The holidays were full this year. My wife and I have been moving back to the mainland, and spending time with family which, considering the current temperature outside, means this blog may eventually need a new title. We ain’t in paradise no more.
But that story is for another day’s blog post. Today, I wish to talk about the news of Leelah Alcorn, a young trans* teenager who took her life and left a suicide note online blaming her family’s lack of support for her decision.
The trans* community is up in arms right now, in part, because some of Leelah’s last words implored that we make sure her life and death had meaning. The note she wrote hit close to home for many transitioners including myself, as we know what it is like to feel suicidal. People always say suicide is a selfish act. I used to agree. Now, I understand it is often an act of hopelessness and even selflessness. When you feel your existence is the root of everybody else’s problems, suicide can seem like a helpful, valid, and even gracious option. Remove your own life, you remove everyone’s troubles. That is how it can feel when you are in the middle of a suicidal bout.
Then, Leelah’s grieving mother made a Facebook post announcing the death of her child and all Hell broke loose. The mother called Leelah by her male name and used male pronouns through the announcement, and the trans* community went apeshit. Some of the reasoning for getting upset was sound. Leelah’s parents did send their child to conversion therapy so she could learn how to, “Pray the trans away”. They took her phone, her social life, and cloistered her like Rapunzel, for her own good. These actions her parents took were probably based in a Fundamental Christian hope that they could save their child’s chances at eternal life, but Leelah’s suicide note makes it sound like those actions ultimately motivated her to step in front of that eighteen-wheeler.
But, Leelah was not out as trans* to very many people. Some of her friends knew. She told her parents once. Most of the people in her life had no clue so, why would even the most supportive mother out her child on a Facebook death notice? Leelah was not out, she never got there. I think the outrage against the mother for using male terms is a bit out of place. It is a sad situation. I know, if my mom had outed me without my approval, I would have been upset. I also know transition would have been made much more difficult without her approval.
Then, there is the blame game. Many trans* advocates are blaming Leelah’s death on her parents. Many anti-trans folk are blaming her death on the progressive LGBT agenda brainwashing her into thinking she was a female. As I see it, Leelah killed herself. That may sound cold but nobody pushed her in front of the semi. The driver didn’t kill her. She killed herself. She wanted to at that moment. She acted on her desire. It resulted in her martyrdom in the eyes of some and her damnation in the eyes of others. It is amazing how many people claim to know what a person’s death really means. Humans really like to think outside the box, even when it comes to things like the afterlife, of which they truly have no clue. Bible thumpers, frequently seem to forget how vague The Bible really is about what will and will not allow someone into Heaven. Ultimately, it is up to God, according to that book, and the decision will be made after one’s mortal life has ended. Anyone who says otherwise, under the veil of Christianity, is probably selling snake oil even if they do not realize it.
Trans* advocates are not much better. First, any advocate tends to be full of utopian ideals be they LGBT, Christian, political or whatever, and well… Utopia is not a real place, it is just something people can strive for but they will never get there. It is the proverbial carrot and we can choose to chase it if we so desire but we will never catch it and eat it.
Trans* advocates can be as judgmental and hate filled as those they blame for Leelah’s death. It is a shame, because every time you blame someone else for a person’s suicide, you are squandering a teachable moment.
Really. Tell an anti-trans, Fundamental Christian that you hope they die and burn in Hell for causing Leelah’s suicide, and see if they go, “You know, you’re right. I am so sorry.” Or, if they go, “Your sinful hate confirms my negative suspicions about perverts like you.”
Some people are set in their ways, but most opinions can be swayed with patience, intelligence and compassion… even if they sway just a few degrees and not a full one hundred and eighty. It is a slow road, and any progress made can be lost the moment someone starts blaming them for the suicide of a child, or telling them their faith is wrong (a losing battle, as how would a non-believer know any better than they do?).
So, Leelah is dead now. Her parents are being made into villains for trying to protect her eternal salvation, because they didn’t know better and didn’t learn enough about their child, a trans* person’s plight to take her dysphoria as seriously as Leelah herself did. People on all sides are blaming various parts of society for her, “Murder”. It really is a sad clusterfuck.
She was seventeen. In less than a year, she would have been able to transition without her parents approval. I wish I could have met her. Calmed her. Advised her to be patient. Transition is a long road for anyone. A year can feel eternal when you are suicidally depressed. It is a drop in the bucket though, in the grand scheme of things. It is a shame that her suicide is what ultimately made that year into an eternity for her.