On December 28, 2014, seventeen-year old Leelah Alcorn ended her life because of society’s inability to accept nonconformity. Leelah is just one of the many victims of transphobia.
In her suicide letter, Leelah wrote that she was born as Josh Alcorn, but when she was four she knew that she had been born in the wrong body. When Leelah told her mother that she was transgender, her mother told her that she was going through a phase and that she would never be a girl.
This response deeply hurt Leelah and in her final words she even pleaded “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.”
As shown in her letter, this negative response made Leelah hate herself.
To make matters worse, Leelah was forced to see Christian therapists who only reinforced the idea that being transgender is wrong. This form of conversion therapy only deepened Leelah’s depression. As noted in Time Magazine, conversion therapy can be very harmful to a person’s psyche and can lead a person to become suicidal. No matter what your beliefs are, it is not okay to tell a transgender person that there is something wrong with him or her.
Unfortunately, Leelah’s story is far too common in the transgender community. A 2011 study by the National Center for Transgender Equality revealed that 41% of responding transgender and gender nonconforming people had attempted suicide compared to 1.6% of the general population.
This study also revealed that this community has faced high rates of physical and emotional abuse, as well as harassment and discrimination in both education and employment.
The transgender community faces many hardships just for the sole fact that they do not conform to the gender they were born with. In many cases, once transgender people reveal their true feelings to their friends and families, they are shunned and are told that the way they feel is wrong. Transgender people also have to live in fear of showing their true selves in public because they run the risk of being discriminated against in their schools and jobs and of being physically harmed by strangers. Why does this community have to live in constant fear for being who they are? Their lives do not hurt anyone so why does society continue to oppress them?
In Leelah’s case, her own parents shamed her by continually denying the fact that she was a girl. They still continue to deny this fact. In an interview with CNN, Leelah’s mother used male pronouns when talking about her daughter. She, like the rest of society, refuses to accept transgender people.
Leelah’s case demonstrates the need to expand the definition of gender. Gender should not be defined by genitalia. If a person born with a vagina feels that he is a male, he should be allowed to change to what he feels his gender is and not be marginalized by society.
We as a society need to stop harassing this community, who is not hurting anyone. Families need to become more accepting of their children regardless of their religious beliefs. Friends need to be more supportive. Leelah’s death is just one of too many lives that have been lost because of society’s inability to accept. Leelah’s death cannot be in vain. Society needs to change. We need to fix our society. By opening up our mindset and creating an atmosphere of tolerance, we can all end transphobia and make it a thing of the past.