Still Fighting the Fire

3

I’ve realised that fighting for equality for the LGBT Community is a bit like being a firefighter, no sooner have we made progress in one part of the Community, then there seems to be a whole new fire blazing in some other part.

Today’s fire is in the Transgender Community.

It is with great sadness that in the last week I have read about two suicides, I am referring to Leelah Alcorn a transgender girl who walked in front of moving traffic and Andi Woodhouse a transgender man who committed suicide by jumping off a bridge.

This should be a wake up call to everyone in the LGBT Community that the fight is not over, help and support is needed elsewhere.

Imagine being a teenager again, imagine your parents questioning every decision you make, cutting off your connections to the outside world, your lifeline that gives you hope, a voice. Imagine feeling trapped with nowhere to go, not being able to be who you want,  who you truly are. Imagine being taken to therapists who tell you, that your lifestyle, your choices are all wrong. No one listening to you. Imagine feeling the only way out is to walk out in front of moving traffic to make the pain go away. Now stop imagining. This is the story of what happened to Leelah Alcorn.

Leelah a 17 year old girl was driven to suicide because her parents wouldn’t listen to her or understand her. They stood behind their religion, telling her everything about herself was wrong.  It’s hard enough being a teenager and growing up with all the usual pressure that you have but imagine being a teenager and growing up and no one listens to you, and when the people that are not listening to you are your parents, it becomes a whole different game. I have read the articles regarding Leelah’s parents, her mother still refers to Leelah as her son and still uses the male pronouns, she says about Leelah “He was an amazing musician and artist. He was an amazing boy.” I can only imagine the prison Leelah was living in, feeling trapped and isolated, her parents guarding her from the outside world, from the help she needed , from the very people that would have loved her and made everything alright, the exact things that her parents should have been doing.

Two weeks ago nobody had heard of Leelah Alcorn, she was just another teenager trying to find her place in the world. Hurt, she couldn’t see a way out nor a life of happiness, she took her life and now the world knows who she is. At the end of her suicide note she says “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.” And for a 17 year old girl she’s very wise. I agree with her. 

Everyone in the LGBT community lives their own life, has their own story but as I read about Leelah and Andi I was struck with the notion that it could have been anyone one of us, it could have been me, it could have been you. We need to wake up and remember that there is still much to do in this fight for equality and our transgender brother and sisters need our help, our support and our understanding. The face of the transgender community has some amazing role models, Janet Mock, Laverne Cox and even Carmen Carrera, beautiful strong women who are showing the world what it is to be transgender and proud.

As a web designer I get to meet different people from all walks of life, I have met and worked with Carmen Xtravaganza, who taught me so much about being transgender as well as all about the House culture of NYC in the late 1970’s and the struggle she faced in the early days. I would meet her on a Sunday afternoon and she would tell me her life story, I would listen opened mouthed, frantically taking notes. And now I am starting work with Surat Shaan Knan, on two exciting projects, one of which will be exploring the subject of transgender people and faith, it’s called Twilight People. You will be able to learn about Trans & Faith Heritage in the UK, download information, watch videos and educate yourself. It should be starting sometime in February 2015. We will be running a feature on it.

So how can we help?

Those of us in the LGB Community now need to lend a hand to the T, help them get accepted, support together with the help they need. Let’s fight for their equality and acceptance. Make sure we educate ourselves and others, so that other parents don’t turn their back on their child in their time of need, so they find support and direction. We also need to get angry, angry that enough people have died, that something needs to be done, that just like being gay, lesbian or bisexual, transgender people deserve the same rights, equality than all of us. 

Let’s make sure Leelah words live on, let’s ‘fix society‘ let’s make sure we’re there to help the next lost teenage boy or girl that who needs a supportive shoulder to lean on and a friendly face to tell them ‘it’s going to be ok’.

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About Author

Mr HotSaltBeef, also known as Allan Davis, is the CEO of the HotSaltBeef brand. A self confessed geek, you're more likely to find him behind a computer than in a bar but he's willing to change all that for a nice Jewish man!

3 Comments

  1. Leanne Harris on

    As a post op Transgendered Female, I commend your words of support that are so needed in the LGBT community.

    Unlike the brave Leelah, I took the route of hiding my Gender Dysphoria from my relatively observant Jewish Parents, rather than being open with them. I lied to them every Friday Night as we gathered around the Shabbos Table, my mother lighting the Shabbos Candles and my father reciting the Kiddush. To them, I was their Son. Yet to everyone else – I was Leanne – a woman!

    I hid my misery and hate of my body to my dear parents because I thought they would NEVER understand. I hid the bullying and abuse I had suffered throughout my childhood and teenage years from my parents because I thought they would NEVER understand.
    I hid my secret life and my desire to have been born female instead of in this abhorrent male body from my parents because I thought they would NEVER understand.

    I have sadly buried both of my parents and said Kaddish for both of them over these past 10 years. It was as their Son that I buried them, and it was as their Son that I recited Kaddish. Finally, having recited the Mourners Kaddish and said farewell to my dear father in 2013, as the earth was piled onto into his grave, I kept the promise I had always made to myself, and I in turn “buried” the Male me.

    I no longer had anyone to HIDE from.

    Was this path I had taken the right path, or should I have been open and truthful with my parents?
    Was all of the pain. suffering and subterfuge I had endured really necessary?
    Would they have understood my pain and suffering?
    Would they have accepted the fact that their Son wanted, in reality, to be their Daughter?
    Would they have accepted me?

    I will NEVER know, because I was too afraid to tell them and face the consequences.

    Leelah was so brave and so honest, both to herself and her parents. Thankfully not all of us will hide our gender dysphoria or sexuality from those whom we love. More importantly, many of our loved ones, especially our Parents, WILL accept us for who and what we are, unconditionally.

    I can’t turn back time, and I can’t change the path that I took. But I firmly believe that we need to continue educate the world, to try to ensure that tragedies like that of Leelah and so so many others need not happen again.

    