It’s been eighteen years…

CN: murder, suicide

Eighteen years ago I sat on my couch and cried inconsolably, newspaper on my lap, while Colin and their sister played. A young college student, Matthew Shepard, had just been brutally murdered by his peers, solely for being gay. They considered him a threat over who he loved.

I looked at my sweet toddler and wondered about their future. They were so loving, affectionate, and feminine and I worried for them. Were they going to end up gay? What would their future be like?

jeremy-in-1998

Jeremy ~ February 1998

Tears poured down my face while I hoped Matthew had woken up a little near the end, just enough to know he’d been rescued… that people had cared. Enough that he hadn’t died alone. I couldn’t bear the thought that he’d died alone. I could barely bear that he’d died at all. In that moment he wasn’t a stranger’s son but my own child’s future.

Colin cynically commented that they were surprised his murderers got charged way back then and I assured them that of course they did. They were charged and convicted. But I had to admit that their cynicism wasn’t out of place. I poured through the papers over those next few months, reading all the articles and hoping for charges… hoping the plea of “gay panic” wouldn’t be accepted. That love wouldn’t be used as an excuse to kill. And it wasn’t… but only barely.

Today my news feed seems to alternate between pictures of Matthew and a story by a young man who survived conversion therapy, despite several suicide attempts. He’d been told 50% of his class would kill themselves and admits that number ended up being correct. The youngest was 13 years old. Those children were placed in that camp by parents who couldn’t accept their children for who they are and were willing to accept a 50% survival rate as long as their child came home straight. They seem to feel it’s better to bury a dead queer than love a live one.

jeremy-in-2010

Colin ~ February 2010

A young trans friend of mine attempted suicide a couple of days ago. Another is contemplating it over top surgery. There were the Orlando shootings in June and, in Canada, the young artist Sophie Labelle gets death threats daily for daring to draw queer issues (mostly regarding the T in LGBTQIA). And if I hadn’t been a bit on the delusional side on how high you can jump and live, I wouldn’t be here either. I didn’t want to risk living through a seven storey drop (eight considering we live over the basement drop off) so, ironically, I’m still here too.

Eighteen years ago I’d hoped that our society would have changed dramatically for the better. It’s changed but not enough, not nearly enough. Today is beautiful, warm, and sunny but in my heart it’s raining. I am so tired of the deaths. Please help make it stop.

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Dear “Christian” Conservatives…

It was just over a year ago when Leelah Alcorn stepped in front of a transport truck. Just over a year ago since she was buried under a name she didn’t like and didn’t want. But you won’t use the name she chose. Unctuous sympathy drips from your mouth while you refer to her as Joshua. I’ve read your articles, the ones where you blame liberals for causing her death. You claim she died because of depression and that real therapy, which reassured her of her innate maleness, would have helped. Then you quote doctors from John Hopkins University and a study which claims that 80% of transgender youths end up cisgender by the time they’re adults. But do you know what you ignore? That study had flaws big enough to drive a truck through. The researchers lost track of a bunch of the youths and simply assumed they’d stopped being trans. That’s not research. That’s guessing and wishful thinking.

Know what else you ignore? Leelah Alcorn should have been your poster child for “curing” transgender youths. She had a traditional nuclear family and religious parents who loved and supported her as their son. They did everything the Christian conservatives suggested. They got her into Christian counselling with a counselor who treated her depression and encouraged her to be a straight male. They took away her access to liberal websites which supported her as a trans female. They brought her to church and consistently referred to her by her birth name. If your articles and views were right, she should be happily filling out college forms as Joshua.  But she’s not. She died hating her parents and begging people to change society. She died asking people to remember her as Leelah.

This new year is barely ten days old, we haven’t even hit a fortnight yet, and so far I’ve nearly lost two friends to suicide. Both friends are trans and both have families who, like Leelah, are reasonably sure this is just a phase. One has family who finally realize this is serious; they’re now making an effort at using the right name and pronouns. The other? Well this is his second attempt since October and he’s just lost an unsupported trans friend to suicide. All I can do is keep reassuring him he’s wanted and needed and hope for the best.

