To Those Who Didn’t Make It, Leelah’s Continuing Story to Fix Society

leelah

“I dedicate this blog to my friend Samantha and all other transgender youth who have been affected by this.  My heart goes out for them.”

As events continue to unfold with Leelah Alcorn, I felt the need to write a brief follow up to my original post, “Leelah, the child god forgot to save.” If you have not read it or heard of the situation, please check it out, give it a share, and comment on it. In short, the article entailed the suicide of a transgender teen whose parents refused to acknowledge her need and desire to transition from her birth gender of male to her correct gender of female. I asserted that religion played a role in her parent’s decisions and actions. I also posited that if religion was not prominent that the world would be better off and have one less barrier to allowing individuals who identify as transgender to be accepted.

A critique that I received was that my post was aimed too heavily at religion, and that I put religion on the center pedestal, instead of the issue that in this country transgender individuals are marginalized. If this is the way the post came off, I apologize. My intention was not to place religion over transgender issues, but to show the correlation between religion and how closed-minded some individuals are, who hold their religious cards close without ever using skepticism to see if they are marginalizing those who are different. It is still evident that Leelah’s mother and father both still hold their religion over their love for their child. Whether or not they understood what it meant to be transgender probably did not stem solely from their religion, but from the culture we live in that does marginalize transgender individuals and that does not always even understand the issue. Her parents only use their religion as a lens to view the world, and while I still contend that without that lens we would be farther along in accepting transgender individuals, I will accept and promote that her parents failed to truly understand their daughter and learn what it meant to identify as a transgender.

leelah3In recent interviews with CNN and WPCO, Leelah’s parents have spoken out about their daughter. In both interviews, the parents stressed that they loved their child and they wanted to grieve in private. Doug and Carla Alcorn expressed concern with remaining private about this incident. Neither parent used the proper pronouns and refused to acknowledge that their “son” was really their daughter. This, to me, is very troubling and I feel this is an issue that we can work towards: helping future generations understand gender issues. While I could spend hours on how religion has enabled these parents to continue to hold their biases, I will leave that for other posts in the future. Since her parents still do not see their not being able to accept Leelah’s true identity as part of what helped encourage Leelah to take her own life, and because her parents are holding a private funeral, we have little hope of actually getting Leelah a proper burial as the woman she was. This was the original intent of my call to action, along with getting the news stories changed. The news media has shifted their stories and started to report her gender properly. Thanks to everyone who submitted and helped put pressure on news organizations to properly report Leelah’s story and her correct gender. As for her funeral, I am at a loss because there is no legal recourse I know of to insist she be buried as a woman. My hope was that if enough pressure were put on the parents they would concede or acknowledge their daughter as transgender. They have, to this point, not done either.

Recently someone showed me the Reddit posts from Leelah. She apparently had been conversing on Reddit about some of the therapy options she was not receiving.  She also entailed many of the different forms of “punishment” she received for expressing her desire to be a woman. If you have been through abuse as a transgender before, I encourage you to not read it, as this has intensified the images Leelah left in her original suicide note. But I wanted to touch on it for a reason. If you are reading this as an ally or someone desiring to learn more, these posts and comments on Reddit help show what someone goes through as a transgender individual trying to navigate a situation where the parents do not understand transgender individuals. Please read it and see what does not work. I also want to share an organization called Gender Diversity. They are a great organization that helps talk with parents and their children about gender identification. This would have been a great resource for Leelah’s parents, who obviously did not do the research. While I will shift my focus from her parents in a second, I still want to express the anger I feel for their role in Leelah’s depression. Their inability to change their desire to learn and accept Leelah as a woman still appalls me. leelah4

With that being said, I will apologize again if I isolated individuals by trying to focus on changing how Leelah would be buried. The intention was to help get national attention to transgender suicides, and to show that I stood with transgender individuals in life and in death. Since the possibility to change the minds of the parents seems very slim, I hope we can shift focus to the cause of helping “Fix Society” as Leelah asked us to do. One of the ways someone showed me was to support a Change.org petition going around to ask the president to enact a law to ban transgender conversion therapy. Leelah’s Law seeks to “call upon the President of the United State- Barack Obama, and the Leadership of the House and Senate to immediately seek a pathway for banning the practice known as transgender conversion therapy” and it also asks the president to “name the bill in memory of Leelah as the Leelah’s Alcorn Law and protect the lives of transgender youth.” This is a powerful sentiment and I hope everyone heads over to the website to support this movement.

