I don't know what I can say about the suicide of Leelah Alcorn that hasn't already been said. If there is anything new about my perspective, it's not much. I guess this post is really more about me venting than anything else. I need it. This situation rips my heart to shreds.
I've read countless articles, blog posts and comments that accurately reflect everything I think and feel when it comes to this tragedy. Terrible sadness that yet another young girl took her life because she was psychologically tortured by those in authority over her. Infuriation at her progenitors for forcing her to live a lie. Infuriation at her progenitors for refusing to acknowledge their own guilt in their daughter's death. Infuriation at her progenitors for refusing to acknowledge that their daughter committed suicide, instead prefering to insist that their nonexistent son died in an accident. Infuriation at her progenitors for refusing to even acknowledge their daughter's true self in her death. A true anger -- the kind that only extremely rarely manifests within me -- that makes me want to hold her mother -- and I use the term loosely -- down on the ground and just slap away... not only for her despicable (and thankfully failed) attempts to erase her daughter's existence, but for her inexcusable harassment and emotional abuse of her daughter's best friend after the fact. I cannot say enough vile or vile enough things about that person -- and, again, I use the term loosely.
None of this is much different from most reactions I've seen elsewhere. I cannot excuse the kind of inhuman treatment that leads one's own child to believe that suicide is the only way out, nor can I comprehend the kind of irrational rejection of fact that leads to that inhuman treatment. I'm left to marvel, like most of the rest of the world, at how Leelah's parental-type individuals could possibly be so viciously evil, especially in the name of a God who is exactly the opposite of everything they did.
Keep in mind: I hold that the Southern Baptist Convention (which is not culpable here) is guilty of first degree murder for every transgender person's suicide that they had any part in bringing about. Parents and guardians whose actions result in their transgender child's suicide are guilty of first degree murder by definition even more directly. Doug and Carla Alcorn are no exception. On top of everything that I listed above, there is also a deeply-rooted sense of justice within me which demands that they and the quacks who performed Leelah's "conversion therapy" be thrown in prison and the key be dropped into the Mariana Trench posthaste.
But while the immediate -- and admittedly emotional, though no less rational -- reaction is to hold accountable those who are, indeed, accountable, that will only begin to satisfy Leelah's final desperate plea of us to "fix society." She was absolutely correct in the words that she chose. Our society has several glaring flaws that allowed this to happen. And make no mistake about it: this has happened many times before without notice, which is one of those flaws that Leelah has already helped us overcome. Her suicide only gained global attention for two reasons: one, her death came at a time when transgender rights are in the public eye, and two, she was an intelligent young lady who left a very damning last message which directly named the exact, scientifically proven foundations of her situation. She knew why she was depressed. Scientific study proves exactly what she stated. She knew exactly what led her to such an impossible place in life. And worse yet, she knew where and how to find the support to help her escape... but she couldn't act on that knowledge, because her progenitors locked her inside the house and cut off all connections to the outside world so that they could continue their psychological torture of her and she couldn't get the help she needed to save herself.
And that is the biggest societal flaw of them all. That we, as a society, have allowed that to happen even once is sickening. That we have allowed it to happen more than once makes us complicit. That we have allowed it to happen more than once in the name of religion puts us on the fast track to Hell. We have allowed parents like the Alcorns to get away with their crimes because they claim "religious freedom" over the deafening roar of scientific and Biblical evidence that disproves them. Yes, these people are criminals. They've violated the Harm Principle. They have willfully and maliciously engaged in behavior that caused the death of their own child. That's a crime. It can and should be punished. But we're not punishing it. We're not punishing the Alcorns or anyone else. That in and of itself is criminal.
Now sure, California, New Jersey and the District of Columbia have criminalized "conversion therapy" when undertaken by licensed therapists or medical professionals, and several states are in the process of crafting and passing similar legislation. But this does nothing to punish the parents who force their children into such efforts -- as the Alcorns did to Leelah -- and therefore such laws rely upon the victim to report the crime. Since we know that the Alcorns essentially locked their daughter in a cage and abused her -- and since we know that they're far from being the first set of parental-type individuals to do such a thing to their child -- it's quite obvious that such a report from the victim would not be forthcoming, and the validity of a report from a third party would be legally questionable in standing and motivation.
