The best is enemy of the good.
The profoundest truths are paradoxical.
Wednesday, December 31, 2014
Transgender Teen, Leelah Alcorn, Commits Suicide
Leelah Alcorn was born Josh Alcorn (Photo: Provided/Abigail Jones)
Leelah's Christian parents told him "God doesn't make mistakes."
Alan: The spontaneous conviction that one's gender is essentially masculine or feminine is profound and durable. The preponderance of evidence shows that gender perception is relatively immutable. This immutability is self-evident for men living in men's bodies and women living in women's bodies. Would you be able to change your own gender perception? That said, I think assiduous efforts to re-assign gender for people born in "the wrong bodies" should wait until one's mid-twenties and the accumulation of ample life experience. The fact that 40 to 50% of transgender teens have attempted suicide - a rate more than twice the national norm - requires careful examination.
Why we wrote about this: "As the mother of teenagers, my heart breaks for this family," said Enquirer Editor Carolyn Washburn. "But this suicide took place in a very public place and manner; we needed to explain what happened. And it raises important issues we hope will prompt conversations in families throughout our region."
In life, Leelah Alcorn felt alone. Born male, she feared she would never be the woman she felt like inside.
In death, the transgender 17-year-old - born Josh Alcorn - wanted to make sure others never felt the way she did.
"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 in a post on the social media blog site Tumblr.
"My death needs to mean something," she wrote in the post, which she scheduled to appear the day after her death.
On Sunday, just before 2:30 a.m., Alcorn walked 4 miles from her middle-class Kings Mills neighborhood with its views of Kings Island to Interstate 71. There, she was struck and killed by a tractor-trailer. The highway was closed for more than a hour.
By Tuesday evening, Leelah's story had become a worldwide story - one of how transgender teens often feel alone and afraid. The hashtag #LeelahAlcorn was topping Twitter; news sites worldwide had picked up the story; and someone had even created a Wikipedia page for Alcorn.
The State Highway Patrol continues to investigate; no charges have been filed. Her body was sent to the Montgomery County coroner for an autopsy, which will take several weeks.
Alcorn's family declined to comment to The Enquirer. In a statement via the Kings Local School District, the family requested privacy.
Alcorn's mother, Carla Wood Alcorn, wrote on Facebook Sunday, "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." The post has since been taken down.
According to the school statement, Alcorn attended Kings schools and was most recently enrolled as an 11th grader at the Ohio Virtual Academy, an online school.
"Joshua Alcorn was a sweet, talented, tender-hearted 17-year-old," the statement from Kings read. Counselors will be available when students return from winter break.
Before her death, Alcorn scheduled her note to post on her Tumblr blog at 5:30 p.m. the day of her death. A note titled "Sorry" came later. In it she told her younger brother and sisters she loved them. She thanked her friend Abby Jones for "dealing with my pathetic problems." And she told her mom and dad, "You just can't control other people like that."
Forty-eight hours after the first note was posted on Tumblr, it had 82,272 views.
There are no national statistics about how many transgender people commit suicide, partly because it's not always known.
In 2010, the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force reported 41 percent of 7,000 transgender people surveyed had attempted suicide.
An analysis of the survey responses by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and UCLA Law School's Williams Institute last January showed transgenders who experienced rejection by family and friends, discrimination, victimization or violence have a higher risk of attempting suicide.
Cincinnati City Councilman Chris Seelbach, the city's first openly gay councilman, has taken on Alcorn's cause. In a post on Facebook - shared more than 4,700 times - Seelbach said Alcorn's death shows just how hard it is to be a transgender today in the U.S.
"By reading her letter, Leelah makes it clear she wants her death to, in some ways, help 'trans civil rights movements,'" he wrote.
A Kings Island caricaturist
Jones met Alcorn last spring when Alcorn, a talented artist, applied to work as a caricaturist at Kings Island.
Alcorn's work was the best of any new employee. They drew caricatures of each other and a friendship took root.
"She was super bubbly and upbeat, with a really brash sense of humor; she could make anyone laugh," said Jones, 17, of Milford.
Jones drew Alcorn as Elsa from "Frozen."
"It was her favorite thing ever," Jones said.
Living far from each other, they would get together before and after work. They saw "Fault in Our Stars." They got ice cream.
They texted. A lot.
During late-night texting in July, Alcorn wrote, "I have something to tell you."
She came out as transgender.
The whole story spilled. Jones recounted Alcorn's story, much the way Alcorn herself talked in her online note.
Freshman year of high school, Alcorn came out as gay as a way to transition. Her friends were kind. She wrote her family "wanted me to be their perfect little straight Christian boy, and that's obviously not what I wanted."
She had never really understood what she was feeling. At 14, she finally understood. But, she said, her family didn't understand.
"She would get really down, there was just no talking her out of it," Jones said. "She always said, 'Nothing is going to get better, I am never going to transition successfully, I am never going to be the pretty girl I want to be.' "
Shane Morgan, founder and chair of TransOhio, which provides education and advocacy, said 2014 has been a year filled with progress for transgender people.
"If we look back at 2014 there have been really incredible changes and liberation for trans people across the world," Morgan said. "There were prominent faces on TV and on the cover of Time and that is all fantastic. But there have been a lot of murders of trans people this year; trans people are still being victimized and still being disrespected.
"Nobody should commit suicide because of who they are," Morgan said. "With as much change as there has been, there is still much to do."
Help for the transgendered or those considering suicide
Trevor Project: (866) 488-7386. Text, chat or call to talk if you're thinking about suicide.