I have a lot of complicated emotions surrounding the coverage of Leelah Alcorn’s suicide in the media.
I’m not transgender, but I am queer and the child of conservative Christian parents who did not deal well with my coming out.
They cornered me in my room and wouldn’t let me leave.
They threatened to turn off my cell phone, or to not allow me to return to college.
My father literally called me the Devil at one point, and I only saw hatred in his eyes.
I attempted suicide when I was 20.
If I would have succeeded, I would not have wanted my parents blamed for my death, let alone prosecuted.
Maybe I’m just too close to the situation to view it objectively.
All I know is, that no matter what my parents said or did, the other adults in my life told me that my parents loved me. That I needed to be patient. That this was just too far outside my parents worldview and they were struggling.
If that was true of my parents, why is it not true of Leelah Alcorns?
Were they abusive towards her? Yes.
Were their words and actions contributing factors to her suicide? Yes.
But does that mean they didn’t love her?
My sister said to me once, “Just because someone doesn’t love you the way you need them to, doesn’t mean they don’t love you the best way they know how.”
People who were abused often turn into abusers. People who are abusive are terribly dysfunctional and broken.
I recently read Alan Cummings memoir, where he details his relationship with his abusive father. I would suggest it to anyone who has been in an abusive relationship or who wants to understand the dynamics of those relationships.
Alan finds peace when he can forgive his father and see him as the terribly broken human being that he is.
There’s a part of me that feels sorry for Leelah Alcorn’s parents. Sorry that they were ignorant. Sorry that they didn’t know better, or couldn’t learn better before it was too late.
I feel pain and grief, but not the anger and wrath others seem to be expressing.
I don’t want to hang them on a cross or burn them at the stake.
I want to teach people more and better about gender so this doesn’t keep happening.
It’s only recently that transgender issues are in the media at all.
I know what I know because I sought it out and studied it on purpose.
Not everyone has.
We’ve been fighting for awareness of sexual orientation for a long time and there are still so many people who are ignorant about that.
Feminism has discussed issues of gender for a long time, but not necessarily transgender issues.
In the cultural consciousness at large, this is a new, new idea.
I truly believe the Alcorns acted out of ignorance, and that the results of their actions are a tragedy.
But I don’t believe they are monsters.
Any time we turn someone into a monster, we stop feeling the empathy which would allow us to actually change them.
Maybe anger is easier to feel than grief.
We can punish the Alcorns.
But what if we tried to rehabilitate them instead?
I’ve read articles, and Leelah admitted that she stopped talking about transgender issues to her parents.
So they might have, in their denial and ignorance, thought it was a phase and that they didn’t have to worry about it anymore.
I believe Mrs. Alcorn when she says Leelah was not a name ever mentioned by her child in life.
Yes, the Alcorns are misgendering their daughter, but she never gave them a different name to call her. She dropped the issue, like I dropped the issue, when it became too painful to deal with, and her parents maybe saw that as a reprieve from a situation they didn’t want to be in in the first place.
And I think they just can’t wrap their heads around what transgender means. I can understand how it could be difficult to wrap your head around a concept that you don’t know much about except that you’ve been told it’s wrong.
I just feel like there has to be a way to condemn abusive behavior while simultaneously understanding that abusive people are sick and need help.
That they probably don’t even want to be that way, but it’s all they know.
It takes strength and force of will to break the cycle of abuse.
I wish we all had that strength.
Some people don’t.
And isn’t the loss of a child punishment enough?
The Alcorns may be in denial now that Leelah’s death was a suicide, but what parents whose child committed suicide wouldn’t experience that period of denial?
I believe this will haunt them for the rest of their lives, and we should just get on with the work of educating others so it doesn’t happen again.
I also know first hand that suicide is a choice. It isn’t murder. At the end of the day, when it comes down to the decision, it’s about the person doing it, and not anyone else.
When I attempted suicide, I wasn’t seeking revenge against my parents. I didn’t want to punish them. It wasn’t about them.
No one is responsible for my decisions at the end of the day, except for me.
Blaming Leelah’s parents for her death strips away her agency.
It was her choice.
She could have made another, but she didn’t.
It’s a terrible world we live in when anyone thinks that choice is the best choice.
Both Leelah and her parents needed help they didn’t get in order for this situation to have turned out better.
Maybe it’s easier to be angry than to see the world for how terrible and cruel it can be sometimes.
I just don’t see how stringing up anyone’s head on a pole has ever actually changed anything for the better.