In 2014, our society failed Leelah Alcorn. Again. And Ohio lost one more young person full of potential to the heartbreaking LGBTQ+ youth suicide epidemic. After years of feeling mistreated—particularly by her own parents—Leelah reached her limit.
Many of us related to Leelah’s struggles from our own experiences. Some of us took pathways into careers supporting LGBTQ+ youth because of Leelah’s death, and specifically her call-to-action blog. Alcorn’s pre-scheduled Tumblr post has been reblogged more than 200k times. The hashtag #LeelahAlcorn also went viral, with more than 243,000 mentions over two days alone.
Alcorn ended her note with the call: “The only way I will rest in peace is if one day transgender people aren’t treated the way I was… My death needs to mean something. Fix society. Please.“
The blog was a way to provide awareness about harm done to trans people and preserve Alcorn’s dignity. Her note continues to spark a global conversation about what it means to be transgender and not be affirmed by those around you. It has also sparked a bigger conversation about the influence some religion has on discriminatory beliefs (policies and laws), particularly because Leelah’s parents pursued so-called “conversion therapy” and named religion as a reason to not support their child.
According to Ohio Faith Coalition Organizer JM Triplett, faith can be a scapegoat for harmful transphobic behaviors—and it can also be a springboard for positive, affirming action:
“At Equality Ohio, and in partnership with many caring faith-informed organizations across the state, we seek to honor Leelah in the struggle; the struggle to live free from legislation that would seek to harm our transgender youth, such as HB 454, HB 61/SB132, and others. We join the movement to prevent young people from enduring so-called “conversion therapy”—the outdated idea that one can change their sexual orientation or gender identity—by passing HB 420, which would protect kids from harm; the vulnerable and the precious. We dare to dream and manifest an Ohio where all are welcomed, affirmed, and flourishing. We do this for all of our LGBTQ+ youth. We do this in honor of Leelah—to create her beloved community. Leelah Alcorn, we say your name, and we carry your message and banner forward: Fix Society.”