Leelah Alcorn, a 17-year-old transgender teenager from Ohio, took her own life last Sunday. She walked in front of an oncoming truck and was crushed to death. Leelah left behind a suicide note on her Tumblr blog, in which she said she had been forced by her devout Christian parents to undergo conversion therapy, which seeks to change sexual orientation through counseling. The practice has been banned in two states on grounds that it is medically unfounded and puts children in danger.
As a result, Leelah’s parents have been subjected to a torrent of abuse on social media. Today the Independent is reporting that gay rights activist Dan Savage has taken to Twitter, saying that Leelah’s parents of should be prosecuted.
In her final letter, Alcorn, born with the name Joshua, said her parents had reacted “extremely negatively” when she told them she was transgender, causing her to develop a “f**k you” attitude towards them.
On Twitter, Savage suggested that an example should be made of Leelah’s Alcorn’s parents.
It risks incentivizing suicide—take revenge on hateful parents by killing yourself—but an example needs 2 be made of #LeelahAlcorn's parents— Dan Savage (@fakedansavage) December 31, 2014
Savage pointed out that parental hostility and rejection increases the risk of suicide amongst young people, who may already be feeling confused and isolated as they come to terms with their sexuality.
We know that parental hostility & rejection doubles a queer kid's already quadrupled risk of suicide—rejecting your queer kid is abuse.— Dan Savage (@fakedansavage) December 31, 2014
Savage went on to say that “Leelah Alcorn’s parents… should be ashamed — but first they need to be shamed. Charges should be brought.”
He also said the therapists who saw Leelah Alcorn should be charged, and suggested that her siblings should not remain with their parents.
In her note, Alcorn said she had felt “like a girl trapped in a boy’s body” since the age of 4, and had “cried of happiness” when she first came across the term transgender. Leelah said she began to feel hopeless after realizing her parents “would never come around” and allow her to transition.
On Wednesday, Carla Alcorn, Leelah’s mother, told CNN that when her son told her that he wanted to live as a girl she had said, “We don’t support that, religiously, but we told him that we loved him unconditionally. We loved him no matter what. I loved my son. People need to know that I loved him. He was a good kid, a good boy.”
Carla Alcorn told CNN that Leelah was depressed, and that counselors and a psychiatrist gave the teenager medication. Mrs. Alcorn went on to say that hateful messages directed toward her and her husband are making them out to be “horrible people,” and are very hurtful and worrying. Mrs. Alcorn has other children, she said, and they are incredibly sad about losing a sibling.
In her suicide note, Leelah pleaded that transgender people needed to be given more support, saying, “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 f***ed up’ and fix it. Fix society.”
Research shows that Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender teenagers are about twice as likely to have attempted suicide as their heterosexual peers.
Anyone who has been affected by the news in the UK can call the Samaritans on 08457 909090 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for confidential help and support. For confidential support in the US call National Suicide Prevention Lifeline on 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or Transgender Lifeline on +187 756 588 60.