Another post that showed up on my timeline gives ten examples for how others may help “fix society” in remembrance of Leelah.  The Facebook site, Justice for Leelah, provides these ten great examples.

1. Share this page and ask your friends to like, share and join in
2. Sign the Petition and ask others to sign http://www.change.org/FixSociety
3. Send us your stories so others can hear what is happening to transgender and gay, lesbian and bisexual youth
4. Report any incidents of violence, suicides, missing persons, murders or harassment you’ve experienced being transgender. http://www.data.transviolencetracker.com/Inc_Reporting
5. Post your vigil Information on the comments at this link:
http://www.leelahslaw.com/please-list-vigils-here/
6. Donate to Leelah’s Law project of “Fix Society” – Leelah’s Final Wish on the
http://www.leelahslaw.com/ site (our target goal is $50,000)
7. Get ready to call your State Legislators the week of January 12th and ask them to introduce Leelah’s Law at your State
8. Get ready to call your Senators and Congressmen the week of January 19th in Congress
9. Start sharing the Graphics that will be coming out tomorrow for Leelah’s Law to raise awareness
10. Read the talking points (coming out tomorrow) that can help explain what Leelah’s Law is.

In an effort to continue to improve my approaches and to continue to support the transgender community, I always look for ways to improve. It was expressed to me that I might be trying to talk for others. Here was my statement: “We need to stand up not only as allies, but also as the voices for this teenager.” I want to apologize if anyone felt I was trying to speak for transgender individuals. That was not my intention. I’m not implying, of course, that trans people can’t speak for themselves, but that our voices are strongest when we show our immense strength in numbers. I hope all allies stand with me and voice their support for all transgender individuals and we continually seek to improve our approach to support. I am not by any means an authority on the issues but want to support the transgender community as best as I can.

The last thing I want to address is about a blog post response I received. This last portion may not be for everyone, but I feel it required a response, as it was a negative attack on transgender individuals from someone who I do not consider an ally for anything but Christianity. His blog post can be read here. If you do not wish to read hate speech and ignorance, I will understand if this is where we part ways for now. I thank you for reading my blog and look forward to hearing your thoughts and suggestions in the comments. The more voices in support of transgender rights, the more that can be accomplished.

leelah5For those of you that are still with me, let me explain the blog in short. Laurence talks about how I am using Leelah’s death as a launching board to promote anti-theism. He also expresses his opinion that it was neither the counselors nor the parents’ fault how Leelah ended up. He goes on to say no one should be blamed for the suicide. Laurence ends his blog with explaining why he does not believe that we should consider Leelah a woman, and goes even so far as to try and explain that he feels Leelah is a man.

To address the first point, as I stated above, this was not a launching board for anti-theism in any sense. Religion is a factor in this case and it does play a part in the parents’ choices and (lack of) understanding of transgender issues. Laurence claims to be a Christian and he seems to have the same issues accepting transgender rights as these Christians. My blog was pointing out the issues surrounding the tragedy behind what happen to Leelah. If Laurence still feels like it is an anti-theism blog, then I am sorry, but he obviously only want to put words in my mouth, and given that he does not understand transgender individuals, he probably will not be able to accept the role religion plays in the decisions that these parents made.

