Leelah, The Child god Forgot to Save

LeelahThe article you are about to read will be one that has touched my heart deeply. Suicide and depression are something that is of a serious nature, but when it comes by the means of bullying and oppression, I have less tolerance for it. This story is important, as I wanted to contribute to the voices that no longer can share their own voice. We need to stand up not only as allies, but also as the voices for this teenager.

On December 28th at roughly 2 am in Warren County Ohio, a teenager took their own life on the side of the highway. The teenager stepped out into oncoming traffic and was killed by oncoming traffic. While this headline may seem shocking and disturbing by itself since all suicides are tragic, a lose of life at such a young age of 17 compounds the emotional train that took me for a journey as I read through the research for this event.

Screen Shot 2014-12-30 at 2.14.36 PM

But what makes this story even more tragic is the fact that there is a suicide note left on a tumblr account. The suicide note, cryptic as it was, reveals that the teenager that committed suicide was a transgender teen struggling with coming out as her true gender identity. Joshua wanted to be identified as Leelah. She desperately wanted to see a counselor so she could start to the process for transitioning. Now many of you may think that this would be a conversation had with her parents and that help would have been provided at least to see a counselor. Instead her parents instead took her to a Christian counselor. I do not want to speculate as to what was talked about, but according to Leelah’s tumblr we can conclude that she at least saw the counselor as someone with a bias torwards what she was going through. We do not know exactly what counselors she was taken to but in her suicide not, Leelah specifically calls them out as having an agenda. What is even more tragic is the call for help she gave to her parents. They instead grounded her and isolated her away from the world, well of course except for taking her to church.Screen Shot 2014-12-30 at 2.15.28 PM

This story breaks my heart as I was reading it. It breaks my heart because this lonely girl was trapped in a body she did not feel was her own. She was relocated to the corner of her parents’ life because their religion deemed her “unfit” or “against god” according to what their religion taught them. Their fucking religion came before their own daughter and her health. Their religion or how they acted on their belief is what caused her depression to go untreated. We lost a bright light this week, to the confines and restrictions that accompany religion. So if you will excuse my language and excuse my demeanor, but when this type of tragedy happens, and religion is the driving force behind what denied this young girl the help she needed, I can not help myself when I agree with Christopher Hitchens that “Religion Poisons Everything.” Had religion not been apart of this family’s life, this girl may still be alive. Leelah wanted only a few things, love and acceptance. She was denied love from her family, and she was denied proper treatment. Even if she would not have been able to find love from her family, they could have at least taken her to a counselor that would have helped her to find the strength within her self to appreciate who she wanted to be.

Some will say that her father Doug or her mother Carla were just bad parents, and that maybe it was not religion that helped them make their decision to take her to a Christian counselor. Some will say look how many others have overcome or gained an understanding of gender equality, and do not treat their children in the same manner. To those people I say, “good for you.” But look at what you had to overcome. You had to overcome a doctrine that talks badly about women. You had to overcome a doctrine that calls for the stoning of homosexuals. A doctrine that god calls for the killing of innocent humans because they were “evil”. This book is something that contains atrocities comparable to the holocaust. And even if you could use apologetics to twist what was written into something that makes you feel comfortable worshiping this god of the bible, you still have to contend with the religious side that has mutated to help control the population to make sure that it’s beliefs remain relevant. Even if we left the doctrine alone, we still have the malicious groups who strive to infect their beliefs that only men and women should marry and that there is no such thing as a transgender individual. Some of these groups push that being transgender is a selfish position, and that it is ultimately a sin. So to those who say it could have been the parents, while this could be true, at least their church pushed the belief that being a transgender is not a natural state of being, and we can say that if the religion was not there this belief would have been less likely held by her parents.Screen Shot 2014-12-30 at 12.47.59 PM

So now we are stuck here, with a sad story that will haunt us. What will we do? Where do we go? I pose the first and foremost thing is to bring to light the true story. A gracious city official posted this on his Facebook, and Danielle Muscato from American Atheists shared it. She sparked my desire to write this blog, to say something on behalf of Leelah. But we need to do more. We need to get this story to the news. We need to get the news outlets to change their online feeds to correct the conception that this was a young “man” that died and that it was a young women. We need to out what the Christian community instilled in her parents and seek to bring awareness to all those struggling that there is a way out. We need to build communities that welcome in wayward teens who are struggling to find themselves or to help them become the true gender they desire. Most importantly we must not forget Leelah. We must push for the family to give her a proper burial as the girl Leelah wanted to be. We need to get the story to the media so that the truth can be heard.

