Make a Difference
It is entirely coincidental that this story broke just as the new year approaches. Yet it is nevertheless wholly fitting that the timing coincides as it does.
By now you may have heard about the tragic death of Leelah Alcorn. As I write this her name has been the #1 trending topic on Twitter for most of the previous day. The basic facts of the story are simple enough, yet the internet is aflame with the discussion of her death and its implications.
Briefly, Leelah was assumed male at birth and struggled with GD from an early age, but when she shared this with her religiously conservative parents her identity was rejected and she was subjected to attempts at so called “reparitive therapy” as well as being isolated from outside contact for a time.
Early Sunday morning, she walked 4 miles from her home to a nearby interstate and stepped in front of an oncoming tractor-trailer. At 5:30 that afternoon, a pre-scheduled note – a suicide note – posted to her Tumblr feed. In it, she listed off the various emotional abuses by her parents which, she strongly implies, drove her to suicide.
She also expressed impatience and discontent with being unable to begin transition soon enough to avoid the masculinizing effects of male hormones, which is no doubt a mixture of the typical child/teen urge for instant gratification as well as the very legitimate panic many of us felt as we watched our body turning even more against us.
Sadly, the latter concern was mostly unnecessary as she had the makings, physically, of a lovely young woman.
The former, however, is the vortex of the internet firestorm. Trans people and their allies are justifiably outraged at the idea that this girl was bullied into suicide by her own parents. But I take a somewhat different vbiew. In a very real sense, everyone involved here – Leelah, her parents and siblings, her friends and even the truck driver are victims of a common enemy: Religious Tradition.
To be clear, I do not mean to condemn faith in whatever you believe to be God. It is not faith that caused this. Rather, it is the insistence of organized religion to build a superstructure of human traditions and ask their members to bow the knee not to any God, but to the traditions of men. And make no mistake, the notion that being trans is sinful is a strictly human tradition, at least as far as the Bible is concerned. It’s not supported by an objective view of the text. That tradition took her life, and left her parents with unintended blood on their hands.
So what does this have to do with the date? This is the time when many people resolve to do something differently, and if we want things to be different for kids like Leelah we have to DO things differently. Traditions and hidebound institutions do not change without pressure. As long as the traditions exist unchallenged, the will kill people and wreck lives. The vast majority of transitioned trans people can tell you a story of lose, or emotional pain, which can be traced directly back to someone caught up in the traditional view that transition is sinful or perverted. Those still closeted are so in every case because, ultimately, of the pervasiveness of that lie. Those who take their own life? Yes. In every case. Even if the didn’t parallel Leelah’s situation exactly.
How does that change? When we SPEAK OUT. Doesn’t even matter if you are stealth or closeted, you have a voice and you don’t have to out yourself to be outraged over this story. It is no longer acceptable given the momentum we have seen to keep silent. Do not be hostile, do not stoop to name calling or anger. Equip yourself with good information, learn how to hold your own in an informal debate and SPEAK. One thing President Obnama said during his campaign was wise, whatever you may think of his policies:
BE the change you want to see. What will YOU do with 2015?
Photo by Emily Price