Remembering Leelah Alcorn…

It was New Year’s Eve 2014 when I first heard about Leelah and how she’d chosen to walk in front of a truck instead of continuing to be ignored and misgendered at home. Colin was still non-binary, feeling like both male and female and the thought that he might end his life was chilling, even though he was being supported at home. I felt overwhelmed and the only way I could think of calming down was to write it out, and so I did.

I’m not going to write a whole new post. I’ll just leave the link to post right here. And remember, Leelah is just one of many who have taken their own lives due to lack of support. If you have a trans person in your life please, please support them and let them know they matter. It makes a difference.

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Looking at life from both sides…

I remember, years ago in Sociology, the teacher talked about three different kinds of parenting; authoritarian, authoritative, and permissive. Authoritarian were the strict parents, expecting respect and obedience and deciding what was best for the child. Permissive parents wanted to be their child’s friend to the point of making little to no rules. And Authoritative was a blend of the two, giving the child a say but making the final decision.

I thought about that class a couple of days ago while I read comments on a Facebook post. I watched parents from both sides expressing love for their children and child abuse by the opposing parents. It was easy to see who was authoritarian and who was authoritative.

The authoritative parents were listening to their child’s insistent claims of being the other gender. They were going to doctors, psychiatrists, and counselors to sort out what’s going on. They were listening to their child but weren’t changing anything until the professionals were called.

The authoritarian parents listened to their child’s insistent claims of being the other gender and quickly and firmly told the child, “no, you are a boy/girl. I don’t want to hear any more nonsense about this”. And, of course, the child stops talking about it for years and years until they either commit suicide or come out as an adult. But, in the meantime their parents are certain they are doing the right thing. “Children are too young for stuff like that” is a comment I see regularly. Comparing being trans to sexual abuse is another, even though they are completely different things.

The authoritarian parents ask questions like “My child wanted to be a dog. Should I have got her a collar and started feeding her on the floor?” My sister pretended to be a dog for a little while too. She had to eat at the table but could crawl around and bark as much as she wanted. I was a child myself so I don’t know how long it lasted. I’m going to guess not very long. Trans children, on the other hand, are adamant they’re the other gender (or somewhere in between) and they keep persisting. And once they transition, they stay that other gender, for the most part. It doesn’t matter if they change their mind because the only thing that happens when a child transitions is they change clothes and hair styles.

I have some sympathy for the authoritarian parents. It’s hard to listen to your child’s choices when they make such spectacularly bad decisions. You put the goldfish where?!? But then I remember Leelah Alcorn and how her parents denied her truth over and over again, even after she died. And these statistics:

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The pale blue bars show the authoritarian parents. They’re the parents who said “no, you are who we say you are”. The dark blue shows the authoritative parents. Now look at the difference, especially the last section which is attempted suicide, not just talking about it but doing it. 57 per cent, more than half of the unsupported kids versus 4 per cent for the supported kids. Is being in charge all the time worth losing your kid? Sure you get your chosen name on the gravestone instead of theirs but damn.

I know I have groups of people who don’t like me, they show up in my statistics. They either think Colin’s getting manipulated into being trans. That kiddo could give a lawyer a run for her money. Or that he’s so developmentally delayed that he simply agrees to everything I say. This would be a surprise for his teacher. You know what though? I don’t give a rat’s ass what they think. My kids are far more important.

Right now Colin’s wavering between being Colin or Emma. I have no idea how long this wavering will take and no idea what he will choose. Either way, it’s his decision, not mine. And as an authoritative parent, I will support him either way.

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.

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.

It’s not about you…

I remember being pregnant with my children, feeling as their gentle flutters progressed into full belly flops on my bladder and painful karate kicks against the backs of my ribs. Back then I had no clue what my children would be like; they were more like ideas than real people. I’d sit in my rocking chair with my hands clasped gently over my stomach and wonder who they’d be. Dreaming of children who loved singing as much as me; envisioning singing rounds, our voices weaving together in harmony.

Then they were born. Short, chubby, bald people who looked a lot more like Winston Churchill than either their Dad or myself. People that screamed randomly, pooped on themselves, and considered “gah” to be an entire conversation. I still had no idea what they were like except loud, messy, and highly uncoordinated. They slowly evolved into their own people. Kait was colicky and had a desperate need to be held by me. She developed a heat rash across one cheek because she could only sleep while draped across my chest, listening to my heart. Colin was more laid back, willing to be held by anyone or to simply chill on a blanket. Weirdly enough Kait was the one who walked early, desperate to explore on her own while Colin was half a month past zir first birthday before zie took zir first cautious steps away from me.

As for the singing, Kait was happy enough to sing with me as a toddler (I have video proof of this) but quickly decided she couldn’t sing and refused despite encouragement from me. Colin has never sung in front of me. The only times I’ve ever heard zir sing is through zir closed bedroom door while zie listens to music.

I have never mourned their lack of interest in singing beyond some vague, wishful “gee it would be nice…” musings on a very rare occasion. Because of this I don’t have any statistical proof, however I have good reason to believe people would be fairly unsympathetic if I bemoaned my lack of musical offspring. They’d rightly ponder my mental health if I insisted on pretending my children played musical instruments and talked about our imaginary music nights; even if I coached it as needing time to let go of my need for musical children. They’d tell me to smarten up and accept the fact my children just aren’t musically inclined. That not everyone enjoys singing and to take pleasure in the children I have and appreciate the music they listen to.