Laurence then went on to talk about how atheists commit suicide too. This is actually true in the case of Leelah as well. She was an atheist, as she claimed through her posts on Reddit. She was transgender first and an atheist second. So I understand that everyone can commit suicide. I understand it is not an atheist or Christian issue but a human issue. But what can be deduced is that the counselors did not do an adequate job helping Leelah, because they refused to acknowledge her desire to transition, and did not talk about transgender issues she had concerns about. Her parents also did not address her concerns and instead of seeking out the appropriate help, they dismissed and punished Leelah for her feelings. So they did not force her to kill herself, but they were major contributing factors that lead her to feel that she no longer had any love or any options left. They were not specifically responsible for her jumping, but they do carry the burden of failed healthcare and the failure of their responsibility to address the concerns Leelah expressed to them. They simply locked her up, restricted her access to everything, and only allowed minimal social interaction.

leelah2Lastly, Laurence is wrong on many levels about transgender individuals. Laurence says, “If I want to be a eunuch then am I a eunuch?” Holy shit, Laurence! That is one of the most ignorant statements I have ever heard. First off a eunuch is someone who has been castrated- typically before puberty hits. This is NOT what Leelah was asking for. To compare this to her desire to identify as her true identity as a women, is insulting, uneducated, and shows that Laurence did not care to even understand what he was arguing against. To further this, Laurence asks why she gets to identify as a woman. A quick search on transgender individuals will help give him the answer, but if an individual wanted to transition into a woman there is a process by which this happens. People do not just start to take drugs, and many transgender individuals do not take transitioning as carelessly as Laurence was portraying it. Laurence also tries to explain what Leelah went through as a mental illness. Leelah did not have a mental illness. Leelah suffered from being born into the wrong gender, nothing else. She was depressed and may have suffered from depression but being transgendered is NOT A DISEASE OR A MENTAL ILLNESS! leelah6People like Laurence need to be helped to understand the science behind transgender individuals. A great blog I recently discovered that talks about transgender individuals from the viewpoint of a transgender is Zinnia Jones blog. I recommend everyone check out the blog because she is more educated on these issues and can speak with authority. Her blog can be found here.  Another great post by Stephanie Guttormson answers some common questions.  Her blog can be found here.  To Laurence, thanks for your interest and response, but please go educate yourself and get rid of your biases that are holding you back. Your misuse of pronouns is sickening and I hope you seek to actually learn what the transgender movement is about, instead of just making bigoted judgments.

For those that stuck this out to the end, I thank you.  But please do not stop here.  Help get Leelah the proper respect she deserves. Read other blogs, learn more about the transgender movement, even support a great cause as listed above. If we all band together we can stand behind this movement to help not just Leelah, but all transgender individuals receive the respect and acknowledgment they deserve.

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7 Replies to “To Those Who Didn’t Make It, Leelah’s Continuing Story to Fix Society”

  1. http://evangelical-atheism.blogspot.com/2015/01/re-to-those-who-didnt-make-it-leelahs.html

    Hi Chris,

    I decided to respond to your response to my blog in the following way. I want to use your words exactly and respond to it so I can’t be seen as misquoting you. Your statements are quoted and next I respond.

    “I also posited that if religion was not prominent that the world would be better off and have one less barrier to allowing individuals who identify as transgender to be accepted.”

    Since getting rid of religion in your lifetime is unrealistic, why not focus on the more realistic barriers?

    “It is still evident that Leelah’s mother and father both still hold their religion over their love for their child.”

    This is a logical fallacy. Holding to one’s religion does not exclude love for your child. Religion is a perspective or lens as you put it, through which experience is filtered through. These parents may have seen their response in the context of THEIR kind of Christianity as the way by which they are showing their child love. Unfortunately, their child chose to commit suicide but correlation does not equal causation. That is actually a scientific principle.

    “I will accept and promote that her parents failed to truly understand their daughter and learn what it meant to identify as a transgender.”

    You can’t be sure because you are a spectator.

    “Neither parent used the proper pronouns and refused to acknowledge that their “son” was really their daughter.”

