Wednesday, December 31, 2014
If you've used the Internet in the past few days, you probably already saw Leelah Alcorn's story.
The 17-year-old from Ohio committed suicide by jumping in front of a tractor trailer on Sunday morning. A note set to publish on her Tumblr a few hours after her death detailed the why.
In her note, she referred to herself as being a girl trapped in a boy's body, "And I've felt that way ever since I was 4."
At age 14, when she learned that were more like her out there, she felt relief. She wasn't crazy...there are others who were assigned a sex at birth but growing up identified otherwise. Leelah told her mom about what was happening.
"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."
I have had the pleasure of meeting and writing stories on a handful of moms whose child - some as young as three and four-—expressed identifying as the opposite gender, and the moms' responses were, "How can I be a great parent to my child, provide him or her with the best resources so that she or he can be happy?"
A few months ago, I did a story on a local camp for transgender and gender creative kids for the publication I worked at the time. I met three amazing mothers who taught me so much about the importance of being a backbone to children going through what Leelah went through.
They searched everywhere to find people and places where their daughters could be reassured that what they were feeling wasn't wrong—it was simply who they were and they were going to tackle it in the best way possible. They spoke about their daughters with pride, happy that they were healthy, did good in school...with such devotion.
One told me about getting her daughter hormone blockers, so she wouldn't start going through puberty, which can be traumatizing to children assigned the sex boy but identifying as girl and vice versa.
This is something Leelah wanted. At age 16, she asked her parents for permission to start transitioning. They said no.
The rest you can read in her suicide note. Many media outlets in Ohio continue calling her "Joshua" (her birth name, not her preferred name) and using the pronoun "he."
It's horrific to still have cases like Leelah's. The world needs more moms and dads who stay true to what being a parent is - standing with your children even if they don't meet what society defines as the "norm." What the hell is it, anyway? It certainly goes beyond two boxes marked male or female.
In January, the LA Times wrote about a study looking into the "exceptionally high suicide attempt rate" among transgender or gender nonconforming people. It said about 41 percent had attempted suicide in their lives, nearly nine times the national average.
If you're a parent with a child who expresses identifying as the other gender, there are local resources where they can explain you what is happening. You can meet others going through the same experience...just fucking be there for your child. The outside world is crushing enough to deal with.
Here's a link to Southern Arizona Gender Alliance's trans parents group. This local organization is amazing, please use it. It makes a huge difference if you find the support and the information. We cannot have more cases like Leelah's. It's just inhumane.