Leelah’s Legacy

| Jan 5, 2015
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This week marked another tragic milestone in the transgender movement. The death of a young trans gal in Ohio sparked nationwide and international outrage. Anytime a transgender person takes their own life, the community mourns. But this time, the circumstances that came to light surrounding the life of Leelah Alcorn and the reasons she felt compelled to step in front of a moving truck brought the trans community to a renewed and heightened resolve to end a dangerous practice.

Conversation therapy has long been seen by many in and out of the LGBT community as a damaging and potentially deadly form of therapy. In the belief that the gay can be prayed away or the transgender feelings can be healed out of the body, certain Christian therapists and religious leaders have done untold harm to countless LGBT youth and young adults.

For nearly a century, the subjects of conversion therapy have reported increased anxiety, depression, and in some cases, intense thoughts of suicide — every sign seen in the letters Leelah left on social media in the months leading up to her death.

The move to condemn and stop the practice of converting gays and transgender individuals has taken several steps forward in recent years. In 2013, Exodus International, a 12 year leader of conversion therapy nationwide, stunned its allies when it announced it would cease its operation of conversion therapy practices in a public apology to the entire LGBT community. Alan Chambers, president of Exodus said,“Exodus is an institution in the conservative Christian world, but we’ve ceased to be a living, breathing organism. For quite some time we’ve been imprisoned in a worldview that’s neither honoring toward our fellow human beings, nor biblical. . . .”

“I do not believe that reparative therapy changes sexual orientation; in fact, it does great harm to many people.” These were the words of John Paulk, former chairman of Exodus and the co-author of Love Won Out: How God’s Love Helped Two People Leave Homosexuality and Find Each Other.

The medical community has taken it’s stand in statements like that from the American Psychological Association. “To date, there has been no scientifically adequate research to show that therapy aimed at changing sexual orientation (sometimes called reparative or conversion therapy) is safe or effective. Furthermore, it seems likely that the promotion of change therapies reinforces stereotypes and contributes to a negative climate for lesbian, gay, and bisexual persons.”

Some politicians have seen the light and taken steps to ban these practices, if only for children. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie took such measures late last year. The action drew fire from Citizenlink, the political arm of Focus on the Family. Tom Minnery, Citizen Link’s director commented, “There is no social science evidence that such [therapy] is harmful.”

The Texas GOP tends to agree. In June of 2014, The The Texas Republican Party had drafted as part of their platform a section sharply criticizing the LGBT community saying, “We recognize the legitimacy and value of counseling which offers reparative therapy and treatment to patients who are seeking escape from the homosexual lifestyle. No laws or executive orders shall be imposed to limit or restrict access to this type of therapy.”

The sadness of Leelah Alcorn’s story is on so many levels. Her parents failed to recognize her true self. They put her through counselling that was damaging to her self esteem. They isolated her from a support system that would have saved her from taking such a drastic and permanent end to her life.

What would the outcome have been if conversion therapy had not been an option for the Alcorns? What would the outcome had been if there had been a body of Christians that reached out with love rather than outright dismissing one’s identity? What would the outcome have been for thousands of LGBT youth that have been subjected to the practices conversion therapy prescribes?

It all comes down to the tired argument that LGBT individuals are not equal to the rest of society. The flawed ideology that LGBT people are some how broken, sick or following a path opposite of God’s will continues to create an atmosphere of separation, distrust, fear and oppression. If the lifes of any more teenagers are to be saved, this needs to change. As Leelah said in her suicide note, her death needs to mean something.

This is not a time to sit on our heels. This is not a time to look longingly at what we believe our future should be. The time for more people to act is now. The time for more muscle and more voices to be added to the movement has come. It is time to put a stop to practices that are destroying our youth.

When there are loud voices of oppression, there must be louder voices speaking in defense of those who can not speak for themselves. When there are voices of delusion, there must be voices of truth shouting from every corner of every state.

Our own constitution opens with a grand idea of forming a more perfect union, establishing justice and insuring domestic tranquility. How can a nation strive for a more perfect union when a portion of it’s people are treated as second class citizens? How can we establish justice when discrimination and violence are still a plague throughout this nation? How can a country founded on the idea of domestic tranquility insure anything when individuals live in fear?

The mountains of inequality can not be moved by one person or one group of individuals. As valiant as the effort is, change comes slowly and can take lifetimes when only a few take action. One small stone in a river may not have much effect on it’s flow. But when combined with other stones — the forces of raging waters can be moved.

For more information on putting an end to conversion therapy – you can find it at www. Leelahslaw.com.

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Category: Transgender Body & Soul, Transgender Politics


About the Author ()

Meggan Sommerville is a writer, photographer, indefatigable advocate for trans women’s rights and the founder of Trans Girl at the Cross, a Christian ministry focused on building bridges between the trans community and the Church. Meggan holds the honor of being the first transgender woman to be cast in Listen to Your Mother, a production of mother-themed readings currently directed and performed in 32 cities around the United States. Meggan is a proud mom of two teenagers.

Comments (3)

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  1. Graham Graham says:

    Well, there you have it – contributions to this thoughtful piece from MegganRenee are about to close, and no-one else has deemed that it’s worth publicly adding their name in support of this cause.

    I thought I’d encountered apathy in the UK trans-support networks, but it doesn’t hold a candle to what I see here. I just don’t understand you people at all. Transpeople like Leelah are being mistreated – not to mention tortured and killed – all over the world every day, yet none of you seem to care. How much worse do things have to get before you’re moved to actually do something?

    • angela_g angela_g says:

      Come on TGF users! Make your voices be heard! Use the Comment area to let us know what you think. You must be a registered user and logged in to comment.

  2. Graham Graham says:

    I read today that Leelah’s parents have objected to the name “Leelah” being recorded on the headstone of their dead child. Essentially, they’re trying to erase Leelah’s identity because of their own religious-inspired selfish hatred and bigotry.

    Everyone here should log on to the link provided that Meggan provided, and sign the petition to stop this barbaric practice from happening again. I mean EVERYONE should sign. It’s far too important an issue to ignore on the basis that it might compromise any individual’s personal security. That sort of head-in-the-sand look-the-other-way attitude is the very reason that Leelah is dead. Frankly, if you’re not part of the solution, then you’re part of the problem.

    Incidentally, the link given above has been rendered incorrectly; it should read: http://www.Leelahslaw.com

    Go. Sign. Then record the fact here. Let’s make this the most commented article on TGF.