    They don’t have to, as they don’t believe it to be the “proper pronouns”.

    “this is an issue that we can work towards: helping future generations understand gender issues.“

    In my undergraduate studies I had to take a course called “perspectives on gender” which featured a professor that is biologically male, and identifies as female psychologically. I patiently listened through the lectures and took the exams and wrote the papers. Education was readily available and I can respect the perspectives, but ultimately I didn’t buy it. I didn’t buy it, not for religious reasons, I just didn’t buy it because bottom line is; it is a perspective not a science. I don’t have to agree with other perspectives; nobody does.

    “While I could spend hours on how religion has enabled these parents to continue to hold their biases…”

    You can speculate; but you don’t KNOW what was true for them.

    “a proper burial as the woman she was.”

    What is a proper burial for the atheist? Would you be offended if anyone suggested to just leaving his body exposed to the elements to decompose? Is that disrespectful? Why? I am fascinated by how an atheist can cling to such ritualistic sentiments. Why do you care?

    “As for her funeral, I am at a loss because there is no legal recourse I know of to insist she be buried as a woman.”

    And if you did? What right do you have? Did he state in his note that he wanted to be buried as a female?

    “My hope was that if enough pressure were put on the parents they would concede or acknowledge their daughter as transgender. “

    Pressure? Wow. How are you any better than religion? Good Lord/Science.

    “Recently someone showed me the Reddit posts from Leelah.”

    Link doesn’t work for me.

    “ban transgender conversion therapy”

    Why? On what basis? What if someone WANTS that treatment?

    “it was a negative attack on transgender individuals from someone who I do not consider an ally for anything but Christianity.”

    You may not consider me an “ally” probably because I don’t buy your propaganda, but I actually have a good friend who is transgender and is in process of “re-assignment” procedures. She knows my views, but I still love her, and she says she appreciates that I stay true to my beliefs and don’t dispense with them just because we are friends.

    “If you do not wish to read hate speech and ignorance,”

    What of my response to you was “hate” and “ignorance”? Just because I don’t agree with you doesn’t mean I am ignorant of the issues. What is your education background sir? I probably am less ignorant than you are on the psychological issues. You are probably less ignorant than I on the case study side.

    “For those of you that are still with me, let me explain the blog in short. “

    They should read my blog themselves. It is a fraction of the length of your post.

    “To address the first point, as I stated above, this was not a launching board for anti-theism in any sense.”

    The point was not your intention, I was commenting on what it came off as. My words: “I believe that your piece comes off as just another anti-religion hit piece”. After I posted my response I noticed I was not alone in this assessment. In fact, supporters of your general cause noticed the same thing. So, I don’t appreciate being singled out here.

    “Religion is a factor in this case and it does play a part in the parents’ choices and (lack of) understanding of transgender issues.”

    Sure. To what extent you sir do not know because you are not psychic. Some people use religion only to support their pre-conceived biases.

    “Laurence claims to be a Christian and he seems to have the same issues accepting transgender rights as these Christians.”

    Don’t lump me in to a group when you don’t know all my views. You don’t know if it is my Christianity that causes me to believe as I do, or my studies in psychology. Do you know? Doubt it. Also, it’s not a civil right until it is. I am always baffled about propagandists speaking of “rights” as if they are intrinsic absolute rights, my question is where do these “rights” come from?

    “If Laurence still feels like it is an anti-theism blog, then I am sorry, but he obviously only want to put words in my mouth, and given that he does not understand transgender individuals, he probably will not be able to accept the role religion plays in the decisions that these parents made.”

    One of your comments from a supporter of your cause, not mine or Christianity said this of your post: “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… To reduce the trans struggle to just religion fails to acknowledge the full truth of this injustice and lived reality.” Why do you treat this commenter with more respect than I? Is it your bias perhaps? He gets a nice apology and I get the half assed sarcastic apology.

