By: Carly Lester, Staff Writer
According to the Washington State Youth Suicide Prevention Program, more than 50 percent of transgender youth will have attempted suicide at least once before their 20th birthday. This shockingly tragic statistic is a reminder that treatment of transgender individuals in the United States has been significantly poor. Although human rights for trans women and men have been improving, they have not been improving at a fast enough pace, as seen with the case of Leelah Alcorn.
Leelah Alcorn, a 17 year-old transgender girl, recently took her own life by stepping in front of a semi-trailer on December 28, 2014. She stated in her suicide note that was posted on her tumblr account, that ever since she was four years-old, she felt like she was actually a girl trapped in a boy’s body. Many Americans feel as Leelah did, as about .3 percent, or 700,000 people, are transgender. This fact can be attributed to Gary Gates from the Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation Law and Public Policy, who sought to find how many Americans really are LGBT individuals. This estimate can be seen as unreliable, as many people may be hiding their true gender or not even know what transgender means.
Leelah Alcorn chose not to hide her true gender as she came out to her mother when she was 14 years old. According to her suicide note, her mother, Carla Alcorn, “responded extremely negatively” and told Leelah that “it was only a phase” and that she would never be a real girl. Carla continued to call her by her birth name, Joshua, and use male pronouns. Sadly, responses like this aren’t uncommon.
In Leelah’s case, her family wasn’t accepting largely due to the fact that they were very conservative and Christian. Many LGBT individuals face this same problem on their path to coming out and seeking acceptance from their relatives. Christians typically believe that there are only two genders, male and female, and you are stuck with the gender that you were born with, as this is what God chose. They believe that being transgender “distorts God’s image and plan.” This explains why Leelah’s parents were so opposed to her actually being female.
Leelah made a post on her tumblr account that made it very clear that her parents did the opposite of what was best for her. She stated that their hurtful words against her, saying that she was wrong about herself and that God doesn’t make mistakes, made her hate herself.
Parents should always accept their children, no matter what gender or sexuality they are. To all transgender teens attending James River High School: do not dwell on what your parents may think or say about you. Do not pretend to be someone that you are not just for someone else’s benefit. You can come out and choose to transition whenever you feel fit, but always know that whatever your family does, you are still powerful and your identity is valid. We need to work together as a community to end transphobia and to make transgender individuals feel as though they belong instead of constantly bringing them down. Society needs to be fixed.
If you need help, Trans Lifeline can be reached at 877-565-8860. For LGBT youth (ages 24 and younger) contemplating suicide, the Trevor Project Lifeline can be reached at 1-866-7386. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 can also be reached 24 hours a day by people of all ages and identities.