Leelah Alcorn was unknown outside of her small home town on the outskirts of Cincinnati Ohio, that is until she ended her young life at the end of 2014. Transgender people will be all too familiar with the depressingly, ever expanding catalogue of self-destruction within their community but Leelah’s death appears to have touched even the hardest of hearts across the globe.
Leelah was by no means the first young person to find the consequence of her gender identity to be overwhelming. Sadly she is unlikely to be the last. What makes this young person’s death so shocking is not just because her families religious beliefs seem to have rendered her desired change of gender impossible, as sadly this is not a unique experience, but nor is it because her parents saw fit to send her for Reparative Therapy, a totally discredited practice. What is truly appalling is that the parents have applied some unknown or distorted theology (there is no reference to the Transgender experience or changing gender in the Bible) to justify their fear and bigoted position as so called Christians.
“WE DON’T SUPPORT THAT, RELIGIOUSLY” claimed Leelah’s mother. Leela’s last letter spells out her families reaction,
“After 10 years of confusion I finally understood who I was. I immediately told my mom, and she reacted extremely negatively, telling me that it was a phase, that I would never truly be a girl, that God doesn’t make mistakes, that I am wrong.
Leelah’s letter also mentioned the religious counseling she receiving after coming out:
“My mom started taking me to a therapist, but would only take me to christian [sic] therapists, (who were all very biased) so I never actually got the therapy I needed to cure me of my depression. I only got more christians [sic] telling me that I was selfish and wrong and that I should look to God for help.”
As a Psychotherapist working in this field I am appalled and dismayed that there are so called Mental Health Practitioners who are abysmally ignorant of transgender experiences and identities. I am even more distressed by their apparent ability to destroy lives with impunity as this type of Therapy has been outlawed in Britain and elsewhere. It has no place in any clinical practice. Furthermore, as a Christian I am disgusted by the ignorance, transphobia and bigotry which is rampant in elements of the Christian Church as highlighted here.
How anyone could conceive that having a gender identity at odds with one’s body is a lifestyle choice rather than a primal experience beggars belief. But, of course that’s exactly what it does i.e. beggars belief. To use the name of Christ to justify their stone age understanding is in itself blasphemy in the extreme. Right wing extremists will quote from Deuteronomy and Leviticus but even if one were to accept quotations from the Old Testament books as being divine condemnation they actually do not describe the Transgender experience. If one is going to blindly follow scripture it might be a good idea to refrain from putting one’s own spin on the meaning.
Sadly, the real point is that in order to justify their bigoted stance these self proclaimed evangelicals and fundamentalists can’t accept the transgender experience as anything other than choice for in order to do otherwise, one would presumably have to believe that a God of Love was cruel enough to condemn someone to enter purgatory because of who they were born to be. Clearly these extremists feel compelled to demonise anyone who doesn’t comply with their jaundiced view of the membership requirements to enter the Promised land.
Jesus is the ultimate expression of love, acceptance and forgiveness. One can only hope that Leelah’s parents are able to reflect on what that love and acceptance means. Sadly they now have ample time in the vacuum created by Leelah’s suicide for such reflection.
As for Leelah, one can only hope that she has found the peace which was so elusive on earth.
My Psychotherapy Practice is currently busy with young people questioning their gender identity or actually transitioning. Whilst they may need support, the last thing they need is to be told that they are acting in a manner offensive to God or anyone else.
See CNN’s broadcast here