I believe that religion can be comforting and enlightening and bring order to a world that feels chaotic. However, that only works when all people feel welcomed. It works when the basic principle is love and finding community through kindness and acceptance. In cases when acceptance is not offered, religion can scar a person's soul.
Public discourse around the subject is governed by media guidelines that operate to suppress discussion, such as this one from GLAAD: "Journalists should avoid overemphasizing the role of surgeries in the [gender] transition process." For me, you could not overemphasize the importance of sex-change surgery if you tried.
With each video I make, I hope to give people, including parents, additional tools. I make silly, happy Vines and sincere, touching Vines, all trying to show the humanity of someone who is different. There is nothing wrong with me (and it only took 37 years to figure that out).
Together, if we have the tenacity to strive for an even more just and inclusive world, we can make this generation of young people the first to know what it feels like to, in Leelah's words, always be "treated like humans, with valid feelings and human rights."
In the fourth episode of The Pearl of Africa, a documentary series about love, hate and being transgender, we get a glimpse into what Cleo and Nelson's relationship really means. They've loved each other since high school and plan to get married in the future, and Cleo grapples with the desire to start a family.
Leelah pleaded with readers of the note to take action after her death. "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."
You have talked it out with church leaders and maybe even the congregation, and you have decided that you would like your church to be more welcoming to transgender people.
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.
In 2012 Kylar made history by becoming the first openly transgender person to testify before the U.S. Senate. He was speaking in favor of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which would prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. His truthful speech touched me then, and he continues to fight for transgender people now.
Like so many, I was devastated to hear the news of Leelah Alcorn's death. As a parent of a trans teenager, I was heartbroken that Leelah never knew what it was to fully and fearlessly be herself and to be loved and accepted for who she was.
What happened after he met the love of his life and got engaged? Fortunately, Ryan, agreed to indulge my inquisitiveness and answer some of the questions I had about his life, his marriage and being a husband, as a transgender man.
Leelah's death was not solely due to those on Tumblr who knew her and didn't see or know to reach out to her -- because even if they did, Leelah obviously needed more help. But the nature of Tumblr as a dark place does make suicidal thoughts and warning signs too commonplace.
It is not possible for anyone other than me to know my gender. But I cannot hate the people whose actions and beliefs are at the very root of why a transgender teenager would find it necessary to end their own life.
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.
I remember reading about his death, but he was misgendered in the original article. I had no idea he was part of our community.
"My death needs to mean something." Wow, that's pretty profound. They're just kids, right? They're just teenagers, and they don't know anything about the world, right? Well, I think Leelah taught us all a very valuable lesson: Life is very precious, and it needs to mean something.