Co-authored by Jillian Kinder
Seventeen-year-old Leelah Alcorn committed suicide early Sunday morning in Warren County, Ohio. In her suicide note, she illustrated her struggle when coming to terms with her gender identity. Once she finally discovered that she was not alone in her struggle, she was ecstatic. Trying to reveal her identity to her friends and family was another story.
In an effort to provide a stepping stone for coming out as transgender, Alcorn came out as gay at 16. In response, her parents pulled her out of school and cut off from the outside world for five months. According to her suicide note, she asked her parents for help medically transitioning and received Christian therapy instead. The therapists told her that "[she] was selfish and wrong, and that [she] should look to God for help."
After five months of being cut off from society, she was allowed to receive her electronics. Leelah quickly realized that her friends were in fact, not friends at all, just people that "only liked me because they saw me five times a week."
After summing up her history and reasons for making this decision, 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."
Many teens and young adults took to Twitter to express their reactions.Several tweets mourned for Leelah:
I'm so heartbroken for #LeelahAlcorn . This is why I campaign for not just trans* rights, but LGBT+ rights.
— Jillian K. (@JillGeeRAWRd) December 31, 2014
I am absolutely sick to my stomach with tears in my eyes reading about #LeelahAlcorn. I am utterly speechless.
— yung muddie (@woahmaddie) December 30, 2014
Breaks my heart 2 know #LeelahAlcorn will be buried in a suit with the wrong name on her headstone because her parents put their beliefs 1st
— Saraaaaaa I I I (@sarac93) December 31, 2014
The majority of reactions included not only sadness for Leelah's suicide, but also anger for the reaction of her mother and school district after her death. Both her mother and the school district referred to her as Joshua, her birth name. Her mother went as far as denying the fact that it was suicide; rather, it was an accident that Leelah was hit by a truck.Several tweets condemned Leelah's parents:
don't say #LeelahAlcorn's suicide was selfish. selfish = driving your kid to suicide because you're scared of a "bad image". that's selfish
— ☆ (@bluemeths) December 30, 2014
I find it sadder that a group of teenagers that don't even know her can sympathise more than what her parents ever did #LeelahAlcorn
— Shannon♊ (@D0nt_P4nic) December 30, 2014
Please do not have children if you are not prepared to love them for whoever they may end up being. #LeelahAlcorn
— Rebecca ~* (@RebeccaBMusic) December 31, 2014
Some tweets called for change:
The discussion about transgender rights doesn't end until people stop treating being transgender as an enigma. #LeelahAlcorn
— Morgan Levy (@morganslevy) December 31, 2014
Transphobia is an epidemic-- it's literally killing people. Get educated. Educate others. Spread awareness.
— Leo Sheng (@iLeoSheng) December 30, 2014
It doesn't matter what fiction you believe in. Respect your child. Don't use religion as an excuse to be an asshole. #LeelahAlcorn
— Tyler Oakley (@tyleroakIcy) December 31, 2014
I ask any parents browsing #LeelahAlcorn to ask themselves whats more difficult. Accepting your trans child or burying them.
— Mike (@EatSleepGrier) December 30, 2014
"It gets better." No. It should be better right now. We don't have time to wait for it to "get better." RIP #LeelahAlcorn
— James Wilson (@JaySonOfWil) December 31, 2014
Some offered help to LGBTQ teens:
Do not let anymore parents do to their kids what Leelah's parents did to her. #LeelahAlcorn
— coders (@zeroiero) December 30, 2014
You deserve to live. I don't care what your labels or pronouns or orientations or identities are: YOU DESERVE TO LIVE. I promise.
— Mark O'Brien (@mobrienbooks) December 30, 2014
Many adults shared personal stories through the #RealLiveTransAdult hashtag:
I was a lonely kid, but now I'm a #RealLiveTransAdult w/ amazing trans friends who love me even when I don't love me. We're waiting for you.
— Riley MacLeod (@rcmacleod) December 30, 2014
Trans life may seem impossible, but I'm 31, a software engineer at Tumblr, a marathon runner, married, and totally a #RealLiveTransAdult
— Amelia Gapin (@EntirelyAmelia) December 30, 2014
I still struggle with body image. I still struggle with my gender. But I deserve to be here. So do you. #RealLiveTransAdult
— i am kortney✊ (@fakerapper) December 30, 2014
I'm 30. At 16 I NEVER thought I'd live to see this age but I'm still here. It's a daily struggle to be sure but I'm here #RealLiveTransAdult
— J. Skyler (@jskylerinc) December 30, 2014
still figuring it out every day, but i'm 24, people dig my writing, & i live in nyc w lots of great trans friends. i'm a #RealLiveTransAdult
— Tyler Ford ✨ (@tywrent) December 30, 2014
Didn't start transitioning until my 30s. Now: Wife, theater actress, arm-wrestler. #RealLiveTransAdult There are a lot of us.
— Marian Gonzalez (@TheGonzalez) December 30, 2014
Happy to be here & in the world as a #RealLiveTransAdult -- if you're a trans/GNC kid I'm damn glad you're here & around if you need me.
— Raƒe ℙosey (@ponyonabalcony) December 30, 2014
And some hoped for the future:
our generation will be the generation to change it all, but that can only start with us being accepting of others for everything they are.
— anthony spears (@LOHANTHONY) December 30, 2014
I relate very strongly to #LeelahAlcorn and it feels good to know I can actually raise awareness of trans struggles
— Cuck Mangione (@AtlasSmugged) December 30, 2014
#LeelahAlcorn is trending, maybe everyone will hear the truth and learn
— brenna |-/ (@Iron_Trees) December 31, 2014
— rt links in bio ?? (@calumandhoran) December 31, 2014
"My death needs to mean something."
We will make sure that it does.
Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.