“My Death Needs to Mean Something”
Those were the words that were found in Leelah Alcorn’s suicide note that was posted on all of her social media accounts shortly after her death. Leelah chose to commit suicide because she felt that the life she was given to live was too painful to bear. Ultimately, she was not allowed to be who she wanted to be.
Leelah Alcorn was born Joshua Alcorn. She was born into a moderately strict religious home in which the gender you are born with is the gender you are expected to die with. Leelah took a great risk sharing her conflicting feelings with her parents as a young teenager. I too am a Christian and come from a tightly-woven Pentecostal family. In families like ours, “gender reassignment surgery” (or the like) would be asking for a one-way ticket to Exile Island where you would be expected to live out the rest of your days with spiritual leprosy as a complete and utter outcast. Sadly, this is the perspective of many Christians today.
Leelah was hoping to find love and acceptance and most importantly understanding when she told her parents that she’d felt like a girl trapped in a boy’s body since the age of 4. If your own parents can’t accept you for who you are, then who can? She was shocked and heartbroken to be met with resistance, denial, and total rejection. Her parents told her it was “just a stage she was going through” and that “God doesn’t make mistakes”. They immediately banned Leelah from all social media for the next 5 months, taking away her cellphone and laptop. They also deleted her Facebook account and restricted her social activities to church-related group activities mostly, and when Leelah wasn’t being conditioned in such ways, she was restricted to her bedroom. They also forced her into Christian-based “reparative therapy”, which is, in short, a “corrective therapy” for homosexuals and and people who identify as transgender.
I couldn’t imagine, as a Christian, somebody forcing me to go to “transgender therapy” where I would be told that I would have to be made into the opposite sex- including sexual reassignment surgery. I can only imagine how Leelah must have felt: She was made to feel like a leper in her own home, school, community, and church.
Leelah pre-scheduled her suicide note to post to her social media outlets following her death with one final request, “Fix Society. Please.” On the early morning of December 28, 2014, she walked four miles in the cold to interstate 71 and at approximately 2:17 a.m., she stepped out into the highway and into the path of a tractor trailer.
Her family’s rejection of her chosen identity was more than she could bear. It breaks my heart that her mother still lives in denial- still choosing to call her Joshua instead. Even after Leelah’s suicide note had been posted, having begged other parents to never reject their children’s rights- including their right to choose their own gender- her mother posted this message to her Facebook account:
“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.”
They rejected Leelah in life, and they reject her in death. That’s beyond heartbreaking to me.
Jesus’ Words have forever transformed my heart and life. When a group of men had gathered around a woman to stone her (having accused her of adultery)- each having a handful of stones- Jesus looked at them and said, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” (John 8:7)
One by one, they all dropped their stones. Jesus said to the woman, “Go thy way and sin no more.” He forgave her and loved her. Completely. One of my friend’s once said something to me that I’ll never forget. She said, “The sound of forgiveness is the sound of a stone dropping.” I love that. And although Leelah’s life choices weren’t a “sin” to her, the fact remains in many religions, a transgender lifestyle is viewed as sinful. I think we should stop expecting other people to “live up to our expectations” but rather deal with our own insufficiencies and our inabilities to accept his or her alternative lifestyle. After all, our lifestyle is “alternative” in their eyes.
I do not “support” suicide, but I most certainly respect any person willing to die for his or her cause. Leelah didn’t commit suicide because she was “so depressed”. Not really. She committed suicide because she felt that she had a cause worth fighting and dying for. Soldiers do that every day. Who’s to say that any person’s cause is more important than another’s?
So for Leelah, I’ll do what I can so that she didn’t die in vain. As a parent, I’ve let my kids know (and they all know this already) that I will support them always– no matter who they choose to be. True love is all-encompassing and non-conditional. If my children choose different genders, religions, whatever- I will love them just the same. It’s not my “job” as their parent to love them, it’s my privilege. I only wish Leelah would have received the same support from her parents. She may have chosen to stick around…
It saddens me that Leelah’s parents are wanting to put Joshua Alcorn on her tombstone, instead of Leelah Alcorn. I have just gone and signed the online petition so that her parents might honor Leelah and give her her chosen name for her tombstone. Already, there are over 200,000 people who have signed the petition. If you too think that Leelah should have the right to her own name on her tombstone, you can go here and sign the petition. I think it’s what Leelah would have wanted.
To any parents out there who may read this and defiantly cling to your strong Christian roots- I admire you. I cling to mine too! But let’s do what Jesus wants us to do above all else, and that is to love others- just as they are; not who you think they need to be:
“Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.” 1st John 4: 7-8
” Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” 1st Corinthians 13: 4-7
“A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.”
In memory of Leelah Alcorn (Nov. 15, 1997- Dec. 28, 2014)
If you’d like to support Leelah’s right to have her name on her tombstone, you can sign this petition (and/or reblog this post).
Thanks for viewing! x
this is so interesting. love her pet rat.
January 2, 2015 at 10:23 pm
I know. I thought that was neat too. :0)
January 2, 2015 at 11:06 pm
yeah I had seen this and was very sad for this child, caught between genders and wanting to re-declare. so many things are beyond our understanding, but never the less require loving compassion. I do think the individuals are best to refrain from surgical interventions unless they grow and develop more fully, but that doesn’t mean they should be denied support and help. No doubt the parents are firm in their beliefs . . the girl may have been able to to get help through reaching out online to people that could have helped her with hope. for a resolution down the road beyond the restrictive world of her parents. Such a tragedy. . . .