Given all of that, I fully support the effort to ban "conversion therapy" with the additional demand that parents who force their children into it be prosecuted. This is a form of child abuse, which is already illegal; we simply need to add it to the existing legal definitions at the state level.
Why the state level? Because federal law is only legally capable of laying the ground rules for what child abuse is. From the Department of Health and Human Services:
While CAPTA provides definitions for sexual abuse and the special cases of neglect related to withholding or failing to provide medically indicated treatment, it does not provide specific definitions for other types of maltreatment such as physical abuse, neglect, or emotional abuse. While Federal legislation sets minimum standards for States that accept CAPTA funding, each State provides its own definitions of maltreatment within civil and criminal statutes.
Those minimum standards, again from HHS, are:
- "Any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation"; or
- "An act or failure to act which presents an imminent risk of serious harm."
Gee, it sure sounds to me like "putting your child through an effort to change their biologically hardwired gender by way of scientifically disproven methods known to result in suicide" certainly fits the description "Any recent act [...] on the part of a parent or caretaker which results in death [or] serious emotional harm." And it certainly is "An act [...] which presents an imminent risk of serious harm." But maybe I'm just using those pesky and dangerous powers of reasoning and logic again.
Leelah was also correct in her statement that gender identity needs to be taught about in schools sooner rather than later, and her motivation for that is subversive, but I don't mean that in a bad way. That subversion is necessary. Only the younger generations that are presented with the facts will be able to supersede the impositions of the older generations with their outdated, disproven notions of gender identity, and only then are we going to move into the world she said would allow her to rest in peace; a world where transgender people are truly seen as equals in our society. People are coming around, yes, but look at the state of racism in this country alone. Black people still disproportionately face deadly force at the hands of the police. Black women still get arrested for kissing their white husbands in public on false accusations of prostitution. Adoptive white parents of black children get called "nigger lover" because they stand up for their daughter by confronting the parents of her bullies. And this is in the United States of America, fifty years after Selma. Half of a century, and we still have that kind of progress left unmade. Not to mention where the rest of the world is in that regard. Are we seriously expecting a lack of education to make better progress for transgender people when the existence of education has made such slow progress for black people? "The earlier the better" indeed, Miss Alcorn.
But these are all relatively short-term fixes for the true root of the problem. The ultimate fix for society is easy to pinpoint but far more difficult to accomplish, and that is to completely eliminate the concept that different is bad. At the risk of coming off as crass, I'd like to point out that the Star Trek universe has a proactive term for this: the Vulcan principle of Kol-Ut-Shan. In English, that means "infinite diversity in infinite combinations," often abbreviated as "IDIC." It is "the basis of Vulcan philosophy, celebrating the vast array of variables in the universe." We could sure use some of that celebration in the here and now. I'm afraid we have a long way to go before Gene Roddenberry's vision for a united human race comes to fruition. But that shouldn't stop us from working toward it. And the first step in that work is to simply love people for who they are, not who we think they should be.
This is exactly what is so disgusting about Carla Alcorn's comments. She insists that she loved her son. Problem is, the person she was talking about was not her son, she was her daughter. Carla Alcorn claims that she loved her child unconditionally. Clearly she doesn't know the meaning of the word "unconditionally." She didn't love Leelah. She loved a person who never existed, and denied the existence of the person she brought into this world and was charged to love. That's not unconditional love. That's the exact opposite. Conditional love of a person who wasn't real and hatred of a person who was. She put her bigotry over the love of her own offspring. And that's something which society has, up until now, largely accepted.
How do we fix society? We begin to value our differences rather than condemn them. We appreciate people for their intrinsic value in our own lives. We've turned a corner, but we still have a long way to go, and there's only one way to get there.
We will fix society when we put love above all else.
Note: Yes, I specifically chose to use the word "progenitors" in reference to Doug and Carla Alcorn. The word "parents" implies tenderness and affection, neither of which the Alcorns had for their daughter, but rather reserved for their nonexistent son. I will not dignify their behavior with terminology that it contradicts.