Famous Last Words?

This morning I woke up to the news of yet another trans person who had taken her own life. Leelah Alcorn was just 17. I never met her, had never even heard of her until today. There are, after all, millions of trans people in the world. But she’s another hole in my life, and in the lives of every other trans person out there who knows that, save for a bit of good luck, and some very good friends, they could have gone the same way.

What I can say for Leelah, though, is that she could write. She left a suicide note on her Tumblr account. You can find it here. It goes into some detail about how badly her family treated her, but the note ends with a stirring call to action:

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.

We don’t count suicides in the number of trans people murdered each year, because people would nit-pick that and use it against us. Nevertheless, killing themselves is often something trans people are told it is their duty to do, so as to avoid bringing shame upon their families. And sometimes it is just necessary because there is no hope, and death seems preferable to putting up with how other people treat you.

I’m not in that place yet, though I am often amazed that I have survived as long as I have. One of the things that helps is having something to live for. It being the time of year when we are supposed to make resolutions, here’s one from me.

I can’t make your death mean something by myself, Leelah. Few people have much influence in this world. But what I can do is keep working hard for trans rights, to try to create the sort of world you have dreamed of. I have to believe that one day we will get there. I wish you could have believed that too.

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2 Responses to Famous Last Words?

  1. Nina says:

    That is so awful, such a young age for dying! I hope that others will find other solutions, to go on, but finally break out of the situation.

    • Cheryl says:

      17 might seem young, but it is by no means unusual for trans people. As I understand it, the average life expectancy in relatively prosperous countries is between 30 and 35. Internationally that drops to 23.

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