Some words on Leelah Alcorn

Trigger Warnings: trans violence, abuse, suicide.



I often have trouble marshalling my feelings into words. Up to a point, I’m fine, but sometimes something goes so deep I can’t even begin.

But sometimes something that deep needs – screams out for – some form of wordyness. Usually at that point all I want to do is scream a big FUCK YOU to whoever or whatever made me feel that deeply.

I try to avoid standing on my soapbox and talking negatively. I try to put good into the world. But sometimes the words must be said before they rot away inside. This is one of those times.

This week a beautiful trans girl named Leelah committed suicide. It’s not the first time. Leelah is far from the only trans person to despair so badly. And you’re right, I’ve not written publicly about any of them. Well that stops now.

Leelah’s parents were so unaccepting of their daughter that they helped convince her there would never, could never be a way out. No happiness in her future. Just bleak, hating darkness where she could never be who she should be, who she was born to be.

Reading her suicide note brought more than just tears, it brought that feeling of despair I’ve known so often and so long.

I understand why Leelah did what she did. I wish with every part of me that she hadn’t. But I understand.

It makes me furious that the very people who should have loved her, helped her, protected her were the people to crush her.

It makes me furious that I even know what name Leelah was given when assigned male at birth.

It makes me furious that anybody is driven to such depths of agony for the crime of being themselves.

People are focusing on the parents, and their part in this can’t be ignored. I have no desire to witch hunt but if even half of the abuse Leelah spoke of is true, then much of what happened is owned – must be owned – by the parents who damaged her in life, and continue to do so in death – even up to defending the actions that contributed to Leelah’s suicide – even now refusing to accept who their daughter was.

Speaking for just a moment as a trans Christian – there is nothing of the God I know and love – and am loved by – in what they did. Nothing. They bow to something I don’t even recognise the shape of and their refusal to open their minds and their hearts helped their daughter to kill herself.

No, I can’t even begin to imagine the pain of losing your child. But when it could have been avoided by taking the – yes, often very hard – road of love, learning and acceptance…I’m not sure there even are words for it, and these parents will likely spend the rest of their life coming to terms with what has happened.

To continue to make your child who they were not even in death, when they can’t even stand up and fight their corner anymore, however, I cannot get past. Partly because I suspect my parents would try to do exactly the same to me, and that knowledge hurts. But even so, I’m lucky, because I have those who stand for me, and would continue to do so. I have the knowledge that there is another person – chosen by me – who has the legal right to override my parents on those decisions, and would do so out of love for me and knowledge of who I really am.

Leelah doesn’t have that. All she has is us, here, now, to try and hold up her name and the name of every other trans person who committed suicide, who was murdered, who was disowned, who was abused, who was forced to be someone they weren’t, and say This. Needs. To. Stop.

Leelah’s story is so far from unique that to brush it aside is a crime against every person who has been through abuse and hatred for daring to be who they are and every person that has been forced to hide themselves for fear of what would happen if they didn’t.

Leelah just wanted to be herself, and deserved the chance to find out who that would have been. If that’s not a lesson every single person – trans or cis – can learn, something every single person deserves, I don’t know what is.

I won’t join the chorus hounding and descrying those parents – it won’t help, and I will never abuse somebody who has just lost their child to suicide, whatever the circumstances. My anger has better, more productive, and less hate-filled places to be.

I will join those crying out for a change, for this to stop, for Leelah’s plight to not be repeated. And I will join those working towards making a day where this never happens again.


If you’d like a good place to start with that whole change thing, try banning conversion therapy.

Want more? Hit me up on twitter and I’d be happy to help.

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