Meanwhile there are families doing everything wrong according to conservatives and right according to liberals. They (for the most part) have kids who are thriving. Granted, they have their own unique issues. Most families don’t have to remind their kids not to leave their breasts on the kitchen table or warn them the family dog is chewing their penis. But they’re the ones taking smiling photos of their kids dressed up for prom (complete with friends and dates) and scheduling college tours.

Please stop. Stop fretting about saving your daughters from terrified newly out trans women who just want to pee. Stop showing off your knowledge of grade five biology as if middle school is the pinnacle of education. Stop telling people you know them better than they do. Stop acting like six year old trans girls are gap toothed predators stalking their fellow Girl Scouts. And stop patronizingly referring to Leelah by her dead name. Your attitude pushed her into the path of a truck. Would you please let her rest in peace?

 

*If you’re trans and struggling, there are resources available. Please reach out. I assure you, you are wanted and needed*

Pink for Leelah ~ take two…

Back in January I posted a scrapbooking page I’d attempted for Leelah Alcorn. I promised I’d do better and finally did today.

Pink for Leelah2

Paper – Shabby Princess (Winter Wonderland)
Alpha – Studio Taran (Shabby Glittered Alpha)
Font – Fonts for Peas (Pea Mily Mix and Pea Hello Two AM)
Elements – Studio Flergs

I tried to make it as sparkling, pink, and feminine as I could manage, for a girl who was never allowed to have enough of any of those in her life. Rest in power Leelah, you haven’t been forgotten.

Busyness

It was April 1st. My Mom called right as I sat down for my break, which was odd as she knew I was at work.

“I just wanted to give you a head’s up,” she said when I answered the phone. “Your ex called and he’s on the warpath. He wanted to know why he hadn’t been told that Jeremy’s transgender. I told him you haven’t been shy about telling people, that you’ve been really open. And when was the last time he saw Jeremy?”

I hoped for a brief second this was an April Fool’s prank but that’s not my Mom’s style. I was, however, impressed by how she’d handled him. Way to go Mom!

“He made all sorts of excuses about living far away,” she continued, “and he’s talking about moving back down in June.”

Just in time for Jeremy’s birthday. You can imagine how thrilled Jeremy is about that. The story he gave my Mom is that I showed up in his suggested friend’s list then he clicked on my picture and saw my latest post. I had just posted about Jeremy but that was set to friends only plus I’d blocked both his accounts.

I called Jeremy at school to warn zir (first time zie’d attended in over a week) then I went to message Emma. I started typing just as their Dad called and I accidentally accepted his call. I hadn’t meant to accept it, not with 30 seconds left on my break.

I couldn’t have just shown up on your page,” I pointed out in exasperation during the call. “I’ve got both your accounts blocked.”

“Well I’ve got a lot of accounts on Facebook,” he replied. I hadn’t realized until then that a smirk could be heard through the phone. He promised me he’d call back soon to discuss Jeremy’s gender. It sounded more like a threat.

Jeremy seemed fine when I warned zir at school but I came home to a weepy teen who desperately needed hugs. We headed out shopping as a distraction then a thought struck me as we left. I’d woke to a friend request that morning, which wasn’t unusual except the person didn’t have any friends in common. I messaged Emma immediately to ask her if the person showed up as a friend of their Dad. She sent me a screen shot less than a minute later of the person’s friend’s list with her Dad right there. By then I’d already deleted the request but still felt creeped out. There was no way the request was coincidental.

We checked out a new liquidation centre that opened up by our place and Jeremy ecstatically found a remote control car to replace the one zie accidentally broke this winter while driving it over a slushy snow bank.

“Look! It has real working headlights! And there’s seats inside and a dashboard that even shows the radio and bumpers and a real suspension.” Zie flipped the car over and bounced the wheels up and down. “This is the coolest car ever!”

I couldn’t afford to buy zir anything right now. “Go see how much it costs,” I said and zie hurried off.

“It’s twenty dollars!” zie yelled as zie ran back, hugging the car against zir chest.

I still couldn’t afford it but this was the happiest I’d seen zir in ages. “Okay,” I said and watched zir smile grow enormous.

I can drive my car all through Toronto tomorrow,” zie pointed out when we got home.

