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Leelah Alcorn is the high school student/artist in Ohio who committed suicide in December and was transgender.
When I heard the 17-year-old’s story, I had the same weird numbing feeling I get a lot. I’m confronted with more stories than I can handle of trans youth that our society has let down.
While the data is limited, some studies show transgender youth attempt suicide more than transgender adults.
The stories I see on major news outlets are racially fragmented – meaning they mostly deal with white kids and only after they’re dead. Some of my friends who are trans youth of color not only deal with gender discrimination but also racism. There is little real visibility of that larger issue when so much reporting is based in fascination. Their stories go untold.
Mark Aguhar, A 24-year-old activist (or ‘artivist’) who called herself ‘genderqueer person of color fat femme fag feminist’, committed suicide in Chicago in 2012 and got almost no media coverage, other than a couple blogs.
Even parents and guardians fall into this trap.
In a CNN interview, Leelah Alcorn’s mother was quoted saying “We loved him no matter what. I loved my son…He was a good kid, a good boy.”
Calling Alcorn a boy is oppressive denial from the person who raised her. While that may seem like a minor detail, it isn’t when it comes to identity. Parental rejection is a major cause of stress and depression for trans youth.
For kids and teens in California, there’s some hope that they won’t have the same experience as Alcorn, whose parents sent her to conversion therapy. That kind of therapy is illegal here because it can be detrimental to the mental health of minors — pushing young people to change sexual orientation to heterosexual or for trans youth to change gender identity back to the one they were assigned at birth.
Now, at least there’s one less way for parents and society to pressure trans youth, destroying their dignity — sometimes pushing them to the final breaking point.
I want to see the stereotypes of trans youth go away to the point where their diverse experiences are well understood, and accepted.
No one wants to be disregarded, especially by the people they love.