Suicide, Leelah Alcorn, and Living Openly Trans*

I’ve kept quiet much for the last few months because I’ve been mourning a loss, the equal I can only compare losing my father at age 11. I’m not going to share the particulars of this loss because it doesn’t really matter in the context of this post, and secondly because it’s extremely personal. But emotionally I’ve been hampered a bit in just getting by day to day. I’m just trying to work out a plan for my future and try to do all the things people do when they’re mourning a huge loss. Trying to move on when you don’t really want to.

The holidays haven’t made it any easier. My circle of friends in Madison, Wisconsin is small. This is the first Christmas without my partner. I’ve just been putting my head down, going to work, and trying to make it through.

And then I read the suicide note of a trans teen, Leelah Acorn. Her parents tried Jesusing the the trans out of her to the point she killed herself. Some cis-gender (not trans*) people (especially those people that can’t bring themselves to call trans women, women but feel the need to call them “penised individuals“) have suggested that it’s irresponsible to post Leelah’s suicide note.

This is thorny territory for me personally. When I read it, it did trigger me. I’ve been pretty much staying away from social media the last few days because of her suicide. In her suicide note she said:

“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 part of her note pierced through me like a knife. I understand her pain, because I feel like I am the embodiment of the comments of her future. I’m a visibly trans woman that struggles every day. As I said to a friend after this story broke:

“I’m not clinically depressed or having suicidal ideation. I’m currently mourning a loss and been having dysphoria related issues lately. Basically I’m the person she said she didn’t want to live to be. That was a huge punch to the gut.”

and

“I’m not saying it for hugs or attention (but thanks for the love), but that it’s just hard. Especially what she said about it not getting better. If you don’t have cis-privilege, life is fucking hard being openly trans.”

But I don’t think it’s irresponsible to publish her note. I think it’s wise and compassionate to warn people with “trigger warnings”. But for someone that routinely fights for the right to exclude trans women from “female only” spaces without one shred of evidence that trans women are a threat (regardless of their genital status), I find Ditum’s words to be both disingenuous and oppressive.

Irresponsible? That would be the Philadelphia Gay News publishing a story about an underage child’s genitals. Irresponsible would be the Statesman asking a TERF who openly mocks trans women to write a piece on a trans child’s suicide.

The answer to transphobia that leads to suicide isn’t more transphobia. The answer to transphobia isn’t silence. Not talking about it isn’t going to make it go away. Trans reparative therapy isn’t going to suddenly go away on its own. It needs to be talked about and people need to know how awful and destructive it is.

She says:

“Trans lives matter. We know that transgender people are at particular risk of suicidal thoughts. So why are people endorsing and sharing material that, if it has any effect at all, is likely to be the catalyst for a trans youth to attempt suicide?”

Ditum’s pity feels a lot like the pity trans people get from Focus on the Family. She knows that trans people are at particularly at risk for suicidal thoughts, but never seems to ask why. I’m suffering every day as a visibly trans person, and it’s not because I’m mentally ill or because I’m diagnosed with any sort of depression. It’s because being visibly trans in this world IS A HARD LIFE. It’s because there are people that other us, disrespect us, and objectify us on a daily (and sometimes hourly) basis.

The answer isn’t silence, it’s education. The answer isn’t fear mongering, mis-gendering, or “gender nerd snark“, it’s treating trans people with respect and human dignity. It boils down to just letting trans people live their lives authentically without being attacked for who they are. Ditum and folks like her aren’t part of the answer, they’re part of the problem.

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7 thoughts on “Suicide, Leelah Alcorn, and Living Openly Trans*”

  1. Yes! All of this! I’ve not been able to process this very well, either, to the point of having this post up in a tab to read for the past few days until screwing up the courage to go over it now. You are one of the most loving, compassionate people I know, and between these words I heard your voice and some of the things left unwritten.

  2. I think it’s important …your words ….the part where you state that your not looking for sympathy……I know what you mean….empathy is the target I seek ….until society “empathize ” with us…things won’t change….for example…I know her feelings and identify with her description of being sad…frustrated..regretful….it’s not about ” self pity” , it’s about choices we make…sometimes out of necessity….in my case for my kids….sacrifices in order for them to exist without bigotry and embarrasment ….the pain I feel when I am envious of a beautiful women’s hair….style….shoes….wishing I were getting “gawked at” lol… Or realizing no matter what I missed my best young years out of fear….lack of knowing others like me were out there by the millions….I hope this is understood….xoxo

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