The recent suicide of transgender teen Leelah Alcorn has sent shockwaves through the LGBT+ community. Alcorn committed suicide Dec. 28 at 2:15 a.m. at 17 years old by stepping into the path of a semi-truck five miles from her home. After coming out to her parents as transgender when she was 14, Leelah (then Josh) Alcorn was met with outrage. In her suicide note posted on Tumblr she wrote:
“[When I figured out I was transgender] I immediately told my mom, and she reacted extremely negatively, telling me that it was a phase, that I would never truly be a girl, that God doesn’t make mistakes, that I am wrong.”
This treatment is not uncommon when transgender children come out to their parents, and it is exactly this attitude that can lead trans kids to commit suicide.
According to Alcorn’s suicide note, her parents sent her to conversion therapy, a controversial type of therapy performed on LGBT+ people in order to “fix” them.
The American Psychiatric Association condemned this practice and stated in a 2000 position paper “the potential risks of reparative therapy are great, including depression, anxiety and self-destructive behavior, since therapist alignment with societal prejudices against homosexuality may reinforce self-hatred already experienced by the patient.”
Alcorn’s parents claimed no responsibility in regard to their daughter’s suicide and her mother, Carla Alcorn, posted on Facebook the next day:
“My sweet 16-year-old son, Joshua Ryan Alcorn went home to heaven this morning. He was out for an early morning walk and was hit by a truck. Thank you for the messages and kindness and concern you have sent our way. Please continue to keep us in your prayers.”
Carla has been criticized for her use of he/him pronouns and her denial of her daughter’s suicide. She has since deleted the post.
“The only way I will rest in peace is if one day transgender people aren’t treated the way I was, they’re treated like humans, with valid feelings and human rights,” Alcorn wrote. “My death needs to mean something,”
In response to Alcorn’s wishes, the Transgender Human Rights Institute has started a petition to ban conversion therapy. It has garnered well over 330,000 supporters since posted. A note at the bottom of the petition reads, “Together we can make the world a safer place for transgender youth everywhere.”
This petition tries to stay true to Alcorn’s final plea: “Fix society. Please.”
– By Sawyer Davis