If you feel moved by this piece please contact her family, contact the media and help me get the word out to correct the perception and allow for Leelah to rest in peace the way she would want to be.

Leelah’s Tumblr: http://lazerprincess.tumblr.com/
Leelah’s Suicide Note: http://lazerprincess.tumblr.com/post/106447705738/suicide-note
Leelah’s pictures identifying her: http://lazerprincess.tumblr.com/post/106096940091/im-seeing-a-bunch-of-people-do-a-6-selfies-of

Leelah’s Father Doug: https://www.facebook.com/doug.alcorn
Leelah’s Mother Carla: https://www.facebook.com/carla.alcorn

Original News Article: http://m.abc22now.com/news/Teen_Struck_and_Killed_on_I-71_in_Warren_County?mobileredirect=true
Recent News Story: http://www.wcpo.com/news/local-news/warren-county/joshua-alcorn-kings-mill-teen-killed-on-i-71-remembered-as-sweet-talented
Email address of local news station: webteam@wcpo.com

Links if you need help

http://www.transhousingnetwork.com

http://www.thetrevorproject.org/

Reddit Article: http://www.reddit.com/r/atheism/comments/2qufpb/leelah_the_child_god_forgot_to_save/

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17 Replies to “Leelah, The Child god Forgot to Save”

  1. Just a quick question. Have you actually talked to any trans people to see how they might see this interest from the atheist community? This story is depressingly common. I myself considered suicide many times as a queer person and this article is making me uncomfortable.

    I read this story yesterday and was brought to tears over her words. It was such a familiar story that I’ve heard over and over from some of the few survivors who made it through situations like that. What makes me particularly uncomfortable is the call for activism in this case against the parents. They are deplorable and awful and even evil as far as I can believe in such a thing. Having a swarm of angry atheists descending upon them will change nothing and may even make them look sympathetic. As atheists we can acknowledge that this girl is now beyond our help. We cannot change what happened to her, we cannot make it right by burying her as a woman.

    If the parents could be persuaded to let it happen, and it did publicly and not under duress it could be a useful symbol to other trans youth who are considering the same. It would tell them that parents are not always unchangeable, that there might be hope in the future. But I highly doubt that change will come from the types of angry atheist rhetoric that I saw in the article as justified as it is.

    “If you have come to help me, then you can go back home. But if you see my struggle as part of your own survival, then perhaps we can work together.”
    (Coalition, September, 1992: 2)

    This is why I asked it you are in touch with the trans community and if so what did they have to add to the conversation? The only trans voice I heard in your article was the girl who killed herself. I perhaps am mistaken and you are trans yourself, that was not revealed in the article however. I’m not even able to say what a better response than the one you suggested would be because I am not trans myself, just gay and a little gender queer.

    I am trying to be as loving as I can in this response because I appreciate your pain, compassion and anger for what happened. It was horrible. I would just humbly suggest that if you want to venture into social justice territory that isn’t your own struggle, that you seek out and include those affected most in your message.

    The quote above is from a disabilities studies journal and is part of the “nothing about us without us” movement that has expanded to be part of any disempowered group that usually well meaning people study or talk about. Religion is a big part of the rationale for many atrocities in this world both now and through history, but it is not the only driver nor is it the prime mover. For example, the genocide of the native americans was driven as much by white supremacy and capitalism as it was by religion. To reduce the trans struggle to just religion fails to acknowledge the full truth of this injustice and lived reality.

    Again, thank you for caring, too few people do. Let’s find a way to change the world for the better for people like her. Vengeance, at least for me, rings hollow here.

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    1. I appreciate the comments. I have been a trans and lgbtq Ally for probably 8 years now openly speaking out. I understand you want the article to be written by a trans person and I have nothing against that either. I also know many trans individuals in the movement and am personal friends with them well.

      But that doesn’t mean I should be quiet. It doesn’t mean I should wait and let someone else write something. As allies we have to speak up. We have to voice that we are disgusted with this treatment. We have to tell people that they need to also stand up. Without the support of everyone a minority group will get bullied. Would it be more powerful coming from a transgender individual yes I think it would. But that doesn’t mean I should keep quiet.

