I know, I know, I said this wasn’t a space for big, controversial things, but those things keep happening, and I can’t ignore them. I also said I wouldn’t.
The death of Leelah Alcorn is so tragic because it was so preventable. If only parents could truly love their kids unconditionally, like they claim they do, things like this wouldn’t happen nearly as often. There will always be those people who can’t leave others alone, but support from family and friends, but especially family, helps mitigate the damage done by others. I’m so sad, and so angry, that Leelah wasn’t saved by the love of her parents.
This post will be an open letter to Leelah’s parents, because even though I know it’s unlikely that they will ever read it, it will make me feel better to have it out there where it can be seen.
It’s probably a bit disjointed; it’s me trying to merge together two different versions of the same letter written at different times.
Dear Mrs. and Mr. Alcorn,
Your child committed suicide. It was not an accident. You need to understand this, and to understand that you are directly responsible. I know this hurts. It’s a terrible thing to say, but that doesn’t make it less true. And I say it not because I want you to hurt more, but because I want you open your eyes, and change the attitude that caused Leelah to feel so abandoned and abused that she could no longer live.
You probably won’t even read this. I’m sure this is one of just a slew of messages and open letters you’ve received from people all over the country, maybe even the world. Many of them are probably hateful as well as angry, and I’m sure there are plenty of them expressing their hopes that you follow in your daughter’s footsteps.
I don’t want that. I really, really don’t. I just want you to open your eyes, damn it, and see what you’ve done. Acknowledge your responsibility, acknowledge your part in creating the environment that lead Leelah to feel such despair. And then I want you to go into the world and work to right the wrongs you’ve done, and work to bring some balance.
I am so very angry with you, but I don’t think you’re evil people, I just think you’re horribly misguided and blind people. And I find it sad and abhorrent that you so stubbornly cling your blindness after such a terrible consequence.
This is a truth you need to understand, so I will repeat it: Your child committed suicide. This death was not an accident. It was purposeful. And it is a direct consequence of the manner in which you chose to deal with your transgendered child.
You say you loved your child, but you didn’t love her enough to support her, and you still don’t respect her. Every time you call her your “son,” call her a “boy,” call her “Josh,” you disrespect her. Perfect strangers respect her more than you do. That’s so terribly sad.
I believe you loved your child, but I also believe you loved an image that never truly existed. You loved a son, but what you actually had was a daughter. Because you couldn’t accept this, you created an abusive environment within your home that traumatized Leelah until she couldn’t see an end except for death. She couldn’t see a world in which you would love her as Leelah. No doubt you thought you were doing the right thing for your child, but dear gods, now that you know, in the worst possible way for a parent to know, that you were wrong… please, please, please stop living in a fantasy world where you lost your “son” to a tragic accident.
It was not an accident. Your child committed suicide.
You say you loved your child, but if you had truly loved her for who she was and not some image you had in your head, then this wouldn’t have happened. Your child should have been more important than anything. Definitely more important than your image in the community, or your narrow-minded religious beliefs. If you have read Leelah’s suicide note, and I sincerely hope you have, then you will see that she did not feel loved. She did not feel accepted, she did not feel as though there were any hope left. Whatever you think you communicated with your words, your actions spoke far louder.
Unconditional love is just that: love without conditions.
That’s not what you felt for Leelah. Your love had conditions. You don’t see that, you don’t understand that, but it’s true. Your love hinged on the condition that Leelah try to live as someone she wasn’t, that Leelah try to fit herself into a life that didn’t fit, that she conform to your idea of perfection.
Whether or not you believe in or support transgendered people, you should have believed in and supported your own child. Instead, you told her she was wrong, told her God doesn’t make mistakes, you cut her off from any actual support, then sent her to hack “therapists,” and forced her into conversion therapy that obviously did not work, and in fact killed her.
Here is another truth: Your daughter will be loved and remembered by thousands of people. Maybe even millions. Possibly, eventually, even billions. Your daughter may very well play a huge role in changing society toward a better, more loving, more accepting society. You should be so very proud of the daughter you had. It’s really sad that you probably won’t. It’s so sad that Leelah couldn’t have been truly and unconditionally loved by her parents before she died. Then she wouldn’t have felt like she had to die to escape you.
The things I’m saying, if you’re even reading this, may sound awful to you, and I agree. But isn’t it more awful that this situation even happened? Isn’t it more awful that I even HAVE to say these things to someone’s mother, to someone’s father?
I’m saying these things because I believe it’s necessary. I believe you need to understand. I still hope that one day you wake up and truly understand what you’ve done. And I don’t want that to be the day you fall into despair, because that wouldn’t be useful. What I hope for you is that the day you wake up and understand is the day you decide to help make Leelah’s final request come true, and turn your energy toward helping other transgendered teens to find the support you couldn’t be bothered to give your daughter while she lived. I hope you can become useful to the community to which Leelah could have, and should have, belonged.
If you ever do understand this, if you ever can open your eyes and your heart fully to accept the beautiful daughter you brought into this world… that will be the best possible way you could respect her memory.