It’s pretty damn-near impossible to not feel heartbroken at the situation involving Leelah Alcorn. It’s an awful, awful situation, and she was far too young to have felt the need to take her own life. In case you missed it, Leelah Alcorn was a transgender teenager from Ohio who, this week, left a suicide note – which has since gone viral – chronicling her depression and anguish over her parents’ reaction to the news that she was transgender. After her parents’ refusal to accept her as she identified, and their attempts to somehow change her through Christian counselling, Leelah stepped into the path of a moving truck and died.
Although this post is inspired by Leelah Alcorn, it isn’t so much about her. Her situation was a wretched one, but the fact is that she is gone and the most that we can do now is mourn her death, celebrate her life and honour her memory. This message is therefore intended for anyone reading this – particularly teenagers – who is considering taking their own life because of the adversity they’re facing.
Please, I beg of you, don’t. I know it may seem that it’s the best and/or easiest solution to whatever problem you’re dealing with, but I assure you that it isn’t. Whatever shitstorm that you’re riding out now, it is going to pass. This may be incredibly hard to believe, especially when you’re young and the bad situations in your life seem never-ending, but I promise you that your problems won’t last forever. It gets better. Life gets better.
I wish that I could drill this into the head of everyone contemplating suicide. Taking your own life spares you from feeling whatever depression you’re trying to escape, but it also prevents you from enjoying the remarkable experiences that you’re inevitably going to have. Your problems will not last forever… it’s a difficult concept to believe when you’re actually in the situation, but it’s one of the truest lessons that life teaches.
Whether the issue is that your parents don’t support your sexual orientation/gender identity, kids at school are assholes to you, you’re dying inside at a breakup, or whatever the case may be, the seasons change, the tides turn, and you end up outgrowing all those problems. And, the thing is, not only do you question why you ever let these things bother you in the first place, you realise that having gone through them actually made you a better and stronger person.
Leelah’s death was tragic, and it resonated with a lot of people because of its nature, but it shouldn’t be looked at like a necessary means to achieving results.
She asked us to “fix society”, and we absolutely must, but don’t for a second think that her suicide will accomplish it… or that yours will either. She probably never even considered that, alive, she could have one day been the catalyst for greater change than anyone could imagine.
She wrote one letter and it touched and inspired thousands of people. We have no idea how she could have used her words in years to come to inspire progress. I bet she probably thought that she was just one person – just one kid – and she would never be enough but remember that Martin Luther King Jr, Rosa Parks, Harvey Milk, Malcolm X, Susan B Anthony and Joan of Arc were all, in their time, one person.
We do need to fix society. And slowly, but surely, we’re making progress in achieving this. Allow yourself the opportunity to experience it. Don’t let your life be defined by sadness. And, if you can help it, don’t let it end in it either.