Some Reflections on Leelah

Yesterday was interesting from a trans activism point of view. Leelah Alcorn’s story hit a number of mainstream media outlets. Here’s The Independent, for example. It also prompted an outpouring of support on Twitter.

The most obvious result was the hashtag, #RealLiveTransAdult, which was an attempt by adult trans folk to give hope to young people like Leelah who may be despairing of ever having a good life. I say attempt because one of the more obvious results was a lot of cis people congratulating those of us who have survived on how well we have done. That wasn’t the point, folks. We didn’t do this for bragging rights, and my apologies if my own tweet made it sound like I was doing so. Surviving as trans is by no means only down to personal effort. One of the more interesting tweets of the evening was this one by Sarah Brown.

That was certainly the case for me, though as far as I’m concerned there’s a good case for replacing “fortunate enough” with “smart enough” or “too cowardly”, because I was shit scared of what would happen if I told anyone, and I was right to be scared. I should also add that I was fortunate enough to have been born white, to have had a good education, and to have been smart enough to get a good job.

One of the things that worries me about the current situation as far as trans folk goes is that kids like Leelah have access to plenty of information about being trans, and what to do about it, but will be coming out into a society that still isn’t ready to accept them. Even with all of the advantages I had, if it had not been for Kevin and my mum I would probably not be here now.

Something else I noticed was at least two separate announcements of people starting new trans support groups. Folks, I know you mean well, but lack of support groups was not Leelah’s problem. There are plenty of them. If you want to help families with trans kids, please check out Mermaids in the UK, and TYFA in the USA. In the UK kids of Leelah’s age can find support through Gendered Intelligence, and in the USA through Trans Student.

What is actually needed, as Leelah noted, is education. And on that front I was delighted with this tweet from the new head of Stonewall.

Education for parents is particularly important, as this infographic from Trans Student shows:

Why supportive parenting matters

There’s still a long, hard road ahead. However, little by little we are making change happen. I just wish I was in a position to make it happen faster.

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