Joshua Ryan Alcorn
November 15, 1997
Kings Mills, Ohio, US
December 28, 2014 (aged 17)
Lebanon, Ohio, US
Assigned male at birth, Alcorn was given the name Joshua Ryan Alcorn and raised in Ohio by a family affiliated with the Churches of Christ movement. She eventually rejected this forename, and in her suicide note signed herself "(Leelah)
Josh Alcorn". She was one of several children. Describing herself as being raised in a conservative Christian environment, she and her family attended the Northeast Church of Christ in Cincinnati, and had been featured in a profile of that church published in a 2011 article in The Christian Chronicle. As of 2014, the family lived in Kings Mills, Ohio.
According to her suicide note, Alcorn had felt "like a girl trapped in a boy's body" since she was four, and came to identify as a transgender girl from the age of fourteen, when she became aware of the term. At age 14, she came out as transgender to her parents, Carla and Doug Alcorn, who refused to accept her female gender identity. According to her note, her mother reacted "extremely negatively" by claiming that it was only a phase and that God had made her a male, so she could never be a woman. Leelah stated that this made her hate herself, and that she developed a form of depression. Her mother sent her to Christian conversion therapists, but Leelah later related that here she only encountered "more Christians" telling her that she was "selfish and wrong" and "should look to God for help."
Aged 16, she requested to be allowed to undergo transition treatment, but she was denied permission: in her words, "I felt hopeless, that I was just going to look like a man in drag for the rest of my life. On my 16th birthday, when I didn't receive consent from my parents to start transitioning, I cried myself to sleep." Instead her parents sent her to Christian-based conversion therapy with the intention of convincing her to reject her gender identity and accept her gender as assigned at birth.
Leelah publicly revealed her attraction to males when she was sixteen, as she believed that identifying as a gay male at that point would be a stepping stone to coming out as transgender at a later date. According to a childhood friend, Leelah received a positive reception from many at Kings High School, although her parents were "pissed". In Leelah's words, "They felt like I was attacking their image, and that I was an embarrassment to them. They wanted me to be their perfect little straight Christian boy, and that's obviously not what I wanted."
Carla Alcorn recalled Leelah asking for transition surgery. She told her child no, she said, because "we didn't have the money for anything like that." In her suicide note, Leelah said she cried herself to sleep that night. Carla Alcorn said that she took away her child's access to social media because the teen was looking at "inappropriate" things on the Internet but would not say what those things were.
The Alcorns removed Leelah, and enrolled her as an eleventh grader at an online school, Ohio Virtual Academy. They also removed Leelah's access to social media for five months, leading to even more feelings of isolation and depression: Leelah's suicide note, however, says she struggled for a long time to gain her parents' acceptance as a transgender teen. At 16, she wrote that she realized her "parents would never come around" and that she would have to wait until she was 18 to start any kind of medical treatment to transition to being a female. That, she said, "absolutely broke my heart. ... I felt hopeless, that I was just going to look like a man in drag for the rest of my life."
Leelah described all this as a significant contributing factor towards her suicide. At the end of the school year, they returned her phone to her and allowed her to regain contact with her friends, although by this time - according to Leelah - her relationship with many of them had become strained and she continued to feel isolated.
Carla Alcorn told CNN that her child was depressed and that counselors and a psychiatrist gave the teenager medication. "He (=Leeelah) just quit talking about it (= being transgender)," she said.
Two months prior to her death, Leelah sought out help on the social media website Reddit, asking users whether the treatment perpetrated by her parents was considered child abuse. There, she revealed that while her parents had never physically assaulted her, "they always talked to me in a very derogatory tone" and "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." Further, she explained, "I tried my absolute hardest to live up to their standards and be a straight male, but eventually I realized that I hated religion and my parents." On Reddit, Leelah also disclosed that she was prescribed increasing dosages of the anti-depressant Prozac. In concluding her post, she wrote, "Please help me, I don't know what I should do and I can't take much more of this."
It all began to feel like too much weight to the teenager, she wrote. Convinced she had few friends, and feeling the pressure of saving enough money to move out of her home, keep her grades up and face people at church who she felt had only judgment for her, she decided to end her life. "I'm never going to find a man who loves me," she wrote. "I'm never going to be happy."
"The only way I will rest in peace is if one day transgender people aren't treated the way I was, they're treated like humans, with valid feelings and human rights. Gender needs to be taught about in schools, the earlier the better. 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 fucked up" and fix it. Fix society. Please."
Prior to her death on December 28, 2014, Leelah had scheduled for her suicide note to be automatically posted on her Tumblr account at 5.30pm. She arranged for her suicide note to be posted online several hours after her death, and it soon attracted international attention across mainstream and social media. LGBT rights activists called attention to the incident as evidence of the problems faced by transgender youth, while vigils were held in her memory in the United States and United Kingdom.
