Co-authored by Jillian Kinder
Seventeen-year-old Leelah Alcorn committed suicide early Sunday morning in Warren County, Ohio. In her suicide note, she illustrated her struggle when coming to terms with her gender identity. Once she finally discovered that she was not alone in her struggle, she was ecstatic. Trying to reveal her identity to her friends and family was another story.
In an effort to provide a stepping stone for coming out as transgender, Alcorn came out as gay at 16. In response, her parents pulled her out of school and cut off from the outside world for five months. According to her suicide note, she asked her parents for help medically transitioning and received Christian therapy instead. The therapists told her that "[she] was selfish and wrong, and that [she] should look to God for help."
After five months of being cut off from society, she was allowed to receive her electronics. Leelah quickly realized that her friends were in fact, not friends at all, just people that "only liked me because they saw me five times a week."
After summing up her history and reasons for making this decision, Leelah pleaded with readers of the note to take action after her death. "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."
Many teens and young adults took to Twitter to express their reactions.
Several tweets mourned for Leelah:
I'm so heartbroken for #LeelahAlcorn . This is why I campaign for not just trans* rights, but LGBT+ rights.
— Jillian K. (@JillGeeRAWRd) December 31, 2014
The majority of reactions included not only sadness for Leelah's suicide, but also anger for the reaction of her mother and school district after her death. Both her mother and the school district referred to her as Joshua, her birth name. Her mother went as far as denying the fact that it was suicide; rather, it was an accident that Leelah was hit by a truck.
Several tweets condemned Leelah's parents:
don't say #LeelahAlcorn's suicide was selfish. selfish = driving your kid to suicide because you're scared of a "bad image". that's selfish
— ☆ (@bluemeths) December 30, 2014
Some tweets called for change:
The discussion about transgender rights doesn't end until people stop treating being transgender as an enigma. #LeelahAlcorn
— Morgan Levy (@morganslevy) December 31, 2014
It doesn't matter what fiction you believe in. Respect your child. Don't use religion as an excuse to be an asshole. #LeelahAlcorn
— Tyler Oakley (@tyleroakIcy) December 31, 2014
"It gets better." No. It should be better right now. We don't have time to wait for it to "get better." RIP #LeelahAlcorn
— James Wilson (@JaySonOfWil) December 31, 2014
Some offered help to LGBTQ teens:
Many adults shared personal stories through the #RealLiveTransAdult hashtag:
And some hoped for the future:
I relate very strongly to #LeelahAlcorn and it feels good to know I can actually raise awareness of trans struggles
— Cuck Mangione (@AtlasSmugged) December 30, 2014
"My death needs to mean something."
We will make sure that it does.
Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.