What Leelah Alcorn has revealed about the LGBTAQ+ community

Sofia P.

Staff Writer

On Sunday, December 28, 2014, a female by the name of Leelah Alcorn died. She was hit by a semitrailer on Interstate 71 in Ohio, an apparent and successful suicide attempt. It is not her death that has managed to catch the eye of the world but rather the suicide note she published on Tumblr. Although her parents had her account taken down in an attempt to delete what she had written, multiple people have prevented its disappearance by copying the note and other posts that Alcorn had made. The suicide note talked of how badly she was treated when she told her parents she was a transgender female and how they rejected her, which flung her into a depression that resulted in her death. Why is her death, considering that death and suicide are sadly common to our world, important? Alcorn has brought to attention the transgender people and how they are treated by their community and how it can affect them.

Leelah Alcorn said with her suicide note that she wanted her death to catch people’s attention, which was why she was posting it online for everyone to see. She wanted people to see that there was something wrong with the way people were treating transgender individuals. Alcorn wanted to be the martyr to a revolution. She brought to light how her parents had treated her, hoping to reveal why statistics show that most transgender people have a life expectancy of only about 30. Alcorn’s religious Christian parents claimed that their faith looked down on homosexuals; this negative reaction from her parents hurt Alcorn deeply. Aaron Collier, senior, said, “You value your parents’ opinion more because I have to go home and see them every day.”

After she came out to her mother, Alcorn was told that “God doesn’t make mistakes,” and her parents put her in conversational therapy (therapy designed to make a person repent and show interest in the opposite sex) to make her repent and take back her claim. Alcorn was then removed from school, the place where she had come out and received positive encouragement from classmates. This support might have helped her somewhat, but the removal from this environment had a negative effect on Alcorn. Emily Fain, sophomore, said, “Although you can value your parents’ opinion, the opinion of your peers can also affect you, for just like your parents, you have to spend time with them.” Leelah had that positive opinion from her peers replaced with more negativity from her parents. Her social communications through her cell phone and laptop were taken away, limiting the positive influence from not only her peers at school but from people who followed her artwork and blog on Tumblr. It was through this treatment that Alcorn was went into a depression. She said, “I thought that God hated me and that I didn’t deserve to be alive. I cut myself at least once every couple days, and I was constantly thinking about suicide.”

Now in action is a petition for a national law called Leelah’s Law, which would ban conversation therapy in the United States for people who are Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Transgender-Asexual/Aromantic-Queer (LGBTAQ). Because Leelah was able to bring to light the effects of conversation therapy in such a public way, she is beginning to get the change she wanted. The website Tumblr is abuzz in trying to defend Leelah Alcorn and figure out ways to prevent future deaths.

The LGBTAQ community has gained more attention over time since the 1970s, and their acceptance has been a slow and gradual crawl that has made way by representations in the media. At the Golden Globes the TV show Transparent won best TV comedy, and writer Jill Soloway dedicated the award to Leelah and all transgender youth. Saloway said, “This award is dedicated to Leelah Alcorn and transgender people who died too young … Maybe we’re going to be able to teach the world something about authenticity and love.” Leelah has made a small impact in trying to get people to accept people who are transgender. She caused a media stir that would create sympathy for her and maybe change the minds of those who had made judgments before. The cartoon on Nickelodeon Legend of Korra has tried to do the same thing. Recently it ended with the protagonist and her love interest, another female, leaving the plot together. It is influences such as these, which begin young, that can prevent people from being homophobic. If people’s role models, who for most people are celebrities, believe in it, then others will. Some adults try to condemn the way the internet has changed human communications, but without television, which can project shows that promote acceptance, and social media, which can make known what happened to Leelah Alcorn and to other LGBTAQ youths around the country, this reality would not be portrayed to others.

Woodstock High School has the Lavender Project, which is a club for LGBTAQ individuals to find support for their difference from the community. Collier said he had a “mostly positive” experience coming out at Woodstock. Woodstock should attempt to keep it that way. One of the events that was able to fling Leelah into depression was being cut off from people who did support her: her friends. The community has to stick together. It was Leelah’s isolation that drove her to suicide; the Lavender Project will make others feel welcome. Leelah still even in death does not have the acceptance of her parents, and many teenagers in all other situations know that they never will have the acceptance of their parents, but having it from friends at school, may make it hurt less.

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