In the early morning on Dec. 28, 2014, Leelah Alcorn was killed by a tractor-trailer on Interstate 71, just outside Cincinnati, Ohio.
A suicide note that queued on her Tumblr later indicated that this was no accident. In the note, she detailed the alleged abuse her Christian parents had put her through in response to her coming out as a trans woman and, in other instances, as “gay”—reparation therapy, isolating her from her friends and social media, refusing to allow her to go through hormone therapy, and misgendering her.
She recounts that her mother “reacted extremely negatively” when Leelah came out to her. Her mother told her “that it was a phase, that [she] would never truly be a girl, that God doesn’t make mistakes, that [she was] wrong.” In a letter written to succeed her suicide note, Leelah writes to specific people—friends, siblings, and her parents. To her parents, she wrote, “You can’t just control other people like that. That’s messed up.” Soon after her suicide, news of the letters spread and her parents asked Tumblr staff to delete the suicide note and her blog.
Leelah’s close friend mentioned in the second letter, Abby Jones, was one of the first people to whom Leelah came out. Leelah spoke highly of Abby, who later made a picture of Leelah wearing a black and white dress go viral, as well as her suicide notes. According to Abby’s mother, Danielle Pieper-Jones, “[Leelah’s] mom called and blamed [Abby] for everything that got posted online, even though Leelah’s page was public.” Carla Alcorn, Leelah’s mother, is reported to have harassed Abby for highlighting Leelah’s picture and notes, and barred her from attending Leelah’s funeral.
Leelah ended her suicide note: “I want 100% of the things that I legally own to be sold and the money[…]to be given to trans civil rights movements and support groups[…].The only way I will rest in peace is if one day transgender people aren’t treated the way I was, they’re treated like humans, with valid feelings and human rights. Gender needs to be taught about in schools, the earlier the better. My death needs to mean something. My death needs to be counted in the number of transgender people who commit suicide this year. […] Fix society. Please.”
According to National Transgender Discrimination Survey, 41% of trans and gender non-conforming people are reported as having attempted suicide, compared to the 4.6% national average. For transgender, gender non-conforming, and gender questioning people contemplating suicide or self-harm, call (877) 565-8860. For the general populace, call 1-800-273-8255.
Sources: Bostonglobe.com, WCPO.com, leelahalcorn.org, Dailymail.com