The mother of Leelah Alcorn has given an interview to CNN in which she talks about Leelah’s death, her online suicide note, and some of the condemnation that she and her husband, Doug, have received.
Leelah, of Kings Mills, Ohio, died in the early hours of Sunday morning after being struck by a tractor-trailer on a local interstate. Police are investigating her death as a suspected suicide.
Following her death, a suicide note that Leelah had scheduled to publish on her Tumblr page appeared. In it, she detailed her upset at not being able to convince her parents to accept her transgender identity.
Among her reasons for wanting to end her life, she blamed her parents’ negative reaction to her wanting to transition, and an inability to see a positive future for herself.
She ended the note by saying: ‘The only way I will rest in peace is if one day transgender people aren’t treated the way I was, they’re treated like humans, with valid feelings and human rights. Gender needs to be taught about in schools, the earlier the better.
‘My death needs to mean something. My death needs to be counted in the number of transgender people who commit suicide this year. I want someone to look at that number and say “that’s fucked up” and fix it. Fix society. Please.’
There has been a huge outpouring of grief over Leelah’s death, with many in the trans community and beyond shocked by her suicide and the online letter explaining her feelings and fears. Her parents have been widely criticized, with at least one prominent LGBTI activist, Dan Savage, suggesting that they should be prosecuted.
Throughout the CNN interview, Carla Alcorn used male pronouns when talking about Leelah, and referred to the 17-year-old as her son.
Asked about her child’s transgender identity, Carla said that she and her husband – who are devout Christians – did not support it.
‘We don’t support that, religiously … But we told him that we loved him unconditionally. We loved him no matter what. I loved my son. People need to know that I loved him. He was a good kid, a good boy.’
Carla Alcorn says her child came to her only once to talk to her about being transgender, and that she had never asked to be called Leelah. She says the first time she heard the name Leelah was when she read the suicide note.
She said that she knew her child was depressed, and had seen counselors and a psychiatrist, who had prescribed Leelah medication, but after that time, ‘He just quit talking about it [being transgender]’.
This conflicts with Leelah’s suicide note, which paints a picture of a trans teenager who had been at odds with her parents for some time over her desire to transition.
It has also emerged that Leelah posted a message on Reddit two months ago in which she also talked about wanting to see a gender therapist but was instead sent by her parents to see Christian therapists who she felt didn’t understand her.
She ended that note by saying: ‘Please help me, I don’t know what I should do and I can’t take much more of this.’
Leelah also complained her parents stopped her from engaging with social media for several months – leaving her feel socially isolated and furthering her depression. Carla Alcorn says that this was because Leelah was looking at ‘inappropriate’ materials online, but would not say what these were.
When asked by CNN about Leelah asking her for transitional surgery, Carla Alcorn said, ‘we didn’t have the money for anything like that.’
She said that some of the messages directed at her and her husband since Leelah’s death were making them out to be ‘horrible people’, and that there had not yet been a service for Leelah because some people had threatened to protest.
She highlighted the fact that she also had other children, who were deeply saddened at losing their sibling.
‘He was an amazing musician and artist. He was an amazing boy.’
A petition urging her parents to use Leelah’s chosen name on her tombstone has had over 66,000 signatories. Another petition, started by the Transgender Human Rights Institute, urging the US Government to ban ‘transgender conversion therapy’, has had nearly 200,000 signatories.