Transgender teen death sparks national attention

By : Samantha Rosenthal
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Kings Mill, Ohio – The recent death of an Ohio transgender teenager has drawn reaction and focus about the growing issue of suicide among transgender young adults.

Seventeen-year-old Leelah Alcorn of Cincinnati, Ohio died on Dec. 28 after she was hit by a tractor trailer. The real concern is a post that appeared on Alcorn’s Tumblr account the next day at about 5:30 p.m. The post, written by Alcorn and scheduled to post the day after her death, detailed her coming out as gay and struggle with gender identity.

“The only way I will rest in peace is if one day transgender people aren’t treated the way I was,” the post reads. “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.”

Due to the post on her Tumblr, the Ohio Highway Patrol are investigating the death as a suicide. The post was titled “Suicide Note,” and the first couple lines read: “If you are reading this, it means that I have committed suicide and obviously failed to delete this post from my queue. 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.”

This year great strides were made within the transgender community—from locally with Gina Duncan to on a national level with people like actress Laverne Cox—but the death of Alcorn has sparked across the country a need for an even larger increase in advocacy for transgender rights and protections.

Cincinnati City Councilman Chris Seelbach, who is the first openly gay city councilperson, is taking Alcorn’s death and message seriously. He posted on Facebook about the teen’s death, hoping for better advocacy and conversation about transgender issues.

“While Cincinnati led the country this past year as the first city in the mid-west to include transgender inclusive health benefits and we have included gender identity or expression as a protected class for many years….the truth is….it is still extremely difficult to be a transgender young person in this country,” Seelbach wrote. “We have to do better.”

Alcorn’s death has inspired Facebook groups to raise awareness, vigils in her honor, and an outpouring of attention on social media.

One of the details in Alcorn’s note mentioned how her parents were not accepting of how she was transgender. They had her go to church every Sunday and also to Christian therapists. It got to the point that her parents took her out of public school, took away her laptop and phone, and also did not allow her to use social media or have contact with her friends.

Carla Alcorn, Leelah’s mother, posted on her Facebook the day Leelah died about the death of her daughter, but the post was shortly taken down. The post read:

“My sweet 16-year-old son, Joshua Ryan Alcorn went home to heaven this morning,” wrote Carla Alcorn on Facebook, according to WCPO. “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 prayers.”

Strides have happened this year in Florida, with Miami-Dade—the most populous county in Florida, which is now the third-biggest state in the country—passing an amendment to their HRO for transgender protections. But beyond for the transgender community, there is still work to do for the advocacy for transgender individuals.

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