Friday, January 02, 2015

Leelah Alcorn Should Have Stayed Here to Teach Society About the Importance of Tolerance

Leelah Alcorn's parents are not "bad parents" -- they are just unexposed and consumed in religious teachings, which can be interpreted a million and one times. They know "Josh" and refuse to know the real person, Leelah -- their daughter who has always been their daughter. But think back to 10 or maybe even 20 years ago or more. Think about what the word "transgender" meant back then. Some, perhaps even today, still get "transgender" confused with "transvestite" because they have no education about the lifestyle. It's not just a boy wanting to dress like a girl or a girl wanting to dress like a boy. It has zero to do with "crossdressing". It's not a "phase" to most who are truly transgendered -- it is something that is as much valid as it is for you and I to be able to breathe every single day of our lives. It is not something to be taken lightly. These are people who want to be who they are. I like to use these below questions for straight religious folk to get my point across, especially when someone tells me that being a lesbian was a choice for me.

"Did you choose to be straight...?"

Same applies to those who are transgendered.

"Did you choose your gender...?"

Most answers will be, "No! Of course not! God made me who I am!"

Exactly.

Let's not forget about the unexposed (I really dislike using the term ignorant because it gives a very sour feel to it). But focus in on people who are unexposed and saturated with only narrow-viewed religious teachings.

Leelah Alcorn, 17, committed suicide Sunday by walking into traffic on Interstate 71 in Warren County. Leelah, born Josh, posted a suicide note outlining reasons why she took her own life.

Here are the statements made by the parents of Leelah:

“We love our son, Joshua, very much and are devastated by his death. We have no desire to enter into a political storm or debate with people who did not know him. We wish to grieve in private. We harbor no ill will towards anyone. ... I simply do not wish our words to be used against us.”

“We don’t support that, religiously, but we told him that we loved him unconditionally. We loved him no matter what. I loved my son. People need to know that I loved him. He was a good kid, a good boy.”

Here is the suicide note left by Leelah Alcorn. I know many have seen it, but I need to post this in case someone hasn't read this story and this heartbreaking suicide letter.

"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. I could go into detail explaining why I feel that way, but this note is probably going to be lengthy enough as it is. To put it simply, I feel like a girl trapped in a boy’s body, and I’ve felt that way ever since I was 4. I never knew there was a word for that feeling, nor was it possible for a boy to become a girl, so I never told anyone and I just continued to do traditionally 'boyish' things to try to fit in. 
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. 
My mom started taking me to a therapist, but would only take me to christian therapists, (who were all very biased) so I never actually got the therapy I needed to cure me of my depression. I only got more christians telling me that I was selfish and wrong and that I should look to God for help. 
When I was 16 I realized that my parents would never come around, and that I would have to wait until I was 18 to start any sort of transitioning treatment, which absolutely broke my heart. The longer you wait, the harder it is to transition. I felt hopeless, that I was just going to look like a man in drag for the rest of my life. On my 16th birthday, when I didn’t receive consent from my parents to start transitioning, I cried myself to sleep. 
I formed a sort of a 'f*** you' attitude towards my parents and came out as gay at school, thinking that maybe if I eased into coming out as trans it would be less of a shock. Although the reaction from my friends was positive, my parents were pissed. They felt like I was attacking their image, and that I was an embarrassment to them. They wanted me to be their perfect little straight christian boy, and that’s obviously not what I wanted. 
So they took me out of public school, took away my laptop and phone, and forbid me of getting on any sort of social media, completely isolating me from my friends. This was probably the part of my life when I was the most depressed, and I’m surprised I didn’t kill myself. I was completely alone for 5 months. No friends, no support, no love. Just my parent’s disappointment and the cruelty of loneliness. 
At the end of the school year, my parents finally came around and gave me my phone and let me back on social media. I was excited, I finally had my friends back. They were extremely excited to see me and talk to me, but only at first. Eventually they realized they didn’t actually give a s**t about me, and I felt even lonelier than I did before. The only friends I thought I had only liked me because they saw me five times a week. 
After a summer of having almost no friends plus the weight of having to think about college, save money for moving out, keep my grades up, go to church each week and feel like s**t because everyone there is against everything I live for, 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. 
That’s the gist of it, that’s why I feel like killing myself. Sorry if that’s not a good enough reason for you, it’s good enough for me. As for my will, I want 100% of the things that I legally own to be sold and the money (plus my money in the bank) to be given to trans civil rights movements and support groups, I don’t give a s**t which one. 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 f***ed up” and fix it. Fix society. Please. 
Goodbye, (Leelah) Josh Alcorn" 

