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.”
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
…things have been so hard. I don’t like to complain, so I try not to, but really, when I look at the string of events I’ve experienced in just the past 6 months, it’s really quite incredible that I’ve managed to remain in college. Let’s recap:
a. The irreparable breakdown of my off again/on again relationship with my former fiance
b. The irreparable breakdown of my car
c. The great internet apocalypse (and subsequent loss of my electricity/phone/and Netflix)
d. Picking up a vile bacterial infection by “the cougher”
e. Missing my own graduation as a result of a systemic infection and U.T.I (and again, “the cougher”)
f. The death of my beloved cat, Carl
g. A severe burn to my belly
h. A bone-deep dog bite to my right ring finger
i. Unspeakable stress from tackling my 5th academic year
I’m a tough cookie, believe me. I can handle pretty much anything that is thrown my way, but sometimes, it just starts to get to you. Little by little. Drop by drop, and in the end, it’s not the catastrophic tsunami that wrecks it all, but the water drop that hangs on for a second too long.
I’m feeling severely depressed. My emotions stay on a fairly predictable plane, daily. I’m not what could be classified as “ecstatic”, but I rarely get depressed either. Tonight, I’m black. So black, I’ve contemplated quitting school, bolting my door, and retiring early. I’m supposed to do 30 hours of internship at a drug rehab/Behavioral Health facility of my choice and I don’t even have a freaking car! I really wish my former room mate (name withheld) would give me the money he owes me already. He owes me thousands of dollars and he knows how hard things have been for me. He hasn’t given me a cent- I would never do that to anybody. How could he be alright with taking advantage of somebody like that? He’s owed me a significant amount of money for almost a year now. It’s quite pathetic.
I’m tired. And tonight, I’m having a bit of a meltdown. I can’t always be the strong one. I want to have a good scream or break something but alas, that takes raw energy and I have none of that at the moment. Truly, I want to quit. I want to quit everything, but I’m not a quitter, so that’s out. I have enough alcohol here for 10 New Year’s parties but I don’t like to drink, so…that too is out. I’ve had enough psychology for the past few years to diagnose and assess 100 people, but I fall short assessing myself. I miss my daughter, and I miss my son already.
Brian was over for the weekend with his girlfriend, Amanda. I let them take my room over when they’re here: my wide screen monitor doubles as a mini-theater, which can be swiveled around easily. They left only yesterday but already this places feels like a crypt.
I snapped a few pics of them. They’ve been together for almost a year now. They’re absolutely adorable together. :0)
Ghosties (snuggling in the snow)
When I first met J, he had long hair well past his shoulders. He was a total stoner, just as I was, and was fresh out of a foster home: he was 18. My brother had brought him over one night, looking for some Klonopin (of which I had plenty at the time) and sort of left him on my doorstep. My brother was inebriated and wandered off into the night, having left his friend behind.
I had lost two of my children to the system some 14 years before, due to a series of tragedies, and so my heart really went out to the guy when he shared with me his story. His mother had been murdered when he was only 7. His Dad died of a heart attack when he was 14. He was sent to live with his grandmother afterwards, who treated him unkindly, and from there, he was placed in one foster home after the next. I was still fighting for the return of my own children at that time, and when we compared notes, we soon realized that our stories were strikingly similar, except he was “the kid from the foster homes” and I was “the parent fighting for mine to return”; nevertheless, we shared the same feelings, ideas, notions, beliefs, struggles, and hopes. It was obvious that there was an age gap- 18 years to be exact- and I thought, at best, we would become friends who shared a spectacular understanding of loss and life.
We talked for the next three days- without sleeping. We smoked a lot of weed and bonded entirely. We both knew that we had “found somebody” who could truly understand our paths, both past and present. We discovered that we were both Christians, and singers/songwriters/musicians. We were also both French and Indian (native American).
As I learned more about this amazing guy, I realized that he had a gift in the areas of endurance and overcoming tragedy. I hadn’t yet learned many lessons that he had learned, and at some an early age. I followed him like a shadow, studying his easygoing manner, his very slow and methodical way of speaking. I noticed that he never spoke without giving what he said much thought. I on the other hand, often stuttered and, especially in his presence, was tongue tied and gushed out any ole thing my brain was thinking at the time. I completely lacked finesse and grace.
I was also extremely hot-headed. If somebody pissed me off, I was ready to roll- and I do mean roll. J and I weren’t by any means “an item” but we grew close and formed a unique bond. I taught him the ropes in photography; how to compose a shot and the importance of exposure and lighting. He soon became my apprentice and model. I painted a huge set of butterfly wings on my wall and he became my living butterfly. (They made for very interesting pics. 🙂
The weeks turned into months, and the months years. I grew to love J with all of my heart, and have never known a love so strongly, apart from my children and parents, but this was a different kind of love altogether. I’ve learned so much from him, as he has from me. We quit smoking pot ( 5 years ago) together, and we quit smoking cigarettes together around the same time. We quit drinking whiskey together and somehow, we’ve worked the worst out of each other and have polished up our best parts.
When we first met, we were both aimless, bleeding wounds in life. He’s been able to comfort me, and repair some places in my heart and soul that were dying. I’ve been able to care for him and give him the nurturing and love that he’s craved for many years.
Although he was riddled with unspeakable horrors as a child, he was able to become an outstanding academic student, which has rubbed off on me entirely. We’re now both college students and can call each other a “life partner”. We’ve literally grown up together. Saying that J is a “boyfriend” is somewhat insulting. He’s so much more. If he were my husband, there would be labels and expectations and such. We share a unique friendship, but with a love and respect much stronger. I’ve often told him that I would rather be dirt poor, living in a cardboard box with him, under a bridge, than to have a fine mansion without him. And it’s true.
And that’s the funny thing about love. It’s such a precious thing in this world; when it comes to you, you must hold it like a child, cultivate it, and care for it like the most delicate of possessions. In five months, it will have been 7 years since J showed up at my door.
“I love this little pitty…and this little pitty….and this little pitty….” J says, grabbing my toes and smiling at me. I return the smile, my heart swelling and burning with love.
Who knew it would take an 18 year old kid to make a woman out of me?
(And such a trainwreck of a person to make a man out of him.)
We’re not the same people were were years ago. We’ve merged into the same being in a way. We can give each other one look and say so many things. He picks things out of my head almost constantly- verbatim- and that’s really freaky, but so very neat. I feel like the very threads of our souls are intertwined. I speak much slower now. 🙂 And I always think before I speak.
My little car is falling apart, and so I’ll be getting another soon. I told J that I will give him this one when I do- it can be his fixer upper. He just replaced the alternator and the battery, and I love the way he stands here, holding his prize (like a caveman) – the beast- conquered.
Life can change so quickly sometimes. One big earthquake can bring a nation to its knees and everything you have today can be gone tomorrow. I think of these things daily. I can’t speak for tomorrow, but today, love is not only in my life, but it rules it. I barely have two pennies that I can rub together, but J’s love has made me a rich woman.
And I’ll take love over money, any day…