Tragedy for Leelah Alcorn

February 2015

On the 28th of December, 2015, transgendered Leelah Alcorn committed suicide at the age of seventeen. About four miles from her home in the town of King Mills, Ohio, she was struck by the tractor trailer she jumped in front of on Interstate 71 at 2:15am. Her suicide note was programmed to post to Tumblr after her death on Sunday: “Please don’t be sad, it’s for the better. The life I would’ve lived isn’t worth living in … because I’m transgender,” the note said. “I could go into detail explaining why I feel that way, but this note is probably going to be lengthy enough as it is. To put it simply, I feel like a girl trapped in a boy’s body, and I’ve felt that way ever since I was 4. I never knew there was a word for that feeling, nor was it possible for a boy to become a girl, so I never told anyone and I just continued to do traditionally ‘boyish’ things to try to fit in.” On the note, she crossed out her birth name“Josh” and instead signed the note as “Leelah.” When she told her parents that she was transgender and wanted to live as a girl, they said they would not stand for it due to their conflicting religious beliefs. The Wednesday after her death, Leelah’s mother told CNN, “We don’t support that, religiously, but we told him that we loved him unconditionally. We loved him no matter what. I loved my son. People need to know that I loved him. He was a good kid, a good boy.”

Leelah’s death ignited intense emotional reactions across social media. The hashtag #LeelahAlcorn is still carrying messages of support for all transgender people, though many posts include hateful and vengeful notes directed at the teen’s parents. After the death, a Facebook post apparently from Carla Alcorn said her child “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 thoughts.” Carla Alcorn also said that her child experienced depression and saw counselors and a psychiatrist who gave the teenager medication.

Carla said her child came to her only once to talk about being transgender, and the first time she heard the name “Leelah” was on the suicide note. At sixteen years old, Leelah wrote that she realized her “parents would never come around.” She was overwhelmed by the realization that she would have to wait until she was eighteen years old to start any kind of medical treatment to transition to being a female. Upper School student Mia Wilson ‘18 expressed, “I think that it’s messed up how parents can’t accept their own children.”

Earlier this year, Leelah came out as gay at school, receiving support from friends and further angering her parents. Carla Alcorn said that she took away her child’s access to social media because the teen was looking at “inappropriate” things on the Internet. “He was an amazing musician and artist,” she sadly reflected. “He was an amazing boy.”

Teachers, students and members of Kings Mills, Ohio gathered for a candlelight vigil, held at entrance of Kings High School, which Leelah attended. Many from the student body were shocked and surprised by Leelah’s transformation partly because after she came out to her parents, she was taken out of school and isolated from her friends. Unfortunately, Leelah’s story is not unique in the LGBT community. Since Leelah’s death, parents of transgender children have sent TransOhio, a organization which supports transgenders, photos and letters saying how much her suicide has shaken them and that they love and accept their children no matter what. Many parents fear their children feeling unloved and are working to promote more positive messaging around the LGBT community.