Table of Contents
"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 f***ed up' and fix it. Fix society. Please."
Just two months before, she cried out for help on Reddit, asking other trans people for advice on how to deal with her conservative Christian parents. "Is this considered abuse?" Leelah titled the thread where she wrote:
"Hi, I'm Leelah, 16 and MtF/dmab. Ever since I was around 4 or 5 I knew I was a girl, just like most of the lovely ladies on here, but I didn't actually understand that it was possible to successfully change genders until I was 14. As soon as I found out what transgender meant, I came out to my mom. 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, and it felt awful."
"She then proceeded to tell my Dad without my consent, and they were both extremely angry with me. They never physically hurt me, 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."
Supporting Our Trans Youth
Since Leelah's suicide, the internet seems to have exploded with discussions about the meaning of being transgender, and the right way of helping trans teens. While news outlets from all over the world did not hesitate to refer to Leelah by her chosen name, rather than the male name Joshua she was given at birth, her parents apparently still didn't get the message. Before making her Facebook account private, Leelah's mother told the world her son was hit by a truck while he was out for a walk, and asked for prayers.
It has now been confirmed that Leelah's parents indeed took her to conversion therapy, a practice the APA condemns, to convince her to give up her gender identity. It didn't work, of course, but it did — Leelah's Reddit thread shows — make her lie to her parents, in an attempt to gain some of the freedom that had been stripped from her back, and in order to be treated with more kindness.
Some LGTB activists are calling for Leelah's parents to be prosecuted for their refusal to let her see gender therapists and insistence that she attends conversion therapy to make her be something she wasn't. A petition to ban conversion therapy altogether is also ongoing, and probably more productive.
Here at SteadyHealth, our purpose isn't to condemn Leelah's parents, parents who must be heartbroken and grieving right now. We do want to honor Leelah. We do agree Leelah's death needs to mean something, and society needs to be fixed. Society needs to be fixed because the reason Leelah has become an icon so very quickly is the tragic fact that she is far from an isolated case. We live in a world where the average lifespan for a transgender person is only 23 years, trans people are eight times more likely than non-trans people to attempt suicide, and eighty times more likely to actually end their own lives. Let's make Leelah's death mean something. Let's say "STOP".