged Christian-based conversion therapy and forced isolation. Many people take to the internet and thrive on anonymity; Leelah found a place that acknowledged her real self.  On Tumblr she had the kindness of strangers who encouraged her hopes to transition, but in the end it simply wasn’t enough to balance out what she felt at home.

Leelah’s mother “acknowleged” the death of her child on Facebook, but has since made her profile private. Probably because her idea of acknowledgement involved misgendering and misnaming her child, as well as implying that the death was an accident. It also took her two days to correct her child’s age in the status.

calcorn2

I’m sorry, but no.

LEELAH Alcorn committed suicide on December 28th, 2014 by walking in front of a tractor-trailer around 2:30am. There is nothing “accidental” or “early morning” about that. That was an intentional act committed by a young woman who felt she had no other option. I may not be a religious person, but I do have a problem with anyone who turns religion into a burden instead of a blessing, and from Leelah’s words about her home life, that seems exactly what her family did.

Her parents are asking for privacy to grieve, and that’s well within their rights. It’s also why I blocked out the mother’s name above. I don’t approve of my peers online who’ve sent “You should be ashamed/You’re a terrible parent” messages, because that crap just isn’t cool. The Alcorns shouldn’t be concerning themselves with the hateful thoughts of other people, they should focus on the last words of the daughter they didn’t recognize.

One of the few art pieces Leelah shared on tumblr
Art by Leelah Alcorn

She was seventeen. She was an artist. She was a feminist. She liked fashion photography, Lolita culture, and anime, particularly Sailor Moon and Revolutionary Girl Utena. She was funny. She wanted to be a fashion designer or work at Disney.  She never went “to a ‘real’ concert” or owned perfume. She hated her body and thought about deleting some of the pictures she’d previously posted. And it meant the world to her when someone used the correct pronouns. This was a real girl. I have friends and family like her. I could have followed her on Tumblr. She could’ve written for Daily Geekette.

HER NAME WAS LEELAH. And she wanted her death to mean something.

The only way I will rest in peace is if one day transgender people aren’t treated the way I was, they’re treated like humans, with valid feelings and human rights. Gender needs to be taught about in schools, the earlier the better. […] 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.

City Council member Chris Seelbach of Cincinnatti, OH  was one of the first to speak about Leelah, declaring “we have to do better”. He’s currently encouraging donations to TransOhio. On Facebook, the aforementioned Justice for Leelah Alcorn now has a sister page and a change.org petition called Leelah’s Law, seeking to ban conversion therapy.

If you are thinking about suicide, please read this. There is also the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at (800) 273-8255, and Trans Lifeline, dedicated specifically to Transgender people in crisis. Their U.S. hotline is (877) 565-8860. To donate to TransOhio, click here. On Twitter, the hashtag RealLiveTransAdult has started.

Trans men and women have been killing themselves for longer than we even know; this isn’t a wake-up call, this is a bang on your front door telling you to get off your butt and DO something.

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3 thoughts on ““It Gets Worse”: The Importance of Leelah Alcorn

  1. “The following expressed opinion about the death of Leelah Alcorn is a reflection of the author, Brianna Murch, and not Daily Geekette as a whole.”

    Very awkward placing, and wording.

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