Transgender Tragedy

Sasha Rivera, Asst. Opinion Editor

Leelah Alcorn’s name has been circulating throughout social media since December 28, when the transgender teen allegedly committed suicide by walking into traffic after scheduling a suicide note to be published on her Tumblr blog. Alcorn’s death is only one of the many in the transgender community caused by intolerance, but continues to highlight the prejudice and bigotry in society.

Named Joshua Ryan Alcorn at birth, the teen was raised in Ohio in a conservative, Christian household. In her suicide note, Alcorn wrote that she had felt “like a girl trapped in a boy’s body” since she was four years old. However, when she came out a transgender, her mother reacted negatively and refused to accept her daughter’s gender, forcing her into conversion therapy, where Christian therapists reinforce the idea of being transgender as wrong and unnatural. Alcorn was diagnosed with depression, but in her note says that she “never actually got the therapy I needed to cure me of my depression” and only got “more Christians telling me that I was selfish and wrong and that I should look to God for help.”

Conversion therapy is a form of child abuse because rather than receiving helpful, medical therapy, the patient is manipulated and drilled with bigotry that is extremely detrimental to mental health and can further lead to suicide, as seen with Alcorn. Unfortunately, this medieval practice is only banned in California, New Jersey, and Washington, D.C., with legislation still pending in other states, including Ohio.
However, conversion therapy is not the only abuse that Alcorn experienced. Her parents completely isolated her for five months, barring her access to social media, electronics, and her friends.

“No friends, no support, no love. Just my parents’ disappointment and the cruelty of loneliness,” Alcorn wrote in her note.

While her parents did relent a bit and allowed her back onto social media, her friends by then had distanced themselves and drifted away. In her note, Alcorn lamented that her life was only getting worse with the pressures of the future, not being able to transition properly, and having to live a life where the majority was against who she was.

“My death needs to mean something. My death needs to be counted in the number of transgender people who commit suicide this year… Fix society. Please,” wrote Alcorn in the final lines of her note.

Unfortunately, her final message and requests are meaningless to her parents, especially her mother, Carla Alcorn, who in interviews refuses to acknowledge her daughter’s gender identity and pronouns, even in death.

“We loved him unconditionally…I loved my son. People need to know that I loved him. He was a good kid, a good boy,” the teen’s mother stated in an interview with CNN. It appears as if she does not comprehend the meaning of “unconditionally” because if that was true, she would have accepted her daughter and allowed her to transition. The person the mother is mourning is not Leelah Alcorn, but rather a fantasy of a perfect, Christian son she always wanted.

According to the Los Angeles Times, approximately 41 percent of transgender people attempt suicide. Leelah Alcorn is now a part of this statistic because of a society that cannot accept differences. This horrible situation of human beings dying, for reasons they cannot control, can be stopped, but only if barbaric practices like conversion therapy are banned, and updated information about gender and acceptance is taught early on. So far, California is the only state to ban giving lesser charges to defendants who murder someone based on the victim’s gender identity and sexual orientation; the fact that it is the only one terrifies me. As Leelah requested, things need to change and society must be fixed.