The LGBTQ community is exiting 2014 on a tragic note with the death of Leelah Alcorn, a 17-year-old transgender teen from Ohio who, according to reports, committed suicide early Sunday morning. Alcorn’s passing has become an international story due to the public nature of the event—she was struck by a tractor-trailer on the interstate—and to an eloquent Tumblr post that she had scheduled to go live in the event of her death. In her post, Alcorn speaks of her Christian parents’ refusal to accept her trans identity and her sense that life could not get better if she had to wait to transition any longer.
Here are Alcorn’s final words, in full:
If you are reading this, it means that I have committed suicide and obviously failed to delete this post from my queue.
Please don’t be sad, it’s for the better. The life I would’ve lived isn’t worth living in … because I’m transgender. I could go into detail explaining why I feel that way, but this note is probably going to be lengthy enough as it is. To put it simply, I feel like a girl trapped in a boy’s body, and I’ve felt that way ever since I was 4. I never knew there was a word for that feeling, nor was it possible for a boy to become a girl, so I never told anyone and I just continued to do traditionally “boyish” things to try to fit in.
When I was 14, I learned what transgender meant and cried of happiness. After 10 years of confusion I finally understood who I was. I immediately told my mom, and she reacted extremely negatively, telling me that it was a phase, that I would never truly be a girl, that God doesn’t make mistakes, that I am wrong. If you are reading this, parents, please don’t tell this to your kids. Even if you are Christian or are against transgender people don’t ever say that to someone, especially your kid. That won’t do anything but make them hate them self. That’s exactly what it did to me.
My mom started taking me to a therapist, but would only take me to Christian therapists, (who were all very biased) so I never actually got the therapy I needed to cure me of my depression. I only got more Christians telling me that I was selfish and wrong and that I should look to God for help.
When I was 16 I realized that my parents would never come around, and that I would have to wait until I was 18 to start any sort of transitioning treatment, which absolutely broke my heart. The longer you wait, the harder it is to transition. I felt hopeless, that I was just going to look like a man in drag for the rest of my life. On my 16th birthday, when I didn’t receive consent from my parents to start transitioning, I cried myself to sleep.
I formed a sort of a “fuck you” attitude towards my parents and came out as gay at school, thinking that maybe if I eased into coming out as trans it would be less of a shock. Although the reaction from my friends was positive, my parents were pissed. They felt like I was attacking their image, and that I was an embarrassment to them. They wanted me to be their perfect little straight Christian boy, and that’s obviously not what I wanted.
So they took me out of public school, took away my laptop and phone, and forbid me of getting on any sort of social media, completely isolating me from my friends. This was probably the part of my life when I was the most depressed, and I’m surprised I didn’t kill myself. I was completely alone for 5 months. No friends, no support, no love. Just my parent’s disappointment and the cruelty of loneliness.
At the end of the school year, my parents finally came around and gave me my phone and let me back on social media. I was excited, I finally had my friends back. They were extremely excited to see me and talk to me, but only at first. Eventually they realized they didn’t actually give a shit about me, and I felt even lonelier than I did before. The only friends I thought I had only liked me because they saw me five times a week.
After a summer of having almost no friends plus the weight of having to think about college, save money for moving out, keep my grades up, go to church each week and feel like shit because everyone there is against everything I live for, I have decided I’ve had enough. I’m never going to transition successfully, even when I move out. I’m never going to be happy with the way I look or sound. I’m never going to have enough friends to satisfy me. I’m never going to have enough love to satisfy me. I’m never going to find a man who loves me. I’m never going to be happy. Either I live the rest of my life as a lonely man who wishes he were a woman or I live my life as a lonelier woman who hates herself. There’s no winning. There’s no way out. I’m sad enough already, I don’t need my life to get any worse. People say “it gets better” but that isn’t true in my case. It gets worse. Each day I get worse.
That’s the gist of it, that’s why I feel like killing myself. Sorry if that’s not a good enough reason for you, it’s good enough for me. As for my will, I want 100% of the things that I legally own to be sold and the money (plus my money in the bank) to be given to trans civil rights movements and support groups, I don’t give a shit which one. 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.
Alcorn’s death has brought forth an outpouring of anguish from trans writers and allies, who rightly view the incident as symptomatic of our society’s widespread transphobia, especially with regard to teens wishing to transition. (As the Advocate reported back in September, simply delaying the onset of puberty through the use of hormonal interventions—to minimize dysphoria and allow for a final decision at a later date—is emerging as a best practice; based on her testimony, such a treatment might have saved Alcorn’s life had her parents allowed it.) While the activist community is rallying around Alcorn’s wish to have her death “mean something”—the group Marriage Equality Ohio has planned a vigil for Saturday—her mother continued to deny her daughter’s felt identity in a Facebook post (since deleted) that spoke of her “son” going “home to Heaven.”
For me, the sad irony of all this is that Alcorn is finally getting the recognition and affirmation she needed in life only after her passing. It would have cost her family and community nothing to take the small step of calling her by her chosen name and honoring her gender identity when she asked for it, but their refusal has cost them everything. Though it seems unlikely to happen, I join with writer Jane Fae in hoping that Alcorn’s parents at the very least honor their daughter’s wishes by using her true identity at the funeral and by disposing of her belongings as she directed. Still, dignity in death is no substitute for dignity in life.
If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts due to queer identity and discrimination, please find help at the Trevor Project: (866) 488-7386. Text, chat, or call to talk.