Why Leelah Alcorn’s Suicide Matters

  • By now, you probably know the story. Leelah Alcorn committed suicide because she felt her life was not worth living. She was transgender, and wanted to transition to a female body, which her parents did not support. She wrote an impassioned suicide note on her Tumblr, demanding change in society to make things more equitable for transgender individuals. “My death needs to mean something,” she said.

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    “My death needs to be counted in the number of transgender people who commit suicide this year.”

    Yes, in the last paragraph of her suicide note, she asked for her death to be added to a troublingly large statistic. Actually, “troubling” doesn’t really begin to describe it.

    Forty-one percent of all transgender individuals attempt suicide at some point. 41%. The national average is 4.6%. Think about that. Think about the pain and the suffering that needs to happen for a person to be nearly 10 times as likely to attempt suicide.

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    That’s a level of pain and suffering that can not be ignored. It’s a symptom of the feeling of complete alienation and rejection by society. And so much of it comes down to the understanding of parents.

    Alcorn’s parents must feel destroyed right now, so I won’t pile on. What I will say is that there are so many more Leelah Alcorns in the world. There are people crying themselves to sleep because they can’t identify with anyone else. They are torn apart inside — forced with the dubious decision of living a lie, or living the truth and being hated and ridiculed. And 41% of them will attempt suicide.

    Understanding and empathy is what we can hope to achieve. And even the religious parents of transgender children must “judge not.”

    It matters. Leelah Alcorn’s death, and life, matters.