Leelah Alcorn’s suicide sparks reaction

Adi Levin, Staff Writer


“The life I would’ve lived isn’t worth living … because I’m transgender,” wrote 17-year-old Leelah Alcorn in her suicide note before taking her own life on Dec. 28.

Feeling trapped and alone, Alcorn believed that there was no escape from the lack of acceptance in her life.  Instantly, news of Leelah’s actions traveled all over the Internet, from her suicide note on Tumblr, to articles on Facebook, to photographs on Instagram, and tweets on Twitter.

The aftermath of Alcorn’s death inspired others to come forth with their stories and supportive comments about being transgender, many with the Twitter tag #RealLiveTransAdult.

Everywhere, activists have been creating petitions and proposing laws to bring justice in her name.  At the forefront of this development is Leelah’s Law: a law intended to ban conversion therapy.

When Alcorn told her parents she was transgender, they sent her to a therapist who told her that she was born a boy and that that was the way she should stay.

“I only got more Christians telling me I was selfish and wrong and that I should look to God for help,” wrote Alcorn.

Alcorn’s parents refused to let her transition or acknowledge her preferred pronouns.  There are still people who believe that being transgender is fixable and must remedied.

“I was just really upset that people in the LGBT community like Leelah are being abused for things they can’t control,” said junior and member of Schreiber’s GSA Rachelle Huitt.

After being sent to conversion therapy, Alcorn was confined to her house and taken out of school so that she would not influence or be influenced by peers.

“They took me out of public school, took away my laptop and phone, and forbid me from getting on any sort of social media, completely isolating me from my friends,” wrote Alcorn.

Another petition asks that Alcorn’s real name be placed on her tombstone, instead of her given name, Josh Ryan Alcorn.  Thousands of signatures have been collected online.  People have been supporting Alcorn individually, not only spreading the word about the importance of transgender awareness and acceptance, but also mourning her death.

Worldwide, protests and memorials are being held in honor of Alcorn and the transgender community as a whole.

“People are beginning to see that this is a serious problem that needs to be fixed,” said Huitt.

A study conducted by the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force showed that 41% of transgender people have attempted suicide, and even more trans individuals have been killed because of hate crimes.

Alcorn’s death resonated with Schreiber students as it did with people around the world.

“Everyone’s been taking notice, all over the world and in Schreiber,” said Huitt.

The GSA spread awareness for Alcorn’s message of acceptance by making a morning announcement and handing out what they termed “free gay popcorn” on Jan. 14.

“I think the announcement about Alcorn’s heartbreaking death was a good way to commemorate her life and make people aware of the tragedy,” said junior Jesse Moskowitz.  “I also really appreciated the fact that the popcorn was called ‘gay popcorn.’ Because it was just like regular popcorn, it sent a message that gay and transgender individuals are no different than everyone else.’”

Millions of people hope that someday, Alcorn’s wish that transgender individuals can be completely accepted can become reality.

“I hope that more transgender people don’t have to go through what Leelah went through, and this made me think about how fortunate I really am,” said freshman Danie DiRuggiero. “I’ll definitely spread awareness.”