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In December 2014, I remember coming across a story on Facebook about a 17 year old transgender girl from Ohio, Leelah Alcorn, who committed suicide.
Before she died she posted a suicide note on her Instagram blog, revealing her struggles and requesting for change within society.
She was one in the line of many more who suffered similar fates before her. She was raised in a conservative Christian environment and came out to her parents at 14 years old but they refused to accept her female gender identity. When she made a request to them to have her undergo female conversion therapy, they send her into a Christian-based conversion therapy instead.
Leelah lived with the fears that things will never get better… that she will never be fully accepted, especially by her parents – who should have been there to love and care for her.
But in spite of Leelah’s plea for a changed world including a ban on conversion therapy, nothing much has really changed since her death.
There are still people who we come across now and then, who think that one can ‘become straight’ or who deny the fact that there are actually people who identify with another gender.
In Christian therapy Leelah met some of these people who constantly reminded her that she was not the girl she thought she was and sadly, her parents approved this message.
I may never understand much of the struggle Leelah endure while going through conversion therapy but I do know the emotional and psychological trauma you experience when someone tells you that you have to be something that you are not and what you are is disgusting.
Back in 2014 there was an Ex-gay ministry traveling the world, especially to third world countries, in places such as Africa and the Caribbean, convincing the local populace and governments to reject the LGBT movement, calling it the ‘Gay Agenda’.
When I was in Jamaica, one of the board members, Dennis Jernigan, came on national television to share his story of ‘becoming straight’ and falling in love with a woman with whom he produced nine children.
At that time it didn’t occur to me that he was spreading the wrong message. I had the mentality that sexuality was alterable and his story was living proof. In fact, I was still actively involved in my local church and I worked tirelessly to find the secret formula to ‘becoming straight’.
I went to his site and messaged him my story, expressing my desire to become straight… how silly? I left my contact information hoping he would respond. I checked back for days into weeks but I never heard back from him. It was extremely frustrating but today I thank God he didn’t.
A few months later Exodus International released a new policy statement on the criminalization of homosexuality and Dennis Jernigan offered an apology for the work he carried out in Jamaica, which in his statement violated the principles of Exodus. The organization was ultimately dissolved in 2013.
It’s really heartbreaking to witness different organizations and the people who support them, focused on destroying thousands of lives in the name of ignorance.
Leelah would probably still be here today had it not been for the hateful dogma that some religious groups teaches.
Much more work needs to be done but fingers crossed, we will get there. “It Gets Better”.
Sexuality is not alterable and one day, i hope that people will realize that. There’s been far too many precious lives lost over the controversy and it’s just outright sad. If it were not for Leelah’s address to social media, we probably would never have known her struggle. She was extremely brave and hope the world can see some change in her honor..
I dont know what it is, but for so many people its way too hard to accept other for who they are and for their differences. I’ve seen a lot of this conversion talk in the Church and amongst families who are heavily religious. This is a huge problem to me, as I struggle with the idea of religion and how people can use it to be hypocritical and judgmental. You, like so many others, have suffered for being who you are… for something you have no control over and how do we even explain it? We can def call it ignorance to an extent but why wont people educate themselves and stop following the harmful teachings of leaders and orgs who aim to hurt others? It’s a process of normalization that went left.. it’s oh so wrong to normalize anything that marginalizes or outcasts any person or group of people.
Its definitely ignorance Vee but then there is an entire society (the government, the churches, and the general population) that believes that bigotry is OK and acceptable… talking about countries overseas and so they view this as something necessary and appeasing. Not understanding the physical, psychological and mental impact it can have on youth growing up.
And there are religious institutions that rakes in millions of dollars from this practice with operations both here in the US and other countries. They want to see it continue and they will go to the extent to convince parents that it works.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts, we need more people like you.
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