From Laverne Cox’s historic Emmy nomination and revolutionary Time magazine cover, to Laura Jane Grace and Against Me!’s triumphant Transgender Dysphoria Blues, 2014 has been a groundbreaking, glass ceiling-shattering year for the transgender community. But the opposition, prejudice and ignorance the trans community continues to face was highlighted once again in a tragic note left by a 17-year-old trans teen, Leelah Alcorn, who committed suicide over the weekend.
As WCPO Cincinnati reports, the Kings Mill, Ohio teen, who was born a boy named Joshua, was hit by a tractor trailer at 2:20 a.m. as she walked along the southbound lanes of I-71. Alcorn had pre-scheduled a suicide note to appear on her Tumblr, followed by a note apologizing to various people (though not her parents, to whom she said: “Fuck you. You can’t just control other people like that. That’s messed up”).
According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, an investigation into the accident is still pending, though no charges have been filed; an autopsy is also underway, though that will take several weeks. Though Alcorn’s family declined to comment, they released a statement via the Kings Local School District requesting privacy and stating, “Joshua Alcorn was a sweet, talented, tender-hearted 17-year-old.”
As Alcorn explained in her suicide note, she felt “like a girl trapped in a boy’s body” ever since age four. After a decade of doing her best to fit in and “do traditionally ‘boyish’ things,” Alcorn wrote, “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.”
Alcorn (pictured above in photos posted on lazerprincess.tumblr.com) detailed her troubling relationship with her conservative Christian parents, who sent her to Christian therapists unable to properly help her sort through her depression, and refused to give her consent to begin transitioning when she turned 16. In her note, Alcorn urged parents not to say the kind of things Alcorn claims her own did: “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.”
Alcorn’s parents eventually took her out of school (she came out as gay to her classmates, thinking it would be easier than to come out as trans), and banned her from social media, which left her without any sort of support group for five months.
But even after the ban was lifted, she continued to feel alienated and depressed. Many of her friends had ditched her, and she writes that the stresses of school work, applying for colleges, going to church and saving money to move out had become too heavy. Though her 18th birthday was approaching, Alcorn felt she would never have a successful transition and would spend the rest of her life lonely, dissatisfied with her body and self and unloved.
“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,” wrote Alcorn. “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.”
Alcorn wrote that she wanted 100 percent of the things she legally owned to be sold, and for all the money, plus her bank assets, to be given to trans civil rights movements and support groups.
“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 fucked up’ and fix it. Fix society. Please.” She signed the note, “(Leelah) Josh Alcorn.”