We had plans of going downtown and watching parliament in action, seeing the Ontario government decide on whether to pass Bill 77 on to committee. Bill 77 is a bill to stop conversion therapy on LGBTQ children and youths in Ontario. It was important to have supporters in the gallery.

I looked at the car and figured we’d get to Toronto early and make a few detours through city parks. Then I checked the bus and train times and finally the train tickets. That was when I felt like crying… almost $40 just for the train tickets alone. I hadn’t realized the price had gone up by that much.

It’s okay Mom,” Jeremy reassured me. “We can stay home and I can drive my car through the park.”

That’s why community’s important and valued. I vented on Facebook about how horrible the day had been and immediately had two people volunteer to give me some money so Jeremy and I could go downtown. I accepted the first volunteer (thanks again!).

Yay!” Jeremy yelled. “My car can drive by all the tall buildings!”

We had a marvellous time in Toronto. Jeremy got to drive zir car through Cloud Garden’s greenhouse…

driving zir car

… and then we walked down University Avenue right to the circle.

I knew where Queen’s Park was but had never been there before, which had me sending frantic messages to a friend from the Parents of Transgender Children group.

Do you see the government building?” she asked. I looked around at about a half dozen of them.

Do you mean the reddish one?” I sent back hesitantly. Which it was.

Ooo... fancy

Ooo… fancy

We ended up on opposite ends of the building but finally met and were herded in for our gallery passes along with a youth who was also coming to view Bill 77’s debate.

I'd been picturing something a bit more impressive.

I’d been picturing something a bit more impressive.

Then we had to give up pretty much everything. No cameras, no cell phones, no pens or paper, no food (including water). We weren’t allowed to write or draw or clap. I got told to stop pointing out architectural details to Jeremy in case it disturbed the people two stories below. Then Jeremy noticed the brass finial in front of us looked a bit like a penis and testicles and we got told to stop whispering and giggling. Oops. Finally they moved on to the bill we’d been waiting for and it was overwhelmingly positive. Person after person stood up and gave the bill glowing comments. Several brought up their own struggles as LGBTQ youths. All insisted it was important to protect children and assure them there was nothing wrong with being themselves.

We left as soon as the debate finished (if such a unified front can be called a debate). They hadn’t voted yet but Jeremy and zir new friend were bored (and quite frankly so was I). By then we’d been hanging out in the gallery for almost two hours.

We met up with another friend from the group and her children (who’d sat amazingly well for that whole time) before heading our separate ways.

leaving the Legislative building

Jeremy getting ready to drive zir car some more.

The best part is we got home to find out that Bill 77 passed unanimously. They’re hoping to have it finalized for Pride week in June!

And my ex called during our train ride. It turns out he saw my video from February about raising a trans kid (one of the very few things set to public on my personal page). He wanted to know who “zir” was then informed me he’d never refer to Jeremy as anything other than his son unless Jeremy had surgery and then he’d start referring to Jeremy as she; totally ignoring Jeremy’s actual gender identity. Once again he didn’t ask to speak to Jeremy, saying he’d call that weekend. I looked at Jeremy sitting directly across from me and knew he wouldn’t. But at least that call is over with and I won’t need to misgender Jeremy during our infrequent phone conversations anymore.

Poor Jeremy. Zie was so happy with zir new car and went out twice a day, every day, to drive it in the nearby park. Then zie went out with me yesterday to pick up cat food and drove it ahead of us on the sidewalk. It was one of those “I can’t believe it’s happening” moments. Jeremy drove zir car across the entrance to a nearby strip mall and into the grass beside the pavement just as someone drove up over the curb and across the grass crushing the hood of zir car. Ironically enough the car still works but the whole hood is gone… and we’d bought the last one at a clearance outlet. Zie spent most of last night crying and was upset and agitated through zir whole counselling session today. We’ve looked at a few cars online but zie waffled over them all. I think the hardest part for zir was the person didn’t even apologize… just looked at us holding all the little car parts and walked away.

I’m off this Thursday, maybe I’ll find something then.

heading off to Hogwarts

Please sign…

There is a petition on the White House website to ban conversion therapy in the United States in Leelah’s name. I was able to sign it in Canada so you should be able to sign it just about anywhere. Right now it needs about 12,000 more signatures before February 2nd.

For more information and the link to the petition please click here.