For two days now, I’ve been preoccupied with Leelah Alcorn. Her death and wrenching suicide note have broken open the carefully contained well of grief I carry. As the bereaved mother of a transgender child, that shouldn’t be surprising. Last night, I scrolled through her tumblr page and much like Ashlie-Alice’s MySpace page, I could see the sadness and anger, but also sweetness and humor – just an ordinary extraordinary child.
For two days now I have watched people put this collective grief into action, spreading Leelah’s story, starting petitions, creating memorials and suggesting legislation. Others have lashed out directly at her family, an action I can’t condone. It is easy to single out Leelah parents, to heap scorn upon them in the midst of an unfathomable grief. But the truth is, our energy is better put into educating those who would act in the same manner, heed the same advices and drive another child to acts of desperation.
We MUST educate, not just LGBT allies but the general public, teachers, parents, religious leaders, social workers and counselors. At the very least, we need to say the following over and over, loud enough that they cannot NOT hear:
+ Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation are not the same thing. At all.
+ Trans kids are at greater risk than their peers for bullying, depression, drug use, physical and sexual assault, self-harm and suicide.
+ Spiritual counsel and mental health care are NOT interchangeable. Subjecting a child with gender issues to therapy with unqualified counselors can do irreparable harm.
+ Medical interventions like anti-androgens (acting as a chemical pause-button for puberty) and/or hormone therapy can greatly increase a trans child’s chances at a happy/healthy adult life.
+ Resources are available. You (parent or child) don’t have to do this alone.
“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.”
Leelah’s words should ring in our ears a long while – until we have done the work she called for.