    Also, how do you know I don’t understand transgendered individuals? You’ve heard what happens when you assume. You don’t have to keep presuming what I will accept or not. You can talk to me about it sir. I find that I see the same patterns here when I chat with Evangelicals. It states on my blog: “Bottom line is, don’t think you know me or my views before you ask me about them or read about them.”

    “But what can be deduced is that the counselors did not do an adequate job helping Leelah, because they refused to acknowledge her desire to transition, and did not talk about transgender issues she had concerns about.”

    You have no guarantee that a non-Christian therapist would do the same or not. My point was an atheist can go to an atheist therapist and still commit suicide. Who do you blame then? You have no business determining what was or was not adequate as you are not a mental health professional yourself. If you know what was adequate then perhaps we can have all the referrals sent to your cell phone number so you can initiate a therapeutic relationship with them.

    “Her parents also did not address her concerns and instead of seeking out the appropriate help, they dismissed and punished Leelah for her feelings. So they did not force her to kill herself, but they were major contributing factors that lead her to feel that she no longer had any love or any options left. “

    I didn’t say they were not contributing factors, just as credit card policies and job stress can be huge contributors to adult suicides, but I was talking about placing a practical blame on them. Are you suggesting perhaps that therapists and parents can be put on trial for something like this? You have no guarantee that in the absence of the parental punishment or therapeutic interventions to your infallible specifications that the child would still be alive today.

    “They simply locked her up, restricted her access to everything, and only allowed minimal social interaction.”

    Not wise, but you can’t say Christians alone would do this. Secular parents are just as likely to punish as religious ones.

    “Lastly, Laurence is wrong on many levels about transgender individuals. Laurence says, “If I want to be a eunuch then am I a eunuch?” Holy shit, Laurence! That is one of the most ignorant statements I have ever heard. First off a eunuch is someone who has been castrated- typically before puberty hits. This is NOT what Leelah was asking for.”

    Okay, perhaps it was a bad parallel. But you miss the point. On what BASIS should we respect his wishes? If I want to be considered “asexual” or “agendered” which some do, does that alone make it so? You say in your writings “birth gender of male to her correct gender of female.” Correct gender? Says who? Science? You? You are selling philosophy, or a perspective on bio-psycho-social phenomena, not something you can prove exists in reality. You will perhaps demand this of me for my belief in God. However, my theological views are not on trial here, your blog post is. I am using a scientific standard which you demand of us for God. What does science have to say about gender, or does it say anything at all? Does the animal kingdom have animals needing of gender re-assignment?

    “Laurence also tries to explain what Leelah went through as a mental illness. Leelah did not have a mental illness.”

    I quoted from Psychology Today. The same description can be found in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders. For your information that was not a Christian holy book.

    “Leelah suffered from being born into the wrong gender, nothing else.”

    Oh really? Who got that wrong? If not God, who? Ipse dixit, my friend. You are calling me un-educated? You don’t need to resort to insults towards my views Chris. You can respond to them civilly and respectfully. You don’t have to of course. Depends on what you want the tone of your cause to sound like.

    “She was depressed and may have suffered from depression but being transgendered is NOT A DISEASE OR A MENTAL ILLNESS! People like Laurence need to be helped to understand the science behind transgender individuals.”

    The DSM is a scientific book.

    “To Laurence, thanks for your interest and response, but please go educate yourself and get rid of your biases that are holding you back.”

    I spent enough years in psychology classes and probably read more textbooks, papers. And took more courses with professors in your ideological camp than you have. So, Chris, it may bother you that in spite of all that I still don’t believe as you do, but that’s how it is. My Christianity has nothing to do with why I didn’t buy these PERSPECTIVES ON GENDER. Notice they didn’t call the class SCIENCES ON GENDER.

    Thanks for the response Chris. I appreciate you taking the time to respond.

