The 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.
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.
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.
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
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
Links if you need help