“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.
In 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.
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:
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.
For 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.
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. 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! People 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.