Leelah Alcorn, a 17-year-old transgender girl, committed suicide on Dec. 28, 2014. She posted a passionate and articulate suicide note on her Tumblr pleading for society to make her death mean something. She spoke of her need for acceptance, her parents’ lack of empathy and failed conversion therapy, the importance of being able to have a support system, and hope for the future of other transgender people.
While she was living, her parents failed to recognize that their daughter was uncomfortable in her own skin and ultimately drove her to make the decision to take her own life. After her death, they continuously misgendered her in the press and denied that it was a suicide. This is the problem. Many people blind themselves to the issue and are oblivious to the fact that people seek solace from isolation in death.
Let’s be sure to remember all the intersections of privilege as we mourn Leelah. Kandy Hall, Tiffany Edwards, Mia Henderson, Yaz’Min Shancez, and Ashley Sherman were trans women of color who were all murdered this summer. Where was this level of press when their bodies were found? I’m glad Leelah’s story is raising awareness, truly, but all stories need to be told. There are thousands of people struggling with self-identity and lack of basic rights, and they deserve remembrance and respect.
Transgender and gender-nonconforming individuals have been fighting a long battle for equal treatment and acceptance. Although we have made progress in recent years, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done. Seattle University has been working to provide gender-inclusive bathrooms on campus, and the general spirit on campus is positive towards trans and nonbinary people, which is laudable. However, rooming issues, difficulty in official name changes in university documents, and the scant number of gender-inclusive bathrooms are hurdles we still have to deal with.
Leelah left all of her belongings to trans civil rights movements and her note has sparked new conversations about trans rights, and my hope is that the conversation continues and that we, as a country, as a world, can get over ourselves and let people be who they feel they are.
-Alyssa Brandt, Lead Designer
Alyssa Brandt is a senior and lead designer who loves all things brain-related. She likes illustrating and sugary cereals, and will eventually go to graduate school to pursue a PhD in neuroscience.