Guest Column: Momentum: Leelah Alcorns call to arms

Corissa Gay

The world has lost an important voice. Though hardly a unique case, roughly fifty percent of transgender youth attempt to take their own life before the age of 24, Leelah Alcorn’s suicide is a profound loss. When you read her last words, a perplexing mix of anger, sympathy and regret leave you sputtering at the injustice in the world. She had a right to choose how to live her life and it was stripped from her because of ignorance and close-mindedness.

Suicide is a complicated and widely misunderstood concept. I say misunderstood because people often feel frustrated with the victims and throw around words like selfish. Yes, it is devastating when someone feels helpless and hopeless enough to take their own life. The act is hardly selfish, though. It’s more complicated than that. Preventing suicide should not fall to the people in a dark enough place to consider such an act. Preventing suicide falls to society; the change needs to start with the conversation about mental health and, furthermore, trans* issues.

What’s more, that conversation should have roots in the feminist movement.

More than anything, feminism is about women supporting other women. It is about empowerment and self-love and redefining how people view femininity, sexuality and what it means to be female. All too often, though, people who don’t fit the conventional concept of woman or female are left out of the conversation.

Leelah Alcorn was left out of the conversation. She did not love herself because she could not openly be herself. She was stripped of her power to choose her own form of expression rather than empowered to freely be who she was. Feminism has come a long way, even in the last year, but in order to truly make a change, we need to let people like Leelah know they have a safe place to be who they are. We need to make feminism a movement which includes people of all genders. We need inclusion, intersectionality, and we need to stop letting voices be snuffed out by loneliness and isolation.

Leelah’s very last deed was to plea for people to look at her as an example of what’s wrong with the world and take action. People are sad and remorseful for what happened, but that,long-term,won’t change anything. People need to stand up, stand together and do something.

So I have a proposal. Let the momentum of Leelah’s devastating loss force change. Read an article about gender identity. Learn about mental health and the detrimental lack of services offered to the trans* community. Seek out people with narratives similar to Leelah’s and ask how you can help. Sign petitions written to protect the rights of trans* people to have stable jobs, inclusive healthcare and bathroom rights. Step outside the cozy bubble of mainstream, whitewashed, cisgender and heteronormative feminism and speak out for your often-unheard sisters.

Let people know, the helpless and hopeless people, their voices are important and truly can make a difference. Don’t let Leelah die in vain.

Corissa Gay is a columnist from Alexandra Magazine.