First of all, what a terrible tragedy. What we know is that she felt trapped in her body, she went to her parents for help, and they decided that the help she needed was ‘therapy’ to make her feel male. When she realized that it would be too late for her to transition gracefully if she waited for legal autonomy, she killed herself, leaving a suicide note on social media asking that her death bring about help for teens like herself. Her mother didn’t acknowledge either the suicide or the transgender identity when she announced her baby’s death.
I understand the outrage at the parents, I really do. They did completely the wrong thing, they bought snake oil medicine, and when their child died they couldn’t (publicly) face the fact that their actions had something to do with it. They still call her “Joshua”, and she will undoubtedly be buried under that name and in a suit.
The thing is, the parents of a suicide often have trouble acknowledging it. I had a forty year old friend who took an overdose of medication for his chronic pain, and his mother couldn’t acknowledge it was suicide – even in a situation where there was no blame implied. How could you expect Carla Alcorn to come to grips with the death of her child when her child blamed her for it?
I want to fix this, really, for all future Leelah’s. I just don’t see how attacking her parents does that. They attempted to get their child psychiatric treatment, they went to doctors they believed were reputable, and the depression deepened.
We certainly can say the mental health professional they took her to failed dramatically. Ohio was on it’s way to banning conversion therapy last year, but that effort crashed and burned in the spring. The fact that she didn’t get any help for suicidal depression is another BIG data point in favor of the ban.
But the truth is, even if she had gotten appropriate therapy (which I would guess would have been a combination of depression treatment and gender conversion therapy) there is no guarantee that she would have lived. We will never know.
So let’s all respect Leelah’s wish, and do what we can to make the world better for Transgendered teens (and adults as well), but please, if we can, let’s do it without demonizing her family. They have enough pain to deal with, and changing their minds won’t help the next Leelah.