Before 17 year-old transgender girl, Leelah Alcorn, jumped in front of a moving tractor-trailer on I-71 in Warren, Ohio, she queued the release of a suicide note on tumblr which explained why she did it. Her death has become a call to action for society to recognize and respect transgender people as individuals with rights.
“My death needs to mean something,” writes Leelah in her suicide note.
Leelah Alcorn was born a male, but she knew she was a girl since the age of 4. When she told her parents, they opposed it and rejected her request for hormonal treatment. According to Leelah, her parents wanted her to be a “perfect little Christian boy.” After realizing she wouldn’t have access to transitioning treatment until age 18, Leelah fell into a deep depression. Therapy sessions which reiterated her parents’ rejection of her identity made things worse.
“I never actually got the therapy I needed to cure me of my depression,” she writes. “I only got more christians telling me that I was selfish and wrong and that I should look to God for help.”
Her tragic death has sparked a discussion on American society’s treatment of transgender people. Throughout their lives, openly transgender and gender non-conforming people face bullying, discrimination by health care and law enforcement, sexual violence, physical violence, isolation, exile from family members, and more. 46% of trans men and 42% of trans women claimed to have attempted suicide at some point in their lives according to a study by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
“People say ‘it gets better’ but that isn’t true in my case,” she writes. “The life I would’ve lived isn’t worth living in because I’m transgender.”
She blames her parents as well as her friends for her suicide. But most of all, she blames society as a whole for not catering to the needs of transgender people:
“The only way I will rest in peace is if one day transgender people aren’t treated the way I was, they’re treated like humans, with valid feelings and human rights. Gender needs to be taught about in schools, the earlier the better. My death needs to mean something. My death needs to be counted in the number of transgender people who commit suicide this year. I want someone to look at that number and say ‘that’s fucked up’ and fix it. Fix society. Please.”
With Leelah’s dying last words, different human rights and social activist groups have taken arms to make sure Leelah’s tragic death is not in vain. There’s a petition on Change.org that seeks to ban gender conversion therapy in the United States. “The Leelah Project” distributes care packages with clothes, make-up, and silicon bra inserts for trans-women that are unable to afford these materials or lack support from their parents. You can donate to “The Leelah Project” here if interested. There are even Tumblr Users trying to get “Leelah Alcorn” more hits on Google than “Josh Alcorn” in honor of her chosen identity. Here’s what some Tumblr Users have to say on her death: