"Leelah Alcorn, born Joshua Ryan Alcorn, walked in front of a tractor trailer in Warren County, Ohio and scheduled a suicide note to be posted on Tumblr after her death." - http://www.christian....suicide/45253.
I don't usually start out this way, on a sad note, but no matter how many times I play these words through my head, there is nothing but the same sad song coming out.
As a person who has lost multiple people to suicide, I am going to say what needs to be said; the living be angered and the dead be damned. It needs to be said.
I am angry with you, kid. Maybe other people won't say that to you, because you are dead, but I will, and I can, because you aren't here to defend yourself, so I can say what ever I want. I have read your note time and time again. I mourn you loss with the rest of the world of people who know what you have gone through, and felt your pain at one time or another, and some who maybe even today, this very moment know exactly what you went through.
I am sad that you are gone, and angry with you. You are not a martyr. I won't follow suit behind the people who say you died for a cause. No You died because you had some Romeo and Juliette romantic fantasy about changing the world by walking in front of a truck. Great. Now you're dead and some innocent semi-driver has to live with knowing he was the one who ran your body over. Didn't see that one coming in your attempt to change the world for the better, did you.
When you were a child, you realized you were different. You told and no one believed you. You said the words and others refuted you. You KNEW WHO YOU WERE.. a gift that so many don't ever get to receive, and instead of staying the course, and hanging on just a little longer, you left. Took your life and ruined the lives of the driver and the people who depended on him. You were suffering, and you made others suffer because you were too selfish to hang on just a couple more years until you could get out of your parents home and live a life of your own.
No, I will not be more kind to you because you are dead. It's the harsh reality that the kids I work with and talk to on a daily basis who feel like their lives are twisted tragedies of maladaptive behaviors and undesirable, unlovable masses of waste now feel like they have an 'out'.
"Leelah did it" [speaking of your suicide] "And people are noticing her!"
My response started out as one of compassion for you when I first heard your story, Leelah. But now it is compassion wrapped with truth. None of this candy coated "Poor Leelah". Rather "Yep Leelah did it and now she will never have a chance to tell her story to other kids going through what she went through, or how she made it out, and really learned to change the world"
A martyr dies for a cause he believes in, and goes to his or her grave with the full knowledge that nothing more could be done on their part, that they fought the good fight until the very end.
You, Leelah gave up.
And now you are a misguided symbol to the transgender kids I work with and talk to; that if things get too tough, their fifteen minutes of fame and admiration will come through their death... NOTHING CHANGES IF YOU GIVE UP!
How many years will people know who you are? How many months will your name roll off the tongues of the youth? People know who Martin Luther King, Joan of Arc, Jesus Christ, Buddha, and Nelson Mandela (Who suffered greatly for his cause though not put to death) because they stayed through the hard times, fought for their freedoms, fought for their rights, and the rights of others.
The problem is not that you were a transgender woman that no one understood. The problem is that you decided you would walk away, take the easy way out. "Mom and dad fuck you" are not words that can be held in high regards. Nope, they didn't listen to you. Nope they didn't treat you with the respect you believed you deserved. Yep that does make them sorta shitty parents. Nope, I don't agree with their actions, nor do I completely condemn them. As parents they did what they felt they could do to make their family whole on a level that they understood. Nothing more nothing less.
Socrates was a man who could have avoided death. There were people on the ready to give up their wealth, their families and their homes to help him escape prison. Other People hated him because he told the truth, and made people see their own hypocrisies. He was the snarkiest man of his day.. He chose to fight the good fight and follow through with the right thing to do. People listened to him, thousands of years ago, and even today. Newsflash.. he was a shitty parent, too and is rumored to have been a terrible son. You were not a terrible son, or a terrible daughter. You were a kid who needed to take more time to grow up.
You had a voice, you gave it away. The last words you wrote were words of deep emotional sentiment, and anger, and hurt, and mistrust. Your words wont last, because there will be another, and another and another who will follow in your footsteps of giving up. You will be in a long sad line of quitters. No one ever remembers the runner up. If you wanted to change the world, you should have stuck around, used your beautiful emotional talent to encourage others to be strong, and go on. Change comes through proactive measures. Not by giving up.
I am sorry you are gone, you had a lot to offer the world. You were obviously someone who had powerful things to say, but now, you can say nothing, and I have to contend with your actions through the kids I work with who say "But Leelah did it".
To everyone else who would read this, I say this to you. Hang in there. Today may be bleak, and full of sorrow, but you are not alone. As trans people, we have all experienced the feelings of isolation, loneliness, and maybe the shame put on us by others.
If you know a youth going through a hard time physically show them this website:
http://www.thetrevorproject.org/ The Trevor project is for LGBT youth who see no other way out. If you are the one having a hard time there are a number of ways to get help.
On Facebook, there is a group 'Tri-States Transgender Group' it is a private group- Contact: Emilie Jackson Edney.
There is always another way. Suicide is not the answer, no matter how bad things get. Ask me someday and I'll share my story. Today though, it's about you.
You matter on every level of humanity. And somewhere, you are the single most important person in the world, to someone else. Don't give up. Don't give in.
I am confused. Now, as a cranky old guy I admit there are things I may never understand. This is something that I understand even less than anything else.
Scenario 1. Pamela decides to transition. and becomes Paul and then decides he is gay. So after many years of painful surgery, Paul decides to dress in clothing that is not unlike clothing that his female counterpart would wear, and begins to wear makeup again. Paul is convinced that he is no longer gay, but pansexual. Paul is also deciding that he wants to look more like Russel Brand and thus begins referring to himself as "The female Russel Brand" . Paul also makes remarks about himself (such as reacting to a spider in a very lady like manner of screeching and crying) that it is his "Girl side coming out..don't judge"
Paul is a real person... and I come across similar, though not so drastic situations every week with young transmen.
"I'm a transman, but I am gay" or "WHen I transition I am going to F*** everything that walks" and still "WHen I have a dick, I am going to be so strong."
My all time personal favorite to hate is:
"My boyfriend and I are going to be together and get married even after I transition. We'll get married and have kids" so I asked "How? How will you have kids?" His response was "Well in about ten years when I am ready for kids I will just stop taking T and just be a mom." Are you @($*%&(* kidding me?
Now first of all........
Trans is about gender... not genitals. while I am sure It is convenient to have matching parts, it is not the 'thing' that makes one a trans person.
When did being transgender become about sex? It seems to me that way too many people are misguided in thinking that there is somehow some magical happening when they begin to take hormones. Well there is, but I don't think it works the way that some of these kids think it does.
You can't just STOP being a trans person.
You can't just STOP taking hormones and revert back to your old self.
You can't just STOP and expect people to have any respect for other trans people who are truly struggling to do everyday things like.. staying alive!
So lets address those things:
1. You can't just STOP being a trans person.
Hard to believe as it may seem- being trans isn't an option. It's who we are born or made to be. (yes yes that whole last sentence is a controversy all its own.. we will talk about that in a different post.)
Being a trans person is something that maybe hundreds of thousands of people deal with every day. NO ONE voluntarily says:
"I think I will dress in the opposite sex's clothing and claim to be something I am not because I am so sick and tired of being accepted. I truly want to be shunned, ostracized from my own family, hated by the moral majority, stared at in public, possibly hurt or killed by bigots!! OOOH WHAT FUN! WHEN DO WE GET STARTED?"
We are who we are. It is a fact. To 'stop' being a trans person, means that we either had to sell out and sacrifice our identities for something big.. and I mean huge!
you never were. Yeah, I think it is that simple. I am a very public person, and because of this I have access to peoples lives that most other people don't. I ask questions that most people wouldn't dare. I get away with it because I do it on stage. The result is phenomenal. The result is -no person who is sincerely trans would ever utter phrases like the real ones I listed above. For most of us, transitioning is the one action that saved us from suicide.
2. You can't just STOP taking hormones and revert back to your old self.
Now I am not sure what taking hormones does for trans women.. besides the obvious.. breasts, emotions heightened.. possibly a softening of the skin and weakening of lean muscles. For a transguy, it is completely different.
For me, and for my friend Paul, and most other trans guys I know, the first thing to happen is a change in temperament. Paul and a lot of the other guys I know turned into dick-heads. They became mouthy, crude, more insensitive to women's issues. They started toning up, and working out. Their voices deepened, and their skin, especially in their faces became more rough. That was after the immense amount of acne on their back chest and face.
