Although society has come a long way in their acceptance of lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, and transgender individuals, it still has a long way to go. And this was the message that Leelah Alcorn wanted to send with her death. She was a transgender teen who committed suicide on December 28, 2014, and her death created waves around the world.
Alcorn was raised in a conservative home and whose parents did not accept her female gender identity. Instead, they required that she participate in Christian-based conversion therapy which aims to convince a teen to reject their desired gender identity and accept the gender given to them at birth. Alcorn later disclosed her attraction towards males and her parents then removed her from school. They also took away her access to social media. Sadly, Alcorn admitted that loneliness, stigma, and alienation contributed to her desire to end her life. She committed suicide by walking in front of oncoming traffic on the highway.
Hours after her death, a friend posted her suicide note online, which Alcorn had previously arranged. Alcorn included in her note the clear limitations of societal standards regarding LGBT’s as well as the hope that her death would initiate a dialogue for change. And indeed, her death garnered international attention. Soon a petition began to spread which aimed to ban therapy that discourages teens from changing their gender identity.
Transgender is a descriptive term for individuals whose gender identity or whose expression of gender does not agree with their biological attributes – the sex they were born with. There are also sub-categories that more accurately describe individuals of the transgender community, such as the following:
Trans-sexual describes those whose gender identity is different from the sex they were born with. Often, transsexuals want to alter their physical body to reflect the gender they identify with.
Cross Dressing describes those who wear the clothing of the gender other than the one they typically identify with. Cross dressing is not considered behavior that is erotic in nature, and usually those who cross dress do not wish to change their assigned, physical sex.
Transgender individuals have been a part of human society from as early as ancient indigenous societies through today. It is only now that we are beginning to understand their psychological, emotional, and physical experience, and as a result, becoming more accepting. If you are a parent or caregiver of a transgender teen, there are some ways to provide your support, including:
- Educate yourself, including learning something simple like the fact that LGBT stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender.
- Attend the LGBT annual parade with your teen, which is a way to discover that the LGBT community is made up of regular people, like everyone else.
- Research the local, state, and federal laws for homosexual, transgender, and trans-sexual individuals.
- Participate in family therapy to work through family concerns and strengthen relationships. All members of the family can participate in therapy, not just you and your adolescent.
Most importantly, however, your teen needs your love and acceptance. Research shows that LGBT teens who are not accepted by their parents are more likely to commit suicide. If you want to show your support, the best thing you can do is tell your LGBT teen that you love them.