A second post appeared shortly after; titled "Sorry", it featured an apology to her close friends and siblings for the trauma that her suicide would put them through, but also contained a message to her parents: "Fuck you. You can't just control other people like that. That's messed up."
Leelah died by jumping in front of a tractor-trailer on a remote highway at 2:15am on December 28, 2014. A handwritten suicide note said "I've had enough" was found on her bed, but then thrown away by leelah's mother after police made a copy.
In the early morning of December 28, police informed news sources that she had been walking southbound on Interstate 71 near Union Township when she was struck by a semi-trailer just before 2:30 am near the South Lebanon exit. She died at the scene. It is believed that Leelah walked three to four miles from her parents' Kings Mill house, before being struck. The highway was closed for more than an hour after the incident. An investigation was launched by the Ohio State Highway Patrol, while Alcorn's body was transported to the Montgomery County coroner, where an autopsy was scheduled. The truck driver was uninjured in the incident.
Leelah's computer was recovered near the site of her suicide. It contained conversations showing that she had planned to jump off the bridge that crosses Interstate 71 days before the incident, but then contacted a crisis hotline and, as told to a friend, "basically cried my eyes out for a couple of hours talking to a lady there".
Within 48 hours of the posting of her suicide note, it had attracted 82,272 views, and by the morning of December 31, it had been reposted on Tumblr 200,000 times. The suicide note was later deleted after Leelah's parents asked for it to be removed, and the blog was made inaccessible to the public. According to the family minister, the Alcorn family decided to hold the funeral privately after receiving threats. Leelah's body was reportedly cremated. The Ohio State Patrol completed their investigation into Leelah's death on April 30, 2015, officially ruling it a suicide.
After the forced Christian-based therapy, being taken out of school, banned from social media and denied a request to transition, Leelah Alcorn told her parents (in her suicide note on tumblr): "Fuck you. You can't just control other people like that. That's messed up" and stepped into freeway traffic near Kings Mill, Ohio.
Utterly predictable. And the stats back that up.
After looking through Leelah's social media site, her suicide note and other news reports, it struck me that it was all about appearances for Leelah's parents. They were far more concerned about how they looked within their Christian community than to try to understand their child.
Unconfirmed documents floating around on the internet points toward the whitewashing of Leelah's suicide by her parents. Although they've made no official public comment, they've made a request for privacy through the school district.
Privacy? no, they don't deserve privacy - full national media attention should be drawn to their selfish mistake. With any luck at all, it'll save the lives of a few other trans kids elsewhere. These parents need to be criminally charged for denying their child medical treatment for Gender Dysphoria.
Transgender teen Leelah Alcorn's distraught best friend Abby Jones couldn't attend her funeral after a furious phonecall from the Leelah's Christian parents following her death. Abby supported Leelah through her struggles and was one of the first people she came out to as trans - but has been unable to pay her last respects after her mother reportedly accused Abby over the phone of sharing pictures of Leelah wearing a dress online. The photograph, a selfie showing Leelah, 17, in a black and white dress, was shared worldwide alongside a note explaining her suicide, which she lined up to be published after her death on December 27.
"It was obvious after the call - Carla had no right to call and harass my daughter." Abby's father, Brian, said his daughter was distraught over the snub. He said: "Leelah was her friend - and I was upset because I felt that [the funeral] was a way for her to at least start to move on."
"Abby wanted to go to the funeral - but it happened in private and there was no mention of it beforehand."
He suggested the family may neglected to invite Abby because they were so caught up in the media scrutiny of Leelah's death and note - which unequivocally blamed them for the suicide. He said: "They were embarrassed - which anybody would be. They lost their child - I can't imagine how much that hurts. I understand that - they wanted to get it done and move on with their lives."
Abby and Leelah, who live 20 miles apart met at work, where they were both caricaturists at the Kings Island amusement park outside Leelah's hometown of Kings Mill, Ohio. They would spend time together after work - and eventually Abby got so close to Leelah that she revealed to her she was transgender and had always wanted to live as a girl.
She said her friend, who was taken to Christian therapists in an effort to convince her to live as a male, was often upset about her life.
Abby said: "She would get really down, there was just no talking her out of it. She always said, - Nothing is going to get better, I am never going to transition successfully, I am never going to be the pretty girl I want to be.-"
But the suicide still came as a shock to her. In another interview, with the Washington Post, she said that on Christmas day she spoke with Leelah, who seemed upbeat and was looking forward to the year ahead. Abby said: "She was talking about her New Year's resolutions... It was a really light-hearted conversation. And then on Sunday, when I heard what happened, I was just in shock."