[The image features the name “LEELAH ALCORN” in uppercase letters on a ribbon banner. Above the banner is a young girl from the shoulders up. The girl is trans teen Leelah Alcorn. She has side-swept hair framing her face, a loose t-shirt, and deep, thoughtful eyes staring straight ahead.]
When I was a teenager, I was convinced that I would not live to be eighteen years old. I couldn’t imagine a future that didn’t involve the depression, anger, and agony that had come to define my teenage years.
As a transgender teen with bipolar disorder, I was convinced that I did not belong in this world. And like 41% of transgender people in America, I tried to take matters into my own hands.
Miraculously, I survived.
And as it turns out, I was wrong about my future. I became the adult I never imagined I could be – happy, fulfilled, and ambitious.
Leelah, I wish your story had ended like mine.
On December 28th, 2014, you said your goodbyes and ended your life, a suicide spurred on by callous abuse at the hands of parents and so-called therapists.
The letter you left behind – your words raw, the pain seething from every syllable – has been seen around the world, an undeniable rallying cry that echoes from every corner of the globe.
That pitch is trapped inside my eardrums, a piercing sound that hasn’t gone away since I first heard about your death.
Your story is a reminder that we need to do better. And your story is a reminder of all the ways we continue, in 2014, to fail transgender people and especially trans youth.
When I read your letter, it hurt my heart to know that you will never be able to manifest all the beauty, passion, wit, and endless gifts that you had. You will never know what kind of adult you would have been, what kind of life you could have lead, what kind of woman you were meant to become.
You will never know what it’s like to be on your own, to be a #RealLiveTransAdult, and write the triumphant end to your story that you should have written.
Instead, you died before you could know what it truly felt like to live.
You said in your letter that your death needed to count for something. And yes, so long as I’m still here, I will do everything I can to honor you.
But I’m angry that we live in a world where suicide was the only choice you had left. I’m angry that only in death did you feel like you could “count” for something. I’m angry that death was the only way to shine a light on the abuse, suffering, and agony that you felt.
I’m angry that, to this day, LGBTQIA youth need to die before they can truly be heard or seen.
I’m not angry at you, but at a society that has created a world that makes us feel like we don’t belong, that we can’t be happy, that there is no future worth holding onto.
We still live in a society that would rather extinguish the beautiful light inside of us than let us be who we are meant to be. We live in a society that cannot see the courage it takes to be unapologetically ourselves. We live in a society that cannot see the ways in which a world where transgender people are free is a better world for us all.
Leelah, even in death I still see your light. Leelah, even in death I still see your courage. And Leelah, though your life was cut short, I still believe that you have made this world a better place.
I will not stop fighting for you and for all of my transgender siblings, who deserve to live happy, healthy, and meaningful lives – lives in which they are seen, heard, respected, validated, and safe.
I only wish you could still be here to see it.
Call the Trans Lifeline:
US: (877) 565-8860
Canada: (877) 330-6366
Or learn more about the Trans Lifeline here (and donate!): http://www.translifeline.org/
Sam Dylan Finch is a freelance writer and queer activist, currently living in the San Francisco Bay Area. He is the founder of Let’s Queer Things Up!, a queer and feminist perspective on current events and politics. His twitter can be found, unsurprisingly, at @samdylanfinch.
Visit his official website: www.samdylanfinch.com