For me, almost the opposite happened. At the age of 40 I got acne for the first time in my life. My voice is so deep now that my Choir-Master has to rewrite the baritone parts for me and make them deeper and with a smaller range. I used to be a second soprano. Now I am almost off the charts, but I have a very limited range of depth. My face is rough and yes, I am finally, after four years starting to get facial hair. I'm native American, so I was prepared for this laid back attitude that the follicles were going to undoubtedly display.. If hair could talk mine would say "Hey man... don't worry about it.. we'll fix your face when we fix the fence.. right after bingo... sometime.. oh after the Pow-Wow". Its finally happening at 44 and three quarters years old....
I didn't get 'cut' or built like a greek god' unless you can find a five foot Indian and mexican god with a love for plain latte's and a dislike for exercising 'god' like figure... then nope.. not me. I'm a fat guy. Meh...
What I didn't expect, and what others didn't expect is what Testosterone injections did to my behaviour. After reading article after article, my 21 year old daughter moved out just two weeks before I took T for the first time. The underlying theme was "The female who takes testosterone will most likely experience a rise in aggression and anger, undoubtedly, anywhere from one to three months to a permanent change in behaviour."
She wan't having any of that. I was already so angry that I threw things at the walls to release that anger.. and I may have been sort of a profanity spewer. Maybe just a little.
What testosterone did for me was to balance me out. I no longer have anger issues. None. I get angry and have found that because my hormones are in check, I can express "I am angry" verbally without losing my cool. It is sort of a miracle thing that happened.. no one is afraid to talk to me any more. I am told that I am an anomaly in this matter.
I am self confident where as I never was before. I've stopped paying for maid service. I do it all myself now. I have physical strength and stamina that I never had before. I have learned to compartmentalize things like you wouldn't believe. ? WHen my girlfriend asks me "What are you thinking What's on your mind" Ladies... it is not a joke.. there is NOTHING there. Believe your men.. they aint lyin sistah!!! There is no downside to this. part of transitioning.
The point is, I have named only a very few of the physical, mental, chemical and emotional changes of taking hormones I wasn't born with. A trans mans voice will never return. If I stop taking injections, I will never be a second soprano again. I will never have soft skin again, and while I don't personally have to worry about a whole lot of hair growth that I would have to lazer and wax off, I did find my first chest hair the other day.... dammitt if it wasn't silver.
You can't just 'go back'. If you even think that for a moment, you probably aren't trans to begin with and what you need is not hormones, but deep psychological help to get to the root of your issues. It's nothing to be ashamed of.. its just a fact.
3. You can't just STOP and expect people to have any respect for other trans people who are truly struggling to do everyday things like.. staying alive!
In 2013 I had the privilege of speaking at Boise's TDOR (Transgender day of remembrance) memorial event. TDOR is something that we don't celebrate, but instead, we mourn.
Every year people are beaten and murdered for being trans. I took this next bit from TVTP IDAHO; A website that tracks transgender violence. I will put the link below. as well
Tragically, the level of youth being murdered in the four months of 2014 has been astounding.
8 year old boy beaten to death by father for being trans*
14 year old strangled to death and stuffed under a bed
Two 16 year olds were shot to death
Three 18 year olds stabbed to death, dismembered, or shot
Two 18 year olds murdered with no details being reported
An 18 year old suffered two violent attacks by a mob and survived
Please tell me.. on what freakin planet is it ever ok to hurt a child? But to beat one to death because he is transgender? This is not a society that is kind to trans people. This is not a society that will ever fully accept trans people. This society is still so full of Good Old Boys that still thinks it is perfectly acceptable to publically humiliate other people.
One cannot just 'stop' with out some backlash to the rest of us. Now I am a big guy. I am not fragile. I am not afraid of what someone can say to me privately or publicly. II would be a damned fool though if I ever thought or stated that I am not afraid of what someone could DO to me. Not just no, but hell no. If it hurts, I don't want it to happen to me. I am just that crazy about the welfare of my body. To be honest, I am just crazy enough, filled with enough love and compassion for you too..
Personal safety is a huge issue with trans people. Those people who have or think they can "Just quit" (I repeat) are not trans to begin with and have bigger issues than hormones can fix.
