She was only 17 – In memory of Leelah Alcorn

She Was Only 17

A 17 year old girl killed herself
by stepping out in front of a semi truck.
She committed suicide because being transgender
was simply too much to bear.
She told her parents,
but they wouldn’t hear of it
and forced her to continue living as a boy.
Her depression grew and grew.
She thought that she would never
be able to transition
and live life as her true self.

So she stepped out in front of a semi truck.
She was only 17.

My heart grieves for her,
for her parents,
for her family & friends,
for the truck driver.
My heart grieves because
She is not unique.
(41% of trans people have attempted suicide
but only 1.6% of the general population has.)
My heart grieves because I almost became a statistic, too.
I wanted to kill myself.
I wanted the pain
of being a man disguised in a woman’s body
to end.
Luckily, I didn’t have the right pills in my house that night,
or else I could have been her,
and someone else’s heart would be grieving for me.

She was only 17.
Had someone been more supportive
or given her a tiny morsel of hope with which to cling,
She might have lasted a little longer,
been able to move at 18,
and start living life as her true self.
Now people will be haunted,
Wondering, “If only I’d loved her more . . . “
or “Why didn’t I listen to her?”
It is all for naught, though.
She is gone forever.

She was only 17
and is now with our angels
Gwen, Brandon, Tyra,
Betty, CeCe, Brittany, Tiffany,
Angie, Jennifer, Sylvia, Marsha
The names of transgender folks
who have been murdered or committed suicide
is endless and heart breaking.
New names are added with tragic regularity.

She was only 17.
My heart is broken.
How can I prevent this from happening again?
I know that it’s not possible,
but if we all work on accepting each other
as we truly are,
Maybe we’ll be able to help those who feel helpless,
and few people will be compelled to take their own lives.
It’s all I can do.
My heart is broken.
She was only 17.

by Aran J. Reinhart, December 30, 2014

 

About Aran Reinhart
Aran is a Quaker transguy from rural Seneca County.  He is a poet who often writes about being trans and has been published in Friends Journal.  He is a facilitator for the Toledo Area Trans Support group (TATS) and is very active in Quaker & trans spaces.  He wants to be a bridge to bring diverse people together and wants to reach out to LGBTQ folks in rural areas who may feel isolated. Aran also serves on the Board of Directors of TransOhio.

What you can do: Supporting yourself and others after a trans death or violent crime

From our colleagues at FORGE:

What you can do:  Supporting yourself and others after a trans death or violent crime
January 2, 2015

It is normal to feel grief, anger, fear, sadness, and confusion when we lose someone we care about, particularly if the death was unexpected and/or violent. People who identify as part of one or more subpopulations can also feel these feelings when they learn that someone they did not know but who also belonged to their group has died or been seriously harmed. This is obviously true of the trans community, in which news of suicides, murders, and other violence reverberates quickly via social media and word-of-mouth…

First step: Take care of yourself
It’s hard for any of us to be there for others, to push for social change, and to create a world that is healthier and safer for everyone, if we don’t attend to our own core needs. Here is a short reminder list about common things that help us function better and enable us to more effectively help others…

What you can do now!
Once you have taken care of your own core needs, the following are just a few actions you can take now that may help others who are experiencing difficult times (and they might help you too).

Call someone. You can call anyone, but it may be better to call someone who is likely also feeling your current loss. Listen. Seriously, that’s all: just listen to each other. Sharing the pain can be remarkably healing.

Making a difference in the long run
There are a lot of things you can do.
Consider joining a buddy or mentorship program. It doesn’t matter if you are the more experienced or less experienced person in the pairing; the point is connecting people who learn to care about each other.

Need even more ideas? Check out “101 Things You Can Do” at http://forge-forward.org/wp-content/docs/we-are-all-responsible1.pdf

Talking about Trans Suicide – Guide & Resources

From the Transgender Law Center (TLC) and the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE):

There are multiple and public reports of suicide attempts and deaths among transgender youth. It is clear that many people in our community – transgender people, their families, and other allies – are experiencing trauma in response. A lot of good folks are also looking for meaningful ways to strengthen and support our community and one another. Here’s some information that may be helpful:

If you are a transgender, gender non-conforming, or gender questioning youth, please know you are not alone.

  • If you are contemplating suicide, immediately contact Trevor Project’s Trevor Lifeline at 866-488-7386 (24 hours a day, seven days a week) or visit their website to access instant chat, text, or online community supports: The Trevor Project. And, please remember that there are countless people who care about your well-being.
  • Being a trans or gender non-conforming young person isn’t always easy. But it gets better and many of us live authentic lives happily and safely within communities of supportive friends and family. Among thousands of other videos from the It Gets Better campaign, this one features some of our community leaders – Andy Marra, Tiq Milan, Janet Mock, and Noah Ryan.
  • You can find more examples of resilient members of our community telling their stories at: Transpeoplespeak.org

If you are a parent of a transgender or gender non-conforming child, you’re not alone either.