    Laurence
    Evangelical Atheism

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    1. Laurence – I thank you for the engagement but the way you formulate your responses is not great for the medium. It feels like you take one sentence and break it apart from the others and give it less meaning or gravity. It would be like if I took one verse at a time out of the bible, most christians would blame me of cherry picking and misinterpretation.

      But your response jumps around and there is to much to address. So I will offer you a short response here in this blog. But our best bet is to have you on the show so we can discuss this in person (well as close as possible). This will allow for me to respond and for you to respond in real time giving us the maximum amount of understanding.

      In your response you mention that you several things. The anti-theist response came from an individual that was not accusing me of holding an anti-theist blog but rather an emotionally charged blog that the anti-theism part may overshadow my intent to push transgender issues in the lime light. He does not accuse me of using this as a anti-theist launching point but rather that my tones come off as anti-theist and that it hurts my original intention of my blog. Second you got a half hearten apology because of the rest of your views. The gentleman I apologized to is an ally and supports transgender issues and lgbtq issues. He was not attacking my desire to defend transgender rights but what he felt was an over zealous use of anti-theism. On the other hand Laurence in both of your blogs, you have criticized not just me standing up for lgbtq rights but those who associate as transgender or lgbtq. I do not take that lightly personally.

      While there is so much more that I could address within your response really the main part to address would be the understanding you have of transgender individuals, how we get to where they can be identified the way they choose to be identified, and where science stands on this issue. This is a whole blog in and of itself. I will work with some others who have actually gone through this in their lives and work to put together a response that provides the current understanding of science and why we should support their rights. Briefly I want to mention that you asked how anyone can know where rights come from, which I am assuming is an argument that leads down to where morals come from and someone has to give us the ability to understand this. Check out our episode on Objective/Subjective Morals and also our conversations with christians episodes as we addressed that in there.

      Thank you for your responses and I will notify you when I have the science blog together. Personally I would like to have you on the show as it would be more enlightening and an easier dialog which will provide you the opportunity to respond directly to me verses waiting for the response. Let me know if this is something you would like to do and we will get it scheduled.

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  2. I am a Catholic. From that perspective, I would have to say,it is not religion,nor God, that caused this. It was the peoples perspective of those elemments. And that is very sad. If just one person would have put love before anything else, it may not have happened.we all come from our own perspectives, life experiences. We all hurt,have been hurt, or suffer, at times in our lives. I believe in right and wrong. Sin and grace. I also belive Jesus does not and never did beat those who suffered ,over the ead. I do not understand a lot of situations. I may think some things are wrong,or a sin, I also know I am a person that Heaven showed much love and mercy to. I believe that yes , we will all be judged for our actions. But first,there was always love. Nothing can be accomplished without love. The whole world is a wounded place these days. We, whether we like it or not, do have responsibillity for those around us. If we do not start acting that way,I do not see much hope for any of us.love is not about our own feelings, ideas, perceptions ,sometimes it means getting beyond those, we are human, those things within us alone can never be pure enough. We at least I have learned that. . The greatest commandment is to love one another.I honestly do not know if I ever suceed at that. I do know ,To try not to add to someones cross, hurt any one in ways I have been hurt, . Agreeing on everything no. . People never will. This was a tragedy, but a terrible example of what is wrong with the world today.

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    1. Jeanne – I do agree that if the parents had put love before their beliefs this situation probably would have been reduced if not stopped from happening. But before you say that it is not religion or god, you would have to justify why. Also I would caution those that say nothing can be accomplished without love, and love should be first, but in the end we will all be judged for our actions. And while the sentiment about loving and teaching love does not stop the problem that if a believer considers transgender individuals sinners to be judged, even if you love them in this life, they will not go to eternity with you. To me that sends a passive message to the transgender individual that states that I love you, and god/jesus loves you, but your either a sinner or your not complete in the eyes of that god. This presents a passive argument for transgender individuals or lgbtq individuals that states that what they are still wrong in the eyes of the religion or the god.

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