Sunday, January 4, 2015

After Leelah: When Parents Love Their Son ... But Not Their Daughter.

Change IS necessary - but where?

There is so much to ponder from the suicide of Leelah Alcorn, the damage of reparative "therapy" aside: how responsible were the parents, Doug and Carla, of her death? Dan Savage makes the analogy that if the culprit in Tyler Clementi's suicide was convicted, so should the parents of Leelah Alcorn. This rather extreme view hangs on one thing: accountability. And after additional posts on Reddit came to light, the Alcorn's accountability seems more severe.

On Reddit, in a post she titled, "I'm sure someone on here can convince me not to kill myself," she wrote she was taking what is a powerful (and popular, albeit older) anti-depressant.
"I've been on prozac for about a year, and my dosages have been going up every couple months or so," she wrote one month ago. "I'm currently taking 60 mg every morning."
She wrote her parents "never physically hurt" her, "but they always talked to me in a very derogatory tone."
They would say things like "You'll never be a real girl" or "What're you going to do, fuck boys?" or "God's going to send you straight to hell". These all made me feel awful about myself, I was christian at the time so I thought that God hated me and that I didn't deserve to be alive. I cut myself at least once every couple days, and I was constantly thinking about suicide.
60 mg of Prozac. Who would prescribe 60 mg of Prozac for a teenager? 2 increases in a year are alarming.

Other damning factors:

- Leelah was taken out of school and deprived of any interaction with friends. Social media was verboten.

- The Alcorns' story changed concerning their reaction to Leelah's request: "We don't support that religiously" became "we didn't have the money for anything like that."

- The Alcorns have not addressed any of Leelah's allegations, especially the cutting.

- Carla Alcorn insisted that Leelah came to her only once about being transgender.

Then there's this:
Eventually I lied to them and told them I was straight and that I was a boy, and then the derogatory speech and neglect started to fade.

On the surface, the Alcorns seem to be a very, very private family, but a 2011 Christian Chronicle article on their church in Northeast Ohio featured the Alcorns. The headline photo has since been taken offline.

"We dont' want to make this political." That is quite the facetious statement: after publication of the suicide note, how could they have thought the situation would not become political? How could they prevent it from becoming a cause celebre throughout the country? Had they no idea of the social climate? Were they that isolated? Did the church shield them from the rest of the world?

In fact, the Alcorns also seemed obsessed with what the rest of the community thought about them: taking Leelah out of school and totally off social media for five months point to a concern for the family name than concern for Leelah herself.

To be fair, Doug and Carla Alcorn are facing a bewildering situation for which they were totally unprepared: they placed too much faith (and fear) in their own closed Christian community and believed very little in outside humanity. Now they can't understand why their actions are in question. They can't understand why they have to change their story, make it different from Leelah's. They can't understand most of what was written in the suicide note.

And they certainly can't understand the feelings that were in the second note, the note that apologized to siblings and friends only: 
In a second scheduled note, Alcorn wrote: “Mom and Dad: F*ck you. You can’t just control other people like that. That’s messed up.”
She concluded the post by saying, “I don’t really feel the need to apologize to anyone else … odds are you didn’t give a s**t about me and if you do, you did something that made me feel like s**t and you don’t deserve an apology.”
How unconditional is unconditional?

The first reaction posted on facebook (which has been taken down) stated that "Joshua" was residing in heaven after having gone out for "an early morning walk" (2:00am) and being hit by a truck. This speaks volumes as to how the parents covered up their child's suicide: let people think it was an accident.

“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.”

The Alcorns have basically washed themselves of accountability by saying that they loved their "son" - unconditionally, without knowing who their "son" really was - and not caring unless that "son" preformed and developed in a conventional Christian manner. They glossed over all of Leelah's comment about being derided and told "you're going to hell."

Let's face it, that "love" was very conditional: " ... and then the derogatory speech and neglect started to fade."

Fix It.

"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.

Rob Watson (LGBT father and activist) wrote in LGBTQ Nation the most beautiful requiem for Leelah here, calling her the Matthew Shepard of our time.

But Matthew Shepard's death didn't "fix" things. It called for change as Leelah's death has called for change - but where? Parenting? Christian attitudes? Society's attitudes in general towards the transgendered? The change must be vast - and will, unfortunately, be very very slow. Numbers will mount, Leelah. Your death has helped a great deal because it serves as a stepping stone to change, but the forces of bigotry and close-mindedness are strong and change will be arduous. Just ask the LGBT community.

To Leelah's parents:

You cannot change. People don't expect you to at this point. You must accept this fact, however: you may have loved your son Joshua to a degree, but many people love your daughter Leelah wholeheartedly. Yes, they love Leelah more. 

Now and for a long, long time. 

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