Death of transgender teen sparks debate online | Americas| North and South American news impacting on Europe | DW | 31.12.2014
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Death of transgender teen sparks debate online

The death of US transgender teenager, Leelah Alcorn, has sparked discussions on social media platforms. She published her farewell on her blog.

The pink colored post with the title 'Suicide Note' caused a stir on the blogging platform, Tumblr. An animated Hello Kitty inspired theme bobs up and down in the background. "If you are reading this, it means that I have committed suicide and obviously failed to delete this post from my queue," writes the 17-year-old high school student, who was hit by a tractor on December 28 in Kings Mills, Ohio. Underneath a signature: "(Leelah) Josh Alcorn". Above it is one more blogpost titled ‘Sorry'. It addresses friends and relatives.

While police are still investigating the death, as reported by the local paper WCPO Cincinnati, the teenager's death has sparked worldwide discussions on the acceptance of transgender people. The blogpost was shared over a 170,000 times on Tumblr alone, while over 52,000 people spread the news on Twitter. Local Cincinnati Councilman Chris Seelbach shared the letter on Facebook adding that while Cincinnati had made efforts to protect gender identity, "We simply have to do better." Additionally, openly gay celebrities, like Perez Hilton and Stephen Fry. expressed their views on Alcorn's death:

"When I was 14, I learned what transgender meant and cried of happiness. After 10 years of confusion, I finally understood who I was," writes Leelah, who was born Joshua Alcorn. She describes how she outed herself as being gay in school and explained to her mother how she felt like a girl trapped in a boy's body. She describes how her parents made her see a Christian therapist, took her out of school and isolated her from her friends. After five months she was once again allowed her access to her laptop and phone, but the ultimate damage had been done. Her parents' acceptance, which she yearned for, never materialized.

"I'm never going to be happy with the way I look or sound," she writes. "Either I live the rest of my life as a lonely man who wishes he were a woman or I live my life as a lonelier woman who hates herself. There's no winning. There's no way out." Her message to her parents, who utterly refused to accept her choice and her wish to undergo surgery, was clear: "F*** Y**.You can't just control other people like that."

Leelah's mother, Carla Wood Alcorn, had initially posted a message on Facebook on Sunday (December 29): "My sweet 16-year-old son, Joshua Ryan Alcorn, went home to heaven this morning. He was out for an early morning walk and was hit by a truck. Thank you for the messages and kindness and concern you have sent our way." She and her husband have been heavily criticized for the way they treated their child and for their refusal to accept Leelah's gender identity and choice of name even after her death.

While many – not including the selected tweets above – displayed their anger at the parents openly, a few voices cautioned that “Leelah's death should be honored by not spreading hate” and that demonizing the parents would in fact "give them the opportunity to play the victim card."

Leelah ended her goodbyes with a plea to give all her legal belongings to a transgender civil rights group and the message that gender identity should be taught in schools - the sooner, the better. In the last few days, Facebook groups 'to end gender conversion therapy' and campaigns to officially change Alcorn's first name on her grave to Leelah have gained traction.

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