The other safety that is maybe even more life threatening is the real risk of suicide. This year I lost two people to suicide. One jumped off a building in Boise. The other just passed a few weeks ago. They were painfully saddened, and lonely people who felt that there was no other way for them to live.. so.. they ended it. In the past twenty years I need all ten fingers and eight toes to count the suicides of people I have loved. Trans people are not immune to rejection. The words that others speak to us are hurtful, painful, damaging and yes they can even be life threatening.
I started by saying I am confused.... Young trans brothers and sisters, transitioning is not something to e taken lightly. This is a lifetime decision.. For a lot of you, certainly for my young friends Paul and Peter (yes those are their real names) it a community.. it was a lot of excitement to belong to a community that would give them privilege (the male community) and what they believed to be better access to jobs, sex, and self worth... but they aren't really as happy and secure as they thought they would be. Peter now knows that his voice change is permanent.
Take as much time as you can to make the decision to transition. Think every single aspect through. If you are reading this and are just so excited to get started that you don't have time to do your homework fully and completely on the changes of changing... then I would say you are not ready, for what ever reason. THIS is a decision that will affect the rest of your lives. Know what you are doing. It's a reasonable thing to ask of you.
Paul believes that he will be just fine wearing makeup and lacey things with his beard and that the world will just accept him as he is. Maybe.. but doubtful. I am just speaking honestly.
Peter still thinks he can quit and have babies in another 8 years. Paul.. told me not to judge. I won't.
As for myself.. I can tell you, I went through two years of tears and anguish when the only thing that had given me any comfort in this world through all my personal struggles and the deaths of my brother and friends was gone.. my voice. I will never sing well again. I'm in the college choir because singing is all I have ever known.
There are a lot of other things that I wanted to write, but don't have time to cover here. Being trans isn't like the latest fashion trend or smoking cigarettes.
You can't just quit.. If you think you can, you are more confused and disturbed than I am.
I wish it was halloween every day. I like candy just as much as the next guy.. but that's not why I want it. What other time throughout the entire year do I get to wear a top hat, and use a cane to cover the fact that I may have just a wee bit of fatitude attached to my physical body, and some of it still mildly yet inappropriately resembles female breasts? When I ask you? When?
This is something a lot of trans men come into contact with.. Boobs, but I don't necessarily mean the ones attached to their chests. I mean the ones that they come in contact with on a daily basis.
There are the boobs that are trying to be funny when they incorrectly address a trans man as "ma'am or her or she" and nervously try to pull out faster than a kid who suddenly decides fatherhood may really NOT be his calling...
and then there are the defiant boobs who systematically tell you and the people around you "Well I think it's just sick and wrong that you think you want to be a boy when you ain't got no boy parts". Those people often lack the parts that other civilized humans need to survive sans chaos and trauma drama.. and we don't make fun of them... much.
There are the boobs who didn't start out as boobs, they were just super nice people who thankfully didn't realize at first that you are a trans man because you pass so well, but as soon as they found out that your silly little birth genitals don't or didn't fit your gender, they 'slip' constantly with "She" or "Her" or the 'sister-friend' comment, when once they were high fiving you and calling you 'Bro'. How many times will you hear "I just forget," or "Sorry I can't wrap my head around it." How does "I never knew before and I was cool with you once" turn into "I never knew before and I was cool with you until you made me uncomfortable because now I have to deal with this in my own little bigoted head." this is the oob I will NEVER understand.
Everytime this happens, it never fails that the boob I am dealing with chooses to focus on my chest. Trying to get a glimpse to disprove my claim of manhood, maybe catch a little oversized under-muscled bump or two?
I make sure to correct every wrong assumption or accusation with a curt "Her" or "Sir" or "Mister" and when they realize they have been called out on their ignorance their reasoning sounds exactly like "Oh, I'm sorry, I have just had one of those days" and "My head is all over the place, I have just been doing that all day to people,..." Doing what all day to people exactly? Calling Sweet Mrs. Jenkins from down the road "Mister?" or Old cantankerous Mr. Dowdy at the Library "Miss?" Hardly.
Next time you catch the culprits prying eyes focusing on your most manly of chesty chests, feel free to let them know that 'Salem Already inspected them for you. They are Man boobs, now, move along".
My job here is done. You're welcome. Be free, and I love you.