  • There is a rich collection of resources we recommend available to you via Gender Spectrum.

If you are a trans person or ally upset by these losses, you can help create a better future for our community:

  • If engaging on the topic of suicide in social media, please read “Talking About Suicide and LGBT Populations.” These 3-4 pages will only take a few minutes of your time and the recommendations within can be incorporated into your thinking and writing. This important resource was published by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, created with the Movement Advancement Project and Trevor Project a year or so ago.
  • Speak on the topics of suicide and mental health using the #RealLiveTransAdult
  • Tell your stories of hope and resilience to provide encouragement to those who may be struggling. For allies, a simple expression of appreciation, friendship, or love for a trans or gender non-conforming person close to you can be a powerful message.
  • To get involved, become more informed about how to speak about suicide and consider sharing on social media some of the resources we’ve provided:

 

Ohio Vigils in Remembrance of Leelah Alcorn

A Vigil to Remember Leelah Alcorn (Cincinnati)
Saturday, January 10at 7:00pm in EST
Clifton Cultural Arts Center
3711 Clifton Ave, Cincinnati, Ohio 45220
https://www.facebook.com/events/852584844799747/

#StandUp4Leelah, A Candle Light Vigil (Cleveland)
Friday, January 2at 7:00pm – 7:30pm in EST
Free Stamp, Cleveland, OH

#StandUp4Leelah, A Candle Light Vigil (Columbus)
Friday, January 2at 7:00pm – 7:30pm in EST
120 West Goodale Street, Columbus, OH
https://www.facebook.com/events/1525637134356205/?ref=70

Candle Light Vigil (Kings Mills)
Saturday, January 3at 5:30pm – 7:00pm in EST
Kings High School, 5500 Columbia Road, Kings Mills, Ohio 45034
https://www.facebook.com/events/386418528194606/?ref=70

Candle Light Vigil (Toledo)
Sunday, January 4at 7:00pm – 8:00pm in EST
Madison Ave and 12th Street, Toledo, OH
https://www.facebook.com/events/742474309172924/?ref=70

Community Strength, Community Loss – Leelah Alcorn

Dear TransOhio friends, family and allies–

This definitely wasn’t my end of the year letter I was planning to email to everyone, but in light of the past few days I felt that a change of plan was due.

On Sunday morning, 17 yr old Leelah Alcorn from Kings Mills in Union Township took her life by stepping onto I-71 and was killed by a tractor-trailer.

Her suicide note has been shared around the world. Her final words are a call to action – “Fix Society. Please.”
My heart breaks. For Leelah. For her friends. And yes, for her parents. Regardless of the family dynamic, her parents have lost their child. And we’ve lost a trans-family member to suicide.

Suicide for me is a difficult topic to talk about. While my advocacy work forces me to be outgoing and an extrovert, I’m by nature an introvert and an observer – and I love my privacy. Leelah’s suicide reminds me of when I was 18. It was the summer after high school graduation and was going away to college. I was living with my grandparents, who I adored and loved dearly. I was living with my grandparents in Palm Springs (they lived in a retirement community) and I was miserable – bored to death, couldn’t find a summer job, no car and no local friends to share with. I was struggling with my sexuality and my gender identity – though, when I was 18, I knew nothing about either. I clearly remember a feeling of…despair. Pure despair. Like, no tomorrow despair. Honestly, I can’t remember how I got through that summer. I think I threw myself into my writing and into reading. I did make it though that summer and I’m thankful. And I know it’s not easy. And I know that I have privilidge in being able to say that – for many reasons and at many levels.

Regardless, we need to continue to “fix society” and continue to not only press for change, but also be active change agents.

We also need to make sure that we are supportive of one another. We have to be.

Some resources to share:

Auntie Kate (Kate Bornstein) wrote a book called Hello, Cruel World: 101 Alternatives to Suicide for Teens, Freaks, and Other Outlaws — You can download (FREE) a pdf version:

http://katebornstein.typepad.com/kate_bornsteins_blog/hellocruelworld-litefree-download.html

If you’re interested in a full copy of the book itself, we have several available we can send out through TransOhio — If you’d like a copy, please email me at shane@transohio.org and we’ll make sure one gets to you.

The Trevor Project is available 24/7 at 1-866-488-7386. They provide crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth ages 13-24.

The Trans Lifeline is also available: US: (877) 565-8860 or Canada: (877) 330-6366

Please remember that it may not seem like things will get better, and honestly, maybe they won’t. But, there is a whole community of people who support you and love you and want to see you grow up and help us, as Leelah requested, “fix society.”

In community,
Shane Morgan
Founder & Chair, TransOhio