In the early hours of December 28, 2014, Leelah Alcorn committed suicide by intentionally walking in front of an oncoming truck. She was a 17-year-old transwoman who had been emotionally and spiritually abused by her conservative Christian parents, and she wrote about it in a suicide note she’d queued to publish on her Tumblr after her death.
In response to her death, many individuals and media sources alike had two vastly different responses, as would be expected. Some did not attempt to conceal their outrage, saying “her parents essentially threw her in front of that truck and they should be ashamed of themselves!” Others claimed “her parents were just doing the best they could, and I’m sure they are heartbroken right now, so they deserve sympathy, not condemnation.”
Middle ground is hard to strive for in a case like this. However, I will say, it’s too harsh to say her parents basically pushed her in front of that truck. There are a lot of factors that contributed to her decision to take her own life.
There was depression, and potentially suicidal thoughts triggered by the Prozac she’d been prescribed. There was the burden of living surrounded by a largely unaccepting society. There were other members of the trans community, who gave her the false impression that if she wasn’t able to transition while she was still young and in the midst of puberty, she’d never be able to pass as female.
In addition, I’m sure her parents are upset about what happened, and I’m sure they are grieving in their own way. After all, she was still their child.
But I would strongly disagree that her parents did the best they could.
Time and time again you will hear about Christian parents treating their children horribly because they don’t fit into their narrowly defined guidelines of acceptability. I don’t want to go into details, because it’s deeply personal, but I can see so much of myself and my situation in what Leelah’s described.
I just can’t comprehend how anyone could be convinced that her parents were trying their best. Just read her words, read the words of the people that knew her.
Even now, her parents continue to inflict harm, denying reality by calling her death an accident, misgendering her, and referring to her by her birth name. To show you how much her mother cared, she completely forgot the age of her own daughter when she posted about her death on Facebook and only realized her mistake a week later.
This doesn’t sound like unconditional love. This sounds like essentially writing someone off and not bothering to give a shit because they did not meet your impossible expectations. To her parents, she would never be their daughter, only a disappointment.
They would never even consider her their child. They wanted a son, a boy who would like girls and like church and fall in line with whatever they asked of him. When this didn’t pan out, they did all they could to make her miserable, isolate her from anyone who actually showed her love and acceptance, and make her regret ever trying to be herself.
Sure, gay, lesbian, and bisexual kids living with their Christian parents have it hard. I’ve had it hard. But I would argue that trans kids have it much worse, and that breaks my heart.
Christian parents, I know you fully believe you’re doing what is right, but if your child is driven to self-harm or suicide, in part due to your words or actions, then you need to realize: you’ve fucked up. You don’t mean well. So do us all a favor, stop being assholes and parenting your children to death.