Saturday, January 10, 2015

Rest in Peace and in Power Leelah Alcorn

By now, hopefully, many of you know this face.  If not, then please read on.  The person in the picture above is one Leelah Alcorn, a 17 year-old transgendered youth who just a couple of weeks ago took her own life by jumping in front of a tractor-trailer on Interstate 71 near her home in Kings Mills, Ohio. In a suicide note left on her Tumblr, she told readers:

Please don’t be sad, it’s for the better. The life I would've lived isn't worth living in… because I’m transgender.

The oh so tragic and premature death underscores a huge bias that's still out there, and though Leelah places a lot of blame on her parents for the intense misery she lived under which caused her to take such drastic action, the sad truth is that misery might've followed her throughout her life. Trans-gendered people are probably the one group of people that incite the most bias in society, even among gays, and that needs to stop. 

In the LGBT world, transgendered people seem to be the low ones on the totem pole, at least from my own personal experience.  That is, they're the minority within the minority, and other than through the light-hearted roles some of them play in clubs as drag queens, they're looked upon negatively for their 'fem' qualities.  Many of us see them as different than us, yet we all should know they're born the way they are just like we believe we're born as we are.

Of course, if many gay people feel this way, then why shouldn't we expect the general population to look upon transgenderism as something to look down upon, as well?  Just like so many other gay and lesbian youth who take their own lives because of a societal norm that their very existence is wrong, then so too would transgendered like Leelah do the same.  And they've got it worse!  Leelah continues...

I could go into detail explaining why I feel that way, but this note is probably going to be lengthy enough as it is. To put it simply, I feel like a girl trapped in a boy’s body, and I've felt that way ever since I was 4. I never knew there was a word for that feeling, nor was it possible for a boy to become a girl, so I never told anyone and I just continued to do traditionally “boyish” things to try to fit in.

When I was 14, I learned what transgender meant and cried of happiness. After 10 years of confusion I finally understood who I was. I immediately told my mom, and she reacted extremely negatively, telling me that it was a phase, that I would never truly be a girl, that God doesn't make mistakes, that I am wrong. If you are reading this, parents, please don’t tell this to your kids. Even if you are Christian or are against transgender people don’t ever say that to someone, especially your kid. That won’t do anything but make them hate them self. That’s exactly what it did to me.   

Does this sound familiar to any of my gay readers?  It should.  Yeah, we've all heard this sort of thing before, haven't we?  Oh, religion!  That's got a lot to do with all of this.  Not to get on my soap box, but if deeply religious people would just trust in their God and believe that he made everybody the way he made them for a reason, then a lot of our problems would be solved.  Leave the judging to Him and treat everyone as they are, not as you'd like them to be.  

Perhaps a death such as Leelah's will work to change minds and hearts.  Time will tell, but there's already been a social media blitz by supporters, and even a Cincinnati Councilman, Chris Seelbach, weighed in on Alcorn's death with an impassioned speech to the LGBT community...

The truth is, we as a society have failed you. What I know for sure is that with every day, it may not feel like it gets better, but I know that you can get through it. You're the person God made you to be, and you have the strength to persevere. It will not be easy. It may not get better with every day, but you can do it -- I know you can.  

He then added, You are not alone. ... You can live. You can live. You can live.

Indeed.  Perhaps Leelah's tragic death will effect some change in how transgendered people are treated in our society, much in the way Matthew Shepard's death did for the gay community at large, especially in their youth.  She concludes her suicide note with a plea for change, a call for action which many have already begun...

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. Gender needs to be taught about in schools, the earlier the better. My death needs to mean something. My death needs to be counted in the number of transgender people who commit suicide this year. I want someone to look at that number and say “that’s fucked up” and fix it. Fix society. Please.
(Leelah) Josh Alcorn 

Rest in peace, and in power Leelah!

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