Transgender teen asks for her suicide to ‘mean something’ and ‘fix society’
Leelah Alcorn ‒ born Joshua ‒ was struck by a tractor-trailer on Interstate 71 just before 2:30 a.m. on Sunday in a Cincinnati, Ohio suburb, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported. She had walked four miles from her home in King Mills. Ohio Highway Patrol officials said they believed the teenager may have committed suicide.
Then on Monday, a blog post entitled Suicide Note appeared on Alcorn’s Tumblr account.
“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,” she wrote.
“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,” Alcorn continued. “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.”
She detailed her depression, alienation and feelings of hopelessness. She complained of a lack of support and love from friends and family, “Just my parent’s disappointment and the cruelty of loneliness.”
Alcorn’s mother forced her to attend Christian therapy, the 17-year-old wrote in the letter, with therapists telling her she was “selfish and wrong” and “should look to God for help.” The family then took her out of public school and sent her to a private one, further alienating the teenager.
The girl known as Leelah to her friends outlined her fears that ‒ even if she transitioned ‒ she would never accept herself, that she would never be good enough to love herself, explaining that those were her reasons for killing herself.
“There’s no winning. There’s no way out. I’m sad enough already, I don’t need my life to get any worse. People say ‘it gets better’ but that isn’t true in my case. It gets worse. Each day I get worse,” she wrote.
Alcorn then asked for her death to “mean something.”
“As for my will, I want 100 [percent] of the things that I legally own to be sold and the money (plus my money in the bank) to be given to trans civil rights movements and support groups, I don’t give a shit which one,” she wrote. “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.”
“Fix society. Please,” her note ended.
In a later Tumblr post, Alcorn wrote, “Mom and Dad: Fuck you. You can’t just control other people like that. That’s messed up.”
The teen’s mother, Carla Wood Alcorn, wrote on Facebook Sunday, "My sweet 16-year-old son, Joshua Ryan Alcorn, went home to Heaven this morning. He was out for an early morning walk and was hit by a truck. Thank you for the messages and kindness and concern you have sent our way. Please continue to keep us in your prayers." The post has since been taken down, and her account has been made private.
Alcorn’s friend Abby Jones criticized that message as an example of what contributed to her friend’s depression. “They used the wrong pronouns,” Jones told the Washington Post. “Her mom is there referring to her as her ‘baby boy Joshua.’ She could not be who she wanted to be because of her home life.”
Parker Marie Molloy, a Chicago-based journalist who frequently writes about transgender issues, agreed.
“Trans kids need love and acceptance for who they are,” Molloy told the Boston Globe. “Simply put, the single most important resource a trans child can have is a loving parent(s).”
In 2010, the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force reported 41 percent of 7,000 transgender people surveyed had attempted suicide. A study by the same group the following year found that trans children who are rejected by their families are 60 percent more likely to attempt suicide at some point during their lives, compared to children who were welcomed with open arms and unconditional love, according to Molloy.
Cincinnati City Councilman Chris Seelbach, the city’s first openly gay elected representative, told ABC News that he felt it was important to draw attention to the story.
"It's an incredibly difficult and horrible situation that a 17-year-old would feel the best alternative is to step in front of a semi," Seelbach said. "It shows how far we need to come on transgender issues."
"What we should be focusing on is how this happened and how we can stop this ever happening again," he added.
Being a transgender individual “can be a very isolating experience," Jonah Yokoyama, the Transition Care Services Director at the Heartland Trans Wellness Group, told WLWT. "People need community. They need connection and, like I said, it's hard for transgender individuals to find that connection."
A Facebook group called Justice for Leelah Alcorn has already gained over 20,000 likes. Friends and supporters created a petition on Change.org calling for the creation of 'Leelah’s Law', which would ban transgender conversion therapy like Alcorn said her parents forced her to attend.
The truck driver who struck and killed Alcorn, Abdullahi Ahmed, was uninjured in the accident, the Enquirer reported. The Ohio State Highway Patrol continues to investigate; no charges have been filed.
If you or a friend is in need of help, contact the Trans Lifeline at 877-565-8860.