There is a lot of hurt on all sides that boils to the surface when we learn of the suicide of a teen who was desperate for clarity, for acceptance, for love, and for inner peace. But instead of doing the challenging work of finding entry points for discussion that can lead to understanding and eventually acceptance and healing, so often we're reinforcing this "us vs. them" dichotomy.
In an effort to hasten change, the Transgender Human Rights Institute has begun a petition calling for a permanent end to transgender conversion therapy in Leelah's name. At this point, only with help from the federal government can we hope to see differences made quickly in the United States on this front.
I held it together in public, but I really wanted to cry at the beautiful moment I had just witnessed. But then it hit me; I had just judged someone. I had assumed that because this man fit a certain stereotype that he was instantly against equality, and there was no way that he could possibly approve of his son's sexuality.
Let us not forget that transgender is an umbrella that encompasses all persons whose authentic identity does not conform unambiguously to conventional notions of male or female genders and assigned gender at birth. Male and female are increasingly being presented as two distinct states, with nothing between.
Hank recently recounted his story in Kevin Allison's popular stage show and podcast RISK. He candidly talks about his childhood struggle for acceptance in his family and church, which I found hilarious, sad and surprising. Even if you aren't gay or Asian, there are universal truths about family and the holidays that everyone can relate to.