      As for not harassing the parents I am split. I think they are horrible people but I think their religion is worse. That is why I posed it as either their religion has made them bad people or they are bad people. But ultimately if we didn’t have religion we would not have this as big of an issue. I still think it could be but not to the extent it is because of religion. I am sorry but I think religion has done so few good things for society that I would rather not have it at all.

      But I am not reducing the trans struggle to just religion because people are bigoted no matter what. But I can point out that the struggle would be easier without religion especially if we accepted science for what it was and instead of going to church on Sunday they spent 3 hours reading about science. Knowledge is power.

      Lastly if you don’t feel the need to give the girl a proper burial that is fine. You don’t have to. I feel that it would send a message to society no matter what that even if someone doesn’t accept their child as trans that society will and society will start to instill this in people since the parents have failed to do so.

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      1. “As for not harassing the parents I am split. I think they are horrible people but I think their religion is worse. That is why I posed it as either their religion has made them bad people or they are bad people.”

        They are bad people? I’m sorry, do you know what actually happened or did you just go blog surfing? On what basis or standard do you call them “bad”? If you are a father, and I think I heard on one of your programs you are, aren’t you lucky the public doesn’t know your misdeeds and bad choices as a parent. If I find a story of a teenager who commits suicide in an atheist, agnostic, or this latest BS I’ve been reading about “apatheist” household, who will you blame? The facts are what they are for this case, and they don’t need your spin on the matter to suit your agenda. If you want to raise awareness for your cause, so be it. But you’re sounding as “judgmental” as religionists are portrayed as. If you were once one of those kinds of Christians, you may have left the religion, but you kept the same vitriol.

        “But ultimately if we didn’t have religion we would not have this as big of an issue. I still think it could be but not to the extent it is because of religion. I am sorry but I think religion has done so few good things for society that I would rather not have it at all.”

        Oh I see, you have the mystical power to peer into parallel universes that don’t have religion. Religion may not be here in a hundred or a thousand years, but it is here now. Get over it, dude. If there was no religion, narcissistic personalities would still rise up and call the people so some ideological action. I never had a problem with the “question authority” kind of slogan. I think that’s good, but you can actually do that without being an asshole as well. Believe it or not, I like what you and Atheist Analysis is doing. Some things are thought provoking, but then there are some moments of vitriol like my encounter with those Prophetcast idiots, and the messenger(s) lose their credibility, and ultimately hurts the message.

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      2. Laurence,

        The parents locked Leelah away!. They took every form of communication away from her except CHURCH! They took her even out of school (which was confirmed by WPCO News). They gave her back her stuff after months of isolation then they restricted where she could go. She said over the last year she had seen her friends 3 times! You tell me how the hell that is right? And we are not talking about Leelah being a bad person and getting caught stealing or harming others, BUT BECAUSE SHE IS TRANSGENDER! Come on Laurence how the can you sit there and type this with a serious face? It is not because Leelah killed herself just because she was depressed. She was isolated, taken to counselors that do not care to deal with transgender issues (probably because they they do not believe in it) and give a high dose of anti depressants which in teens has been known to cause suicide.

        So if an atheist or apitheist house hold respected a child for any reason to that extreme of a basis, sent them to counselors that only practiced pseudo-science, and then allowed their child to take high dose of medication that has been shown to increase the risk for suicide then I would be just as angry. And if this same house hold did this because of something they did not understand that did not harm the family, I would be fucking irate.

        So I am not being unjust in my analysis of their parenting. I am taking the known information and making a judgment based on it which is what all normal people do. I even gave them the benefit of the doubt and said that their religion had poisoned their thinking. You eluded to that they were bad parents and their religion had nothing to do with it.

        Now I have reasons to believe and there has been books written by others that suggest we would be better off without religion. You do not get to make the claim that I am using mystic power to see what would happen without religion and then turn around and say if we diid not have religion that we would be narcissistic personalities rising up. You are guilty accusing me of what you did your self in the next sentence. Now the problem is that this blog nor my second one was not the time or the place to discuss life without religion. I can write a future blog if you want but these blogs were not about the total overview that life would be better without religion.

        Last I bestow anger and vitriol when ignorance is displayed. Her parents with either bad parents or ignorant because of their religion.

        But my latest batch of vitriol comes because while I will continue to have the conversation about religion and will keep my vitriol in check for that, THE LIVES of Transgender individuals and the ignorance displayed in society for the UNEQUAL treatment of those individuals I will not keep my tongue. I will speak out, and pointedly because those that do not care nor understand the issue at some point are not worth discussing and I will fight to change the laws so people can not suppress Transgender Individuals.

