My heart hurts because of the death of Leelah Alcorn, a transgender teenager who told her parents than she was a really a girl, not the boy she had tried to be for her entire life. And was told that God didn’t make mistakes and that she was wrong. The Alcorns continued to refer to her as their son. They took her to therapists who fit their point of view, who didn’t help Leelah’s depression- but judged her and continued to tell her that she was wrong. And then her parents proceeded to isolate her from her friends- pulling her out of school and cutting her off from the internet.
So Leelah gave up. She wrote a suicide note and put it in her Tumblr queue- set to post in the event she wasn’t there to stop it from going up. And she apparently walked onto a highway where she was struck by a semi and died.
Her mother posted to social media, mourning the loss of her son. And the tragic accident that took his life. That’s right. She didn’t even acknowledge what happened, and rewrote it to keep up appearances.
The line from Leelah’s suicide note that gutted me was this:
My death needs to mean something.
If you are a transgender individual who needs to talk to someone who understands you can call Trans Lifeline: (877) 565-8860 (http://www.translifeline.org/). It’s staffed by transgender individuals, and is supported by the community.
If you are someone who wishes to better understand how to support someone who has come out to you as transgender, ask them what pronouns they prefer, or if there’s another name they want you to use. But most importantly, let them know that you still love and care about them.
Because no matter what name or identity someone has- that’s all that’s changed. Their personality, their interests, those haven’t. And in the end, they’ll be so much happier when they’re being honest about themselves- and isn’t that what you want?
If you have a loved one who abuses you like Leelah’s parents did (and yes, misgendering and trying to “correct” someone’s gender is abuse)- please know that there are people out there who will listen and help you through this. As Supernatural put it- blood don’t mean family.
We need to do more. There are so many misconceptions about transgender people. There is so much hatred and violence – so little support for the trans community even in the LGBT community.
We need to stop telling kids that it gets better, in some nebulous future that they can look forward to. We need to start telling them that it gets better NOW, because we’re there for them- and we need to make good on that.