Today, I heard about the suicide of transgender teen Leelah Alcorn. I am filled with sadness at this horrible tragedy but in the sadness, I have also found the inspiration and bravery I needed to speak out.
I started this blog about six weeks ago and I have been struggling ever since then with how “public” I wanted to be with sharing mine and my family’s story. I have shared my blog with close friends and family but other than that, I have yet to share it in any sort of forum that is more public, even my own Facebook page. I am actually not even sure why? Well, that’s not true, I know why, I’m scared, plain and simple. I believe that there are only two choices in life, we can come from fear or we can come from love and I know that in not sharing my blog more publicly, I am still coming from a place of fear. Even though I am strong and secure in my love and support for my beautiful transgender daughter, sadly, I don’t think I am yet that secure in my love and support for myself. I do worry that people will react negatively to me, that people will judge or criticize me. And, I also worry about putting my daughter “out there” in the public. I don’t want to expose her to the hate, fear and prejudice that I know can show up in this world.
I am afraid of being criticized but I have decided that, more than that, I am afraid of the kind of world my children and my children’s children will grow up in if we don’t get our shit together and start realizing what really matters. So, late at night on this New Years Eve, I am in my office, writing and when I am done, I will bravely be posting this blog to my Facebook page!
I want to share my story in the hopes that I can help change society and help educate and inspire people like Leelah’s parents who were obviously coming from a terrible place of fear. I want to be brave in the hopes of inspiring other parents to be brave and come out publicly in support of their beautiful transgender and/or gay children! While I consider myself an activist for the entire transgender community, I feel I have a special calling to talk to the parents of transgender children. Parents, it all starts with you! With much power comes much responsibility and no one has more power and influence than a parent has over their child. Do not take this responsibility lightly! It is your duty as a parent to first do no harm and to me, this means love and accept your child for who they are, period! Leelah said in her suicide note that her parents would tell her that she would never be a girl because god doesn’t make mistakes. I am sure you have heard this said before, “god doesn’t make mistakes” and to that I say, EXACTLY!!! Your child is not a mistake!
Leelah’s parents are the ones who made a horrible and tragic mistake and they are paying the highest price any parent can pay, the loss of a child. I am SO angry and sad about how Leelah’s parents treated her, it is absolutely terrible. But, I don’t believe that Leelah’s parents are evil, I truly believe that they are brainwashed by a society and by a religion that told them that their perfect child was somehow flawed and needed to be fixed. I am angry at Leelah’s parents for not loving and accepting their child for who she was but I am more angry at the fucking systems that perpetuate these horrible lies! It all comes from a place of fear! I believe that Leelah’s parents were afraid of being rejected, afraid of being criticized, afraid of being ostracized and afraid of their child going to hell but what they didn’t realize was that in doing what they did, what they most feared, they created for their own child , SHE was rejected, SHE was criticized, SHE was ostracized and SHE was put through hell. So much so that she felt the only way out was to take her own life.
I have often thought about the amount of pain you must be in to take your life. I have often thought about it because I am a suicide survivor. Both my father and my brother committed suicide. When someone you love takes their life, not only is the pain and grief unbearable, it changes who you are. I can never again fool myself into thinking that “it can’t or won’t happen to me”. And, now, I have a transgender child who is statistically 4 times more likely to attempt suicide by the time she is 24 than a non gay or transgender youth. Although, I am comforted in knowing that this rate decreases significantly for teens who come for a home where they are accepted. Although, I have had a personal experience with suicide, the fear of suicide was never a factor in me accepting my transgender child. You love and accept your children (and anyone for that matter) for their soul and for who they are as a human being. No, suicide has never been a factor for me, but we are all at different places and this may be one of the gifts that Leelah and her legacy will leave us. You may be a parent of a transgender or gay child who is scared and isn’t sure what the “right” thing to do is BUT the one thing you do know is that you don’t want to lose your child to suicide. If this is what it takes to get you to accept your child for who they are, hey, I will take what I can get….. for now. My goal is for all parents to love and accept their children for who they are because that is just what we should all be doing as parents (and, again, as human beings) but, if for now, your motivation needs to be that you don’t want your child to commit suicide, at least it’s a start and it will save lives and buy us some time while we continue to work to change society and eliminate the fears that are preventing us from loving and accepting each other to begin with!
I don’t wish the pain that suicide causes on anyone and I think about the anguishing thoughts that must be going through Leelah’s parents heads, keeping them up at night, “Did I make a mistake?” “Should I have done things differently?” and now, sadly there is nothing they can do to save their daughter, she is gone forever. But, I also know that there are parents of out there who are, right now, rejecting, criticizing, ostracizing and putting their children through hell who are, at times, hearing a little voice in their head asking them, “Am I making a mistake?” “Should I be doing things differently?” The answer is YES and YES! But, the key here is “AM I making a mistake?”, not “DID I make a mistake?” “Should I be DOING things differently?”, not “Should I have DONE things differently?” The difference here is present tense! If you are asking yourself these questions in the present tense, there is still hope! I know you are scared, but I have faith in you parents, do the right thing! I pray that Leelah’s parents see the light and do the right thing as well. Even though they can’t bring Leelah back, I pray that they will some day come out as supporters telling their cautionary tale and helping other parents.
The end of Leelah’s suicide note reads:
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
Leelah, I know that I am just one person and I am not sure what kind of affect I will personally have on society but I am going to try to do what I can and I am going to start today by being brave and telling my story! I am filled with sadness for the pain you had to go through and I will continue to do what I can so that we can fix society. I know that you said that the only way you will rest in peace is if one day transgender people aren’t treated the way you were. I know that you felt this way while you were here on earth and in pain but I know that the god I believe in has finally taken away all of your pain and granted you the peace that you so deserve! So, rest in peace, sweet girl and we will continue to do what we can to make sure your that your death does mean something and that your legacy is one of inspiration and change!