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      3. http://evangelical-atheism.blogspot.com/2015/01/a-response-to-atheist-analysis_3.html

        “The parents locked Leelah away!. They took every form of communication away from her except CHURCH! They took her even out of school (which was confirmed by WPCO News). They gave her back her stuff after months of isolation then they restricted where she could go. She said over the last year she had seen her friends 3 times! You tell me how the hell that is right?”

        Are you saying non-religious parents wouldn’t do this? I don’t believe I’ve seen any Biblical or church directive that has ever prescribed this. Maybe their brand of Christianity or their pastor advised this; I really don’t know (and neither do you). I think a commentary on the choices these parents made can be assessed on their own. Any causal relationship their behavior has with their religion from what we can draw from what we know of the case would only be speculative. My opinion is that imposed isolation is not helpful for anyone that has symptoms of depression.

        “And we are not talking about Leelah being a bad person and getting caught stealing or harming others, BUT BECAUSE SHE IS TRANSGENDER!”

        So it would be justified punishment for those things?

        “Come on Laurence how the can you sit there and type this with a serious face? It is not because Leelah killed herself just because she was depressed. She was isolated, taken to counselors that do not care to deal with transgender issues (probably because they they do not believe in it) and give a high dose of anti depressants which in teens has been known to cause suicide.”

        Christopher, individuals commit suicide for all sorts of reasons. Everyone has varied thresholds of what their personalities can bare to take. It would only be opinion to suggest that it is because of the imposed isolation and inadequate counseling that led to the suicide. I was not aware the child was prescribed antidepressants. By whom was this prescribed? Primary physician or psychiatrist? As in any case even in adults psych meds can precede suicide, but you can’t really say they cause suicide.

        “So if an atheist or apitheist house hold respected a child for any reason to that extreme of a basis, sent them to counselors that only practiced pseudo-science, and then allowed their child to take high dose of medication that has been shown to increase the risk for suicide then I would be just as angry. And if this same house hold did this because of something they did not understand that did not harm the family, I would be fucking irate.”

        I didn’t ask if you would be mad. I asked what would you blame? If parents make bad choices then let’s talk about the choices. It is illogical to just blame their choices on their religion as the irreligious can and do make the same choices. You added “counselors that only practiced pseudo-science”. I was talking about atheists going to atheist therapists. Suicides happen for various reasons, Christopher. If a client commits suicide, you can’t just blame the methods of the professional. If the professional violates the code of thics for their license then that’s a different story.

        “So I am not being unjust in my analysis of their parenting. I am taking the known information and making a judgment based on it which is what all normal people do. I even gave them the benefit of the doubt and said that their religion had poisoned their thinking. You eluded to that they were bad parents and their religion had nothing to do with it.”

        If the religion influenced their choices then we would have to get that from their admission. Otherwise we are speculating on it. Maybe they learned it from their family culture? Who knows?

        “Now I have reasons to believe and there has been books written by others that suggest we would be better off without religion. You do not get to make the claim that I am using mystic power to see what would happen without religion and then turn around and say if we diid not have religion that we would be narcissistic personalities rising up. You are guilty accusing me of what you did your self in the next sentence.”

        Good point. So, let me retract my precognitions. That still leaves you with my objection. We can only imagine a world without religion. However, we do have atheistic societies that have nevertheless replaced religion for nationalism or some other personality cult. They have new documentaries on happiness ideologies by self-help gurus.

        “Now the problem is that this blog nor my second one was not the time or the place to discuss life without religion. I can write a future blog if you want but these blogs were not about the total overview that life would be better without religion.”

        OK. I look forward to it.

        “Last I bestow anger and vitriol when ignorance is displayed. Her parents with either bad parents or ignorant because of their religion.”

        Not sure who you will win over if vitriol is your approach. The parents may or may not have been ignorant because of their religion. I can’t say as I don’t know what their religion taught.

        “But my latest batch of vitriol comes because while I will continue to have the conversation about religion and will keep my vitriol in check for that, THE LIVES of Transgender individuals and the ignorance displayed in society for the UNEQUAL treatment of those individuals I will not keep my tongue. I will speak out, and pointedly because those that do not care nor understand the issue at some point are not worth discussing and I will fight to change the laws so people can not suppress Transgender Individuals.”