January 3, 2015 at 9:59 pm
I know, Y. And you know, I feel very much the same. An adolescent’s brain chemicals/system isn’t fully formed while they’re so young, but on the other hand, unless they begin hormone replacement therapy (HRT) early on, their chances of transitioning successfully grow slimmer with every passing year. It really is a catch 22.
There’s a lot of “parent-bashing” and malicious accusations against Leelah’s parents going on, saying that this is a case of “death by extreme Christianity”- but the God-haters of this world are prepared to attack Christians for ANYTHING, so that’s not surprising. Some people are also calling out for the prosecution of the parents- but what I’ve noticed is that many of those people are merely trying to further their “cause” rather than represent the “person”. Interestingly enough, I’ve yet to see/hear one person mention the unfairness to the semi-truck driver who hit Leelah. Leelah could’ve killed the driver as well and it was completely selfish for her not to consider that beforehand. The truck driver didn’t ask to be a murderer, you know? But nobody has brought that up in the media, or in any comments sections, etc.
Regardless, Leelah’s parents deserve to not be lynch mobbed. They’re definitely to blame here also, but we all fail as parents at some point. (Some worse than others, obviously.)
January 3, 2015 at 10:16 pm
Yeah, I was just saying that today about the truck driver having to live with this shit. That poor guy needs prayer too. He didn’t choose to be a part of this sadness. sigh.
January 4, 2015 at 12:31 pm
Exactly! I’ll definitely be saying a few for him. x
January 4, 2015 at 2:45 pm
What a tragic tale, sad on so many levels. What i find the most frustrating is the blinkered view of those who would hide behind religion.
I have always thought when looking at the hierarchy of the church of whatever denomination what would Jesus think to it ? This was a man who had nothing and as you tightly allude to personified how one should conduct yourself. The irony is if he did reappear the religious zealots of every flavour would deny him and completely disregard his title that is the tragedy.
As for this girls parents they need to be pitied for their rigid and misguided belief, it’s such a shame that leelah felt she had to take this step.
January 4, 2015 at 4:04 pm
You got that right! If Jesus were here on Earth today (in man form), He would be labeled a nutcase and probably hauled off to the Psych ward. He would be denied and rejected just as much as He was as when He was here. People want a polished King- one who wears nice clothes rather than somebody who walks barefoot with scraggly hair and they want a King who drives a Mercedes rather than one who rides a donkey. Many people claim to be Christians, but they lock their hearts up and don’t know how to love somebody who is different from them. But Jesus didn’t discriminate! He put His hands on princes and paupers alike.
I don’t think Leelah’s parents should be legally prosecuted, but they should (at least) be spiritually admonished. It’s not ok to take away a teen’s access to social media, you know? That’s their lifelines! (I’m glad to say that I’ve never done a history search on any of my kids’ computers and have never searched their bedrooms. It’s such an invasion of privacy and it’s militant.) What disturbs me so much about this case is that Leelah was stripped of all of her rights and held hostage- entirely. If an adult does that to another adult it’s called “kidnapping” and the person would be arrested. But because it is parents who did that to their child- it’s “acceptable”. Ugh. So backwards. But yes, a tragedy, altogether.
January 4, 2015 at 5:44 pm
Fear makes people do crazy things, like reject their children. I obviously have no idea what her parents were thinking but I would bet it was fear of the unknown, fear of their child going to hell and probably fear of being rejected by their community if they supported her. I can’t judge them because when I look at my own flawed parents, I see that they couldn’t give me what they didn’t have to give. I tried to kill myself when I was 13 and I’m forever grateful that I lived so that I could eventually get to a place where I could forgive my parents for not protecting me or caring about me the way I thought they should have. And I can’t judge Leelah for killing herself and for believing that it was the only option. Not to mention the truck driver who has to live with killing someone, however unintentional. If Leelah’s final request is for us to fix society, the only way I know how to do that is to teach my children to not be afraid of what is different, to not be followers and to embrace people in pain and fear.
January 5, 2015 at 3:59 pm
Well said, Karen. I too used to be consumed with fear. I think fear of the unknown is the worst of all because we fill in the blank spaces with ignorance, rather than “facts” or truth. Living life as a fearless person is so much better!
My 25 year old daughter, Heidi, once shared something with me that is one of the most profound lessons I’ve ever learned. She said that we shouldn’t go digging things up from the past if we don’t have the tools to “cover it up” afterwards. (Or, we shouldn’t go digging around in our pasts if we don’t have the necessary tools to begin with.) That changed my life.
I see that neither Leelah nor her parents had the necessary tools to repair their situations, and we can’t judge them for that, really. You’re right- we can do what we can as parents by teaching our children to not be afraid of those who are different- and not only that- but to love, truly, all people- including oneself.
January 5, 2015 at 4:24 pm
What a wise daughter you have! I wasted a lot of time digging when I didn’t have the tools to cope or heal and I know I hurt people in the process. Profound indeed.
January 5, 2015 at 4:37 pm