Transgender teen’s suicide a wake-up call to ‘fix’ society

Commentary by Zoie Nelson
Times-News correspondent

   Transgender people deal with judgment and discrimination every day of their lives.
In a 2011 survey conducted by the National Center for Transgender Equality, it was found that 41 percent of 6,450 transgender or nongender conforming individuals have attempted suicide. Recently, America was reminded of the fight for transgender equality with the tragic death of Leelah Alcorn.
Alcorn was born as Josh in a small town in Ohio, but ever since she was 4, she knew something was off.
“I feel like a girl trapped in a boy’s body,” she said in a suicide note posted on the popular social networking website, Tumblr.
When she was 14 she found out what being transgender was and she was relieved to find she wasn’t the only one fighting this confusing battle. She shared what she thought was good news with her parents only to find they didn’t share the excitement.
“She (her mom) reacted extremely negatively, telling me it was a phase, that I would never truly be a girl, and God doesn’t make mistakes, that I am wrong,” she went on to say in her note.
   Her parents decided to take her to counselors and therapists hoping it would fix it all.
Feeling defeated, she decided to come out as gay at school. Everyone at school was supportive. In her note, Alcorn claimed her parents forced her to begin online school and have no contact with any friends because she came out as gay.
Alcorn said she was “completely alone for five months. No friends, no support, no love, just my parents’ disappointment and the cruelty of loneliness.”
She felt the pressure of her parents wanting her to be a “perfect little straight Christian boy” even though that was the complete opposite of what she wanted. She decided she couldn’t take it any longer.
In the early morning of Dec. 28, 2014, Alcorn walked out in front of a tractor-trailer ending her life. Her suicide note on Tumblr was set to post a little after her time of death.
“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 … Fix society. Please.”
“(We can fix society) by honoring a person’s spirit. Gender is not between your legs, it’s in your brain. Your brain is hardwired at birth with who you are and will be. Honoring each other is where it begins,” said Iden Campbell McCollum from the Campbell Center. “(When I told my parents) there was radio silence and then questions about what did I do wrong — did someone touch you? and I don’t want to lose my child.”
If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, call (800) 273-8255 or www.suicidepreven to get help. Or if you or someone you know is transgender and needs support or help please visit or find a local LGBT community center at .

 Zoie Nelson is a sophomore at Williams High School and a Teens & Twenties writer.

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