Supporting the Transgender Community: Are Allies Doing Enough?


This Saturday marks the two-month anniversary of Leelah Alcorn’s death. The 17 year-old transgender girl committed suicide on December 28th, a tragic suicide that brought attention to the injustices in the treatment of transgender people. Unfortunately, suicide rates among the transgender community are extremely high.

A study published in 2014 by UCLA’s William Institute found that 46% of trans men and 42% of trans women attempt suicide. These statistics should make society realize that this group needs help. Plenty of support and acceptance should be offered to a person undergoing this life-changing and emotionally painful transformation process; however the statistics show that this rarely happens. It is more likely that individuals undergoing the transformation receive the opposite of support and acceptance .

Here are some more staggering statistics from the UCLA study:

  • 57% of transgender people reported that their family refused to speak with them or see them.
  • 50-54% reported being harassed or bullied at school.
  • 50-59% experienced discrimination or harassment at work.
  • 60% reported doctors or health care providers refused to treat them.
  • 64-65% suffered physical or sexual violence at work and 63-78% at school.
  • 69% experienced homelessness.

These findings are absolutely terrifying. Our society needs to realize that treating people like this is unacceptable. In her suicide note, Leelah slated her parents, and told them that they can’t control her life and revealed their utter lack of support in her transition. It was Leelah’s dying wish that the transgender community would get more support from support from their friends, families, and schools. We should all strive to honor that wish.

It is time we start listening to Leelah’s request to look at these suicide rates and realize that“‘That’s fucked up,’ and fix it.” So let’s fix it.

The Change Starts with Us, Friends and Family

If you ever have a friend, family member, coworker, or anyone else in your life tell you about their transition, remember these three things that Gena Ricardi so eloquently stated in her article “Be a Better Ally,” in regards to listening to their story. Remember to thank them for taking the risk in sharing and trusting you. They are taking a huge risk and trust that you will support them, so thanking them is huge and is also an indicator that you can be a supportive shoulder that they can lean on during their journey. Remember to listen to them. Giving them your attention and being present while they share with you is so important. Also, remember to just accept them, do not try to validate them. Just appreciate and accept them for who they are. They aren’t looking for your judgment or validation, just your acceptance and appreciation for who they are.

An example of this has been been given attention in recent news. Last Wednesday, U.S. Representative Mike Honda, serving California’s 17th District, tweeted a photograph showing support for his 8-year-old granddaughter earlier this week. His granddaughter, Malisa, identifies as a female and has expressed interest in becoming a role model for other kids struggling with their identity.

Her grandparents and parents reaction was perfectly accepting and loving and should serve as a role model for other families going through similar situations. They enrolled her in a new school that supported the family and Malisa’s decision to enroll as a girl. Her parents have also created a team for Malisa of therapists and pediatric endocrinologists to help the family prepare for her transition in the years to come.

“[People say] it’s just a phase or they’ll grow out of it,” Honda commented. “But we have to be a little bit more in tune with what youngsters are telling us. From there, we can develop better solutions, be more thoughtful.” How could that not inspire you and warm your heart?

More families need to be like Representative Honda’s family. They should stand up and be proud to support their transgendered family member. If only Leelah Alcorn’s family had done the same. Maybe she would still be with us, fighting for and being a role model for people like her instead of being another victim of the mistreatment of transgendered people.

The fact that a politician is publicly making a stance about this issue will hopefully inspire others to do the same.

It is time that we start working towards accepting transgender people into society as people who have feelings, who are going through something, and who have the right to ask for help and receive it.

Representative Honda is also taking a step in the right direction when it comes to government protection. Showing his support also confirms that he will support the transgender community as a whole when it comes to supporting laws and regulations that ensure the protection and acceptance of the transgender community.

More laws and acts such as the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (approved by the Senate in 2013) need to be put into place. This act ensured that someone could not be denied a job, fired, or discriminated against by a business based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Schools, work establishments, homeless shelters, and community centers specifically should work on catering to the needs of people undergoing the transformation process or who have already went through it.

These places should be of support, not harassment. Laws and regulations need to be put into place to ensure that this community is getting the protection it needs.

On a lighter note, here is the most badass, heartwarming video of an eight year old rapping about transgender acceptance. Guaranteed to make you smile:

“We all deserve freedom, love, and respect,” he raps. It’s that simple.

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