It's not enough that people suffer in silence, no less get tortured by the nonacceptance of those around them, especially their own loved ones. To make matters even worse, they are treated unfairly, bullied in school and at work and have built up walls against people because...people hurt more than anything else.  A brilliant life was taken away from us -- someone who could have helped the LGBTQ community with heart -- someone with a passion to help others. But she couldn't take the pain anymore. She couldn't absorb the lack of support by her own parents. I wish she could have just realized how unexposed and uneducated (in that aspect) her parents were. I wish she could have seen the situation like an outsider and said, "Eh, silly religious people," and then moved on. But sadly, there are more "silly religious people" all around us. They're everywhere, and with that, you need a thick skin to plow through the ignorant and misguided society.

And yes, I said "she" and "her", because that's who she was.

To echo the words of Leelah, "Fix society. Please."

Now let's just zero in on the parents for a split second: they were once proud parents of a bouncing baby "boy". They were proud they had a son -- probably as proud as they would have been if Leelah had been born a girl.  The initial anatomical gender is what they are fixated on. The "God-given" sex is what Leelah's parents are stuck on. Then add religious teachings on top of that -- "people's religious teachings". They haven't been given the opportunity to learn or educate themselves on something so taboo or "sinful".  In many cases, the majority of society cannot differentiate sexual orientation (like being gay or lesbian) vs. sexual identity. I have even heard some people call transgender people "homos".  They cannot wrap their heads around the differences. But it's all out of being on the outside, now knowing, not understanding and sadly, fearing. What does fear do? Provides the world with a whole lotta' "phobias".

Even my adorable mother was once introduced to a dear friend of mine.

"Ma, this is Samantha."

Her eyes widened, realizing that Samantha was a transgendered woman. Of course, she states Samantha as a "transgender man".  I was also asked if Samantha had a boyfriend.

"No, she still prefers women."

"What?"

In this case, it had nothing to do with religion nor did it have anything to do with nonacceptance. She had to learn what was happening outside her own door. Since I brought the situation inside her door, she is now understanding and educated about transgenderism and very accepting. You're talking about someone who grew up in the 1930's, 40's, 50's, etc.

My point is: maybe we should focus less on Leelah's parents and their lack of understanding and zero in on society itself. Put yourself in Leelah's parents' shoes for a moment, even if they didn't do it for their own daughter. See how it feels to be in a closed-in world with only religious propaganda to go on. View the world through a biblical telescope and then tell me if you understand what it means for a boy wanting to be a girl or a girl wanting to be a boy. Religion can be very blinding.

"That's not normal."
"That's not natural."

Neither was making water into wine.
Neither was bringing back someone from the dead.
Neither was making a blind man see.

I believe our entire society needs to be taught, instead of closing our eyes and only opening them up to religious textbooks. I used to think it wasn't really a big deal that people needed to educate themselves on topics that were way out of their lifestyle, but seeing how close this can hit home, or in this case, hit your home, maybe we should all learn. Maybe we should all educate ourselves on every lifestyle since one day, our own child may tell us, "I don't wanna be a boy anymore," or "I don't wanna be a girl anymore." What then? Don't chuck it up to "Oh they're probably going through a phase," or "They're probably gay." Dig deeper.

You can weigh in on the topic of transphobia on the FB page of "Support for the Alcorn Family" here. I wrote a comment to which the owner of the page responded with, "...it makes no sense!" 

Maybe one day it will.

For more of Deb's articles, please visit: www.debrapasquella.com or join her on Facebook and Twitter. Check out her cooking blog for some of her famous recipes!