On 28th December 2014, having written a devastating suicide letter, 17 year old Leelah Alcorn left her home and threw herself in front of an 18 wheel truck ending her life. The letter would probably have never become public, or even the fact that she was trans, had she not decided to post it on Tumbler set to publish shortly after her death. If you have not already seen the letter or extracts from it, you can read the full text below. (The letter has now been blocked on Tumbler at the request of Leelah’s parents.)
Leelah is not the first young trans to commit suicide and I am sure she will not be the last. Leelah’s story is all too common but mostly we never hear about it because family prevent the information being published. What Leelah said in her letter and the reactions since her death have brought sharply to public attention how important it is that we do tackle transgender issues better, especially in schools and with young people.
Across the world current statistics indicate that a staggering 40% or more (48% in the UK) of young trans children attempt to take their lives and as with Leelah, the primary cause is lack of acceptance and support from the people closest to us; parents, family, friends and schools. Trans children who do not receive support are also much more likely to self harm, take drugs, become involved in the sex industry, become HIV positive, be unemployed etc. In fact transgender children who do not receive support do far worse on every measure that matters.
On the other hand when we look at the lives of trans children who do have the support of their families, friends and schools the picture is increasingly optimistic. I would not wish being trans on anyone – because no matter how well supported, there will be huge problems and a difficult life path – but it is support that makes the difference between a difficult life and an unacceptable life.
The short video below introduces Jazz Jennings, now 14 years old and recently voted one of the 25 most influential teenagers in the US. Since she first appeared in a documentary in 2007, her parents and family have demonstrated the value of accepting people for who they are and their positive approach, together with the new book by Jazz, is starting to bring about some of the changes Leelah was denied. It would be truly amazing if we could encourage all junior schools to introduce kids to transgender issues in such a positive way.
Leelah’s suicide has made an impact, but what a huge cost. The driver of the truck, friends and family have all suffered as a result. Some comment on the internet condemns Leelah for her actions but, whilst I certainly do not condone suicide in any way, I do hope that people will see past that act to the awful pain expressed in this suicide letter that drove her to take her life.
A petition has now been launched to try to bring an end to the conversion therapy her parents tried to make her undergo which has already received nearly 300,000 signatures. Please do sign the petition because stopping this therapy will hopefully stop the deluded people who promote it from harming more young trans and gay people. But more importantly why not promote Jazz Jennings book and encourage local schools to use it to change attitudes in a more positive way.
Leelah Alcorn’s Suicide Note
If you are reading this, it means that I have committed suicide and obviously failed to delete this post from my queue.
Please don’t be sad, it’s for the better. The life I would’ve lived isn’t worth living in… because I’m transgender. I could go into detail explaining why I feel that way, but this note is probably going to be lengthy enough as it is. To put it simply, I feel like a girl trapped in a boy’s body, and I’ve felt that way ever since I was 4. I never knew there was a word for that feeling, nor was it possible for a boy to become a girl, so I never told anyone and I just continued to do traditionally ‘boyish’ things to try to fit in.
When I was 14, I learned what transgender meant and cried of happiness. After 10 years of confusion I finally understood who I was. 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. If you are reading this, parents, please don’t tell this to your kids. Even if you are Christian or are against transgender people don’t ever say that to someone, especially your kid. That won’t do anything but make them hate them self. That’s exactly what it did to me.
My mom started taking me to a therapist, but would only take me to christian therapists, (who were all very biased) so I never actually got the therapy I needed to cure me of my depression. I only got more christians telling me that I was selfish and wrong and that I should look to God for help.
When I was 16 I realized that my parents would never come around, and that I would have to wait until I was 18 to start any sort of transitioning treatment, which absolutely broke my heart. The longer you wait, the harder it is to transition. I felt hopeless, that I was just going to look like a man in drag for the rest of my life. On my 16th birthday, when I didn’t receive consent from my parents to start transitioning, I cried myself to sleep.
I formed a sort of a ‘f*** you’ attitude towards my parents and came out as gay at school, thinking that maybe if I eased into coming out as trans it would be less of a shock. Although the reaction from my friends was positive, my parents were pissed. They felt like I was attacking their image, and that I was an embarrassment to them. They wanted me to be their perfect little straight christian boy, and that’s obviously not what I wanted.
So they took me out of public school, took away my laptop and phone, and forbid me of getting on any sort of social media, completely isolating me from my friends. This was probably the part of my life when I was the most depressed, and I’m surprised I didn’t kill myself. I was completely alone for 5 months. No friends, no support, no love. Just my parent’s disappointment and the cruelty of loneliness.
At the end of the school year, my parents finally came around and gave me my phone and let me back on social media. I was excited, I finally had my friends back. They were extremely excited to see me and talk to me, but only at first. Eventually they realized they didn’t actually give a s**t about me, and I felt even lonelier than I did before. The only friends I thought I had only liked me because they saw me five times a week.
After a summer of having almost no friends plus the weight of having to think about college, save money for moving out, keep my grades up, go to church each week and feel like s**t because everyone there is against everything I live for, I have decided I’ve had enough. I’m never going to transition successfully, even when I move out. I’m never going to be happy with the way I look or sound. I’m never going to have enough friends to satisfy me. I’m never going to have enough love to satisfy me. I’m never going to find a man who loves me. I’m never going to be happy. Either I live the rest of my life as a lonely man who wishes he were a woman or I live my life as a lonelier woman who hates herself. There’s no winning. There’s no way out. I’m sad enough already, I don’t need my life to get any worse. People say ‘it gets better’ but that isn’t true in my case. It gets worse. Each day I get worse.
That’s the gist of it, that’s why I feel like killing myself. Sorry if that’s not a good enough reason for you, it’s good enough for me. As for my will, I want 100% of the things that I legally own to be sold and the money (plus my money in the bank) to be given to trans civil rights movements and support groups, I don’t give a s**t which one. 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. Gender needs to be taught about in schools, the earlier the better. My death needs to mean something. 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. Please.
(Leelah) Josh Alcorn