It’s been nearly a year since a transgender teen named Leelah Alcorn killed herself on a highway outside of Cincinnati, making national headlines when her suicide note revealed the disastrous effects of Christian conversion therapy. Even a year later, her parting comments still apply as much as they did when she first wrote them.
Leelah’s mother Carla refused to accept her child’s gender, but insisted to the media that she was supportive. “We told him that we loved him unconditionally,” she told CNN, referring to her child by her (mis-gendered) male birthname Josh. “We loved him no matter what.”
Alcorn died by jumping in front of a tractor-trailer on a remote highway at 2:15am on December 28, 2014. A note on her bed said “I’ve had enough,” but after her death, her previously queued suicide note posted to Tumblr.
The note laid the blame squarely on the shoulders of her parents, particularly her mother. At the age of 14, after learning about transgender people for the first time, Alcorn felt overjoyed:
“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.”
A 2011 report by the the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National LGBTQ Task Force reported that 57 percent of all trans people experience some form of familial rejection upon coming out; familial rejection increases a trans person’s likelihood of suicide by nearly 20 percent.
Leelah came out as gay at school, but while her friends were supportive, her parents were pissed, according to the note. The Alcorns pulled Leelah out of public school and removed Leelah’s access to social media, leading to even more feelings of isolation and depression:
“After a summer of having almost no friends plus the weight of having to think about college, save money for moving out, keep my grades up, go to church each week and feel like shit because everyone there is against everything I live for, I have decided I’ve had enough…
“Either I live the rest of my life as a lonely man who wishes he were a woman or I live my life as a lonelier woman who hates herself. There’s no winning.”
An iChat conversation from the previous month revealed previous thoughts of suicide. Leelah’s parents reportedly sent her to conversion therapy where they hoped she would stop being transgender and attracted to male-presenting people — while such disproven “therapies” have been banned in four states, it’s still legal in 46 other states, including Ohio where Leelah lived.
“My suicide note was queued on Tumblr, and I was ready to jump off the bridge next to my house that goes over I-71, but I decided to call a transgender suicide hotline and I basically cried my eyes out for a couple hours talking to a lady on there,” Leelah wrote.
Her note ends with a plea:
“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.”
Alcorn signed the note Leelah after crossing out the name Josh.
One site has counted 20 trans suicides in 2015 alone, though the number is most likely much higher, due to under-reporting by cisgender family members, eager to hide their dead family member’s trans identity from the public. Such is a world where more people claim to have seen a ghost than a trans person.