I came across a poem that I wrote almost two years ago. It was about the Transgender teenager, Leela Alcorn who committed suicide in 2014. I realize that the profound effect that the tragedy had on me back then is still not gone.
When I learned about Leelah, I was not close to being out and I was in a place where I couldn’t scream enough to release the tension that was building up inside of me. I was hiding behind my pillow in my bedroom, in tears. The story was all over the news but I couldn’t talk to anyone about it.
Before she died she wrote a plea for change:
“…I have decided I’ve had enough. I’m never going to transition successfully, even when I move out. I’m never going to be happy with the way I look or sound. I’m never going to have enough friends to satisfy me… I’m never going to be happy. Either I live the rest of my life as a lonely man who wishes he were a woman or I live my life as a lonelier woman who hates herself. There’s no winning. There’s no way out. I’m sad enough already, I don’t need my life to get any worse. People say “it gets better” but that isn’t true in my case. It gets worse. Each day I get worse. That’s the gist of it, that’s why I feel like killing myself. Sorry if that’s not a good enough reason for you, it’s good enough for me…”
I remember wanting everyone to read it so badly and actually do something about the problems in society. There were websites created, social media pages and several vigils throughout the country… I thought it was the ultimate moment for change.
But what happened?
Good things but not enough!
Leelah’s Law became a huge breakthrough, it was primarily established to put an end to conversion Therapy. The president called for a ban on conversion therapy. One city (Cincinnati) was influenced by the cause and eventually banned the practice. But maybe a nationwide ban?
At least, that’s what I hoped had happened but almost two years later, It’s still just a painful reminder that an 18 years old teenager (Would’ve been) didn’t live to go to college.
It’s where I’m at now that makes me question how much change is really change. Surely not when we reflect on these numbers: according to speakforthem.org, suicide is the leading cause of death among Gay and Lesbian youth nationally. 30% of Gay youth attempt suicide near the age of 15. Gays and Lesbians are two to six times more likely to suicide than Heterosexuals. Almost half of the Gay and Lesbian teens state they have attempted suicide more than once.
People are still expressing those same sentiments as Leelah did but society is still a very harmful place.
I hate to generalize on the term ‘society’ because there are still good and great people and those in between but the complex nature of hate and intolerance is ubiquitous.
Today I express how I feel about this story and that feels like progress to me, compared to a time when I couldn’t but it only goes as far as we can freely express ourselves in words – there is a difference between political and social change. Politically we are advancing but social regression is the reason why Leelah died and our youth are still dying.
I posted the poem I wrote in December 2014 below… an expression of how far we still have to go:
She gave her life for all of us
And she has easily made it into our memories
As we share the same pain and sorrows.
Leelah wants the world to care
And she wants to remind us that there is nothing to fear.
Like Leelah, we all tilt vulnerably like the world on its axis
And we are all affected, it is all our crises.
Though sometimes I wish sexuality and gender were like languages
And were limited in conversation to only those who could understand
I still wish for that world Where each one to another,
We could all lend a helpful hand.
Like Leelah we all wait for change
Waking up each morning, hoping someone else will set the stage.
But while sometimes a worthless wait,
Since quite often death befalls our fate
Quite truly, like Leelah’s
A martyr’s death is for a sake.
But while we still value life more
And for Leelah’s, our hearts pour
Never should a human’s life be lost to hate
Never should one’s life be subordinated for the sake of those who choose to discriminate.
And if diversity has to be taught in schools
Whatever necessary, society must be equipped with the right tools.
Like Leelah we all need not hide anymore.
despite the bigots hatred,
Our love needs to be planted in our hearts from the very core.
Long gone the time when women knew their place…
long gone the time when blacks and other minorities were society’s waste….
And the LGBT community is still deep inside the closet.
Its not the church’s job to judge
We are all humans
Each of us is an asset.
Time must be eroded of willful ignorance that spits resentment
And life be allowed purpose for life’s utmost fulfillment.
Leelah’s life is a calling for judgement
That ensures safety and survival
And the eradication of judgement that mows innocent lives to damnation.
And while we wait for the world to begin a peaceful start
Leelah lives on in a caring and loving heart.