I’ve watched as parents get supported for struggling, and failing, to cope with their child being transgender. I’ve seen parents talk about deliberately misgendering their child for months on end because it was too hard for them. Parents who used non-binary pronouns, despite not having a gender neutral child, because they didn’t feel ready to switch over to the pronouns their child preferred. One common thread through all these conversations is “I need…”

You know what? It’s not about you!

We don’t get to pick the kids we raise. We don’t get to choose their height, their hair colour, their IQ, their skills, their goals, or their gender. It’s that simple. I couldn’t pick singing skills and you can’t pick gender. And it doesn’t matter if you think you were raising a boy and instead, whoops, she’s a girl… or vice versa… or neither… or both.

Actually, to be fair, it does matter. When I started getting Colin tested for autism, I went through a spell of mourning. Zie’d been born absolutely perfect and then zir eyes started turning in. Surgery fixed this and everything was normal… except zie wasn’t talking. I was assured speech therapy would make a difference and soon zie would be normal. For a while that seemed to be the case but I soon realized more was going on. All my vague searches turned up autism, which wasn’t something zie’d outgrow ever. There was no “and then everything would be normal” at the end of that diagnosis. I did my brief bout of mourning away from Colin because this was my issue and not zir’s. The same goes for having an LGBTQ child. Take some private time to set aside your dreams and goals while realizing they’re yours. In the meantime be your child’s biggest supporter. Realize they need you now more than ever. They need to know you are right there behind them for support (just like that first time on the monkey bars… all set to catch them if they drop).

Because there is something matters a whole lot more. Take a good long look at this chart (these stats are worse than the ones for LGB youths, which are already too high)…

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There’s a huge difference between the dark and pale blue sections. 57% is a scarily high number. Now take a closer look. That pale blue section includes “somewhat supportive parents”. The benchmark for being a good, supportive parent to a trans child is not “well I didn’t kick him/her/them out”. If you can’t manage to use your child’s preferred name and pronouns, you are not a supportive parent.

Today I read a letter about two unsupportive parents, written by their teen before she stepped in front of a transport truck, completely without hope that she’d ever be able to live her life as a girl.

Leelah

Leelah was 17 years old when she died. I’ve linked her archived Tumblr blog* to the picture but this is part of what she wrote in her note…

“When I was 14, I learned what transgender meant and cried of happiness. After 10 years of confusion I finally understood who I was. I immediately told my mom, and she reacted extremely negatively, telling me that it was a phase, that I would never truly be a girl, that God doesn’t make mistakes, that I am wrong. If you are reading this, parents, please don’t tell this to your kids. Even if you are Christian or are against transgender people don’t ever say that to someone, especially your kid. That won’t do anything but make them hate them self. That’s exactly what it did to me.

I have decided I’ve had enough. I’m never going to transition successfully, even when I move out. I’m never going to be happy with the way I look or sound. I’m never going to have enough friends to satisfy me. I’m never going to have enough love to satisfy me. I’m never going to find a man who loves me. I’m never going to be happy. Either I live the rest of my life as a lonely man who wishes he were a woman or I live my life as a lonelier woman who hates herself. There’s no winning. There’s no way out. I’m sad enough already, I don’t need my life to get any worse. People say “it gets better” but that isn’t true in my case. It gets worse. Each day I get worse.

The only way I will rest in peace is if one day transgender people aren’t treated the way I was, 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. My death needs to be counted in the number of transgender people who commit suicide this year. I want someone to look at that number and say “that’s fucked up” and fix it. Fix society. Please.”

Her parents ignored what she was saying to them. They ignored her pleas for acceptance and instead they told her she was wrong and going against god’s will. They dragged her to Christian conversion therapists who told her the same thing. When she tried to ease them into acceptance by coming out as gay instead, they took away all her social media and blocked her from her real life friends as well. They also refused any sort of transitioning help, including blockers. All they wanted was a son, even if this was an illusion. And they clung to this illusion even after her death…

misgendered memorial

Photo found via Tumblr

Even after death, her mother couldn’t accept her as Leelah. She couldn’t see what she’d done. One of Leelah’s friends corrected the post for her…

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Corrections by Shani Mer Bryan. Found on Transgender Graphics

This is what it boils down to. If you find yourself struggling with supporting your child and getting bogged down with “why me” and “I don’t know if I can deal with this”, scroll up and take a good long look at Leelah’s face. You can do this because your child is counting on you. Please go and make a better future for our childrens’ sake… for Leelah’s sake.

Also, she asked for donations to be made to any trans groups. Pick one and make a donation in her honour.

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Art by Mike Kirby

And please, if you’re feeling suicidal, there are people who care. People who will listen. Go to my resources page and you will find a list of phone numbers and websites. You can also message me at secretmom@email.com. You are not alone.

* Leelah’s parents deleted her Tumblr and final words. Luckily the internet is pretty much forever and archived copies have been found.