By Maggie Brown, staff writer
Photo by Mackenzie Carpenter
On December 28, 2014, an Ohio teen took her life by stepping in front of an oncoming semi-truck. She was bullied, outcasted, and ridiculed, and religious views were viciously forced upon her, causing her to doubt herself and everything she was.
Leelah Alcorn went through emotional abuse, neglect, and more, and those who caused her pain did so on the grounds that she had been born Joshua Alcorn, and at the time of death still had the anatomy of a male.
Leelah’s death caused enormous controversy when her suicide note was posted to her tumblr on a timer she had set before she died. Many have accused her parents of being abusive and neglectful, using a method called conversion therapy, a method of attempting to “fix” a transgender youth, refusing to use the correct pronouns, and even trying to pass off her death as an accident before the note surfaced on social media.
“The situation with Leelah Alcorn is tragic,” said Betsy McCleery, 9. “It’s disrespectful of her parents to purposefully misgender her and soil her memory.”
“We don’t support that, religiously,” Carla Alcorn said when questioned about why she did not accept her daughter’s gender identity. “But we told him that we loved him unconditionally. We loved him no matter what. I loved my son. People need to know that I loved him. He was a good kid, a good boy.”
Activists have become more and more angered as, even in death, Carla Alcorn refuses to acknowledge her daughter’s gender. The Alcorns buried her in a suit, with her birth name, Joshua, on the tombstone.
“It’s so damaging to do that,” said Johanna Olson, Medical Director for the Center of Trans Youth Health and Development at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. “Just the process of listening and being open to your child will save their life. It’s tragic to hear of such a lack of parental support.”
And Leelah is right. The idea of causing your own child emotional distress just because they don’t agree with your religious views baffles me. Just because they’ve decided that they’d rather be your daughter than your son does not mean you have the right to try and erase what they are and replace it with what you want them to be.
The death of Leelah Alcorn is not something that the world can forget. The end of Leelah’s suicide note reads, “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 ****ed up’ and fix it. Fix society. Please.”
Gender is not what hides in your underwear, how long your hair is, whether or not you wear makeup or have breasts or think skirts are pretty. Gender is what you feel, how you think, the way you want to live your life. Nobody should be denied the right to their gender because someone else thinks they are wrong.