A 17-year-old transgender teen, Leelah Alcorn, committed suicide by stepping in front of a moving tractor trailer truck December 28 in Ohio.
She left a suicide note on her Tumblr blog, speaking about her Christian parents who refused to accept her.
“Please don’t be sad, it’s for the better,” Alcon wrote. “The life I would’ve lived isn’t worth living in…because I’m transgender. 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 possibly 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.”
According to her note, her school and friends were accepting of her, but not her parents. She was taken to Christian therapists that didn’t help her overcome her depression.
“After 10 years of confusion I finally understood who I was,” Alcorn wrote. “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.”
Alcorn said she didn’t know what it meant to be transgender until she was 14.
“The only way I will rest in peace is if one day transgender people aren’t treated the way I was, [but rather], they’re treated like humans, with valid feelings and human rights,” her 964-word note ended. “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.”
She wrote, “Goodbye” and signed it (Leelah), with a line crossed through her birth name, Josh Alcorn.
After her death, Alcorn’s mother posted “My sweet 16-year-old son, Joshua Ryan Alcorn, went home to Heaven this morning. He was out for an early morning walk and was hit by a truck. Thank you for the messages and kindness and concern you have sent our way. Please continue to keep us in your prayers.”
The message has since been taken down and her parents haven’t been available for comment.
In her note, Alcorn told her brother and sister she loved them and thanked her friend Abby Jones for “dealing with my pathetic problems.” She also told her mom and dad, “You just can’t control other people like that.”
The National Transgender Discrimination Survey (NTDS) reported in January 2014 that 78 percent of respondents who have suffered physical or sexual violence at school reported suicide attempts. In 2010, NTDS reported that 41 percent of all transgendered people in the U.S. have attempted suicide.
“It is a huge epidemic that is so absolutely horribly outrageous,” Mara Keisling, executive director for the National Center for Transgender Equality said. “What Leelah has given us is a real way to individualize this crisis that we are having with transgender people, especially transgender youth [who are] being so marginalized, so alienated. We know this happens so frequently. Sometimes the kids survive. Too often, they don’t.”
Social media took to Alcorn’s death and many people spoke out.
Alcorn’s death was a “tragic situation [that] reflects so many failures,” transgender sportswriter in Chicago, Christina Kahrl, said. “The virtues of faith and family usually provide love that most children take for granted. This was avoidable; transness shouldn’t handicap anyone’s capacity for empathy.”
Transgender software engineer for Facebook wrote, “Please don’t let bigotry, pride, lack of understanding and/or religion drive you to shun your transgender children to suicide or torment. This is something they are born with. It isn’t a fad or a form of rebellion. They need your love and support.”
Shane Morgan, founder and chair of TransOhio, which provides education and advocacy, said while 2014 brought about huge triumphs for the transgender community, it also proved work is still to be done.
“If we look back at 2014 there have been really incredible changes and liberation for trans people across the world,” Morgan said. “There were prominent faces on TV and the cover of Time and that is all fantastic. But there have been a lot of murders of trans people this year; trans people are still being victimized and still being disrespected.”
“Nobody should commit suicide because of who they are,” Morgan said. “With as much change as there has been, there is still much to do.”