If you've been online over the past few days, you've probably encountered something dealing with the suicide of Leelah Alcorn. If you haven't, then you should look it up. Here is a more concise description than I can give.
The reason I bring this up is because it sheds a light on a very troubling situation in the United States, and all over the world. This shows the lack of understanding and acceptance of people that don't fit the gender stereotypes we're so fond of shoving people into. Looking into the statistics for transgender suicide, one article I read said “a whopping 41% who are transgender or are gender-nonconforming have attempted sometime in their lives.” This is nine times the national average. And this survey was released three years ago.
I don't know anyone who's transgender. At least, I've never heard someone claim to be that or witnessed the kinds of prejudice that is sadly a part of daily life for someone who holds that they were born in the wrong body. I realize being transgender is more than that, but that's the way I know best to describe it.
Why is it we drive people to attempt, if not actually succeed, at taking their own lives? In Leelah's case, as witnessed by her suicide note, her parents cut her off from anyone and everyone who might have understood her. They forced her into counseling for her “problem”. They might have thought they were doing the right thing for her, trying to force her back into that little box their personal and religious beliefs thought she should be in. But she didn't fit. And in the end, all she could do to help others like her was step in front of a truck and die to open up the world's eyes to a problem that has been going on for a long time.
It's not just the transgender community who suffers from the stigma of being different. Those in the LGBTQI community are bullied and in some cases are forced by well meaning loved ones into therapy that does more harm than good. Suicide rates among teens and adults in the LGBTQI community are very high. Most of them are caused by constant bullying and assaults from their peers and total strangers. In some cases, the bullying can lead to death just by the act of the assault on its own.
I think Leelah is getting her wish. In the end of her suicide note – which was published on and then later taken down by Tumblr – she said, “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.”
Her death has meant something. It's shedding light on something that people tend to try to forget exists. As Leelah says, gender needs to be taught about in schools. Not the “you must always be the same gender you were born” education. The “if you don't feel quite right as your given gender, there are others out there like you.” People need to open their eyes and realize that not everyone thinks or feels the same way as they do.
For those feeling suicide is their only option, there is a national suicide prevention hotline. That number is 1-800-273-8255. But now there is a transgender phone number found here. This is the website for the Trans Lifeline. The phone number they give is 877-565-6366. The hours it's opened are available on the site. It's hoped that if they're given a place that is sensitive to their needs, that more of the transgender teens and adults will look for different solutions than killing themselves.
I don't know the kind of hell these people go through that makes them want to take their own lives. I've had my run in with committing suicide, so I have a vague indication of the hopelessness they feel. But I know how hopelessness can steal away your will to live. I experienced that two years ago.
If you know a transgender person, offer them support. That should go without saying for everyone around you that is a part of your life, whether fleeting or long term. Think before you say or do something hurtful towards another person. Stop and try to see it from their point of view before you speak or act. Not everyone is going to be like you. Don't try to force them into a narrow little hole.