        More power to you. I can appreciate when people are passionate about causes they believe in. I was just curious if you feel your style wins people over to your cause. Otherwise you are preaching to your choir.

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  2. I fully understand your last point and believe that it would make a very strong statement. However, there is no legal route to do this. Our legal system still has echoes of parents owning their children. Even trans adults still get buried as their assigned gender if their parents wish it. I cannot see what an online campaign will accomplish beyond cyber vengeance.

    And by all means, post your feelings and thoughts. My only disquiet was the call to action and the seeming reduction of the struggle to religion. It felt very white knight to me and this article comes to mind:

    http://everydayfeminism.com/2013/11/things-allies-need-to-know/

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  3. Since religion in this case seems to be the reason for non-acceptance of this human being who took its own life, all religion needs to be classified as a terrorist organization and treated accordingly. Religion in this case is hateful and anyone supporting this type of hatred is a terrorist – against humanity. Why do some people seems to believe that they are worth more in their minds than anyone else and hide behind man made make believe tales for justification? In a society that cared this person should be alive today.

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  4. I grew up in a very gender confused household. Both mom and dad were USMC and being a girl was never an excuse and being a boy doesn’t mean you wear the pants how I grew up. I was an unofficial BoyScout and my dad basically taught our troop what the Marines learn for SERE school when we went camping. My brother never ventured over to explore the pink team the way I could bounce back and forth without any problems. I’m not transgendered, my dad is. Naturally, as daddy’s princess I knew all the secrets and for whatever reason I am not judgmental or freaked out by anything weird, don’t know how to be that way.

    I always felt like a girl pretending to be a boy that’s pretending to be a girl. I freaking love drag queen make up and sparkly dresses and pretending to be someone completely different. I have wigs, costumes, shoes that my mother fucking loathes and all my dads tranny friends love me. Most kids, including my conservative little brother are embarrassed when their parent is a “freak show” <—–my father and I have taken the insult out of that term, we embrace our freak show with pride.

    I love who my dad has become as a woman. Just because my dad has boobies now doesn't change our relationship in anyway. I still say "hey papa!" In public and little old ladies eyes get really big and my dad and I could not give a shit less. My dad rides a badass Harley wearing pig-tails and stands at 6'2" tall! I color and cut her hair when we are on the same side of the country for a visit. If it weren't for my dad loving me and reminding me that I am important to her my whole life I don't think I would have made it out of the dark parts of my life in such remarkably good mental condition. I'd like to think that if not for me cheering my papa on and being so proud of my dad in public all the time and with all types of people around, my dad might not have made it through the dark parts either.

    I can't imagine my life without my dad. Who else will invite the Mormons inside to discuss religion and then spring on them just about every single thing that Mormons are scared of but fascinated enough to ask to come back and help us ladies mow the yard!! Speaking of my dad……I totally screwed the pooch this year and forget to bake my dad sugar cookies and mail those out. Epic fail!

    Gotta go….i can feel my dad's tears and feelings of loneliness from across the entire country…..i wonder if I have any wildly inappropriate shaped cookie cutters in the kitchen????? My dad would love for me to send a delightful box of sugar cookie penis' to her house even if I'm a tad late on that right?

    That's what a transgendered family relationship looks like when religion and tact aren't screwing things up. Kind of weird maybe, but punishing people you love with religion is way more harmful than a box of cookies shaped like parts from your bathing suit areas. Think about it?

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    1. Cheri – Thank you for a very wonderful response. Very touching and definitely worth a share. I am glad you and your dad have a great relationship. These are the examples that everyone needs to learn from. Again thanks for sharing 🙂 And do not forget those cookies.

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  5. The jump to cause in this site is certainly indicative of the Atheist logic failures I’ve come to recognize. The stock caricature of an idea that what this couple did is a standard precept of their religion is what drives the hate speech and Atheist vitriol that oozes out of this site and others like it. Searching for ways to hate and relishing the Victimhood philosophy pushes the Atheist irrationality clear over the edge and into the arena of perceived self-Messiahism, elitism, and self-righteousness akin to Jim Jones and Westboro at their worst.

    Your hatred is eating your rationality, what little remains, and is substituting a pseudo-religious pogrom mentality. You are in a dangerous mind-set (aka bigoted), and you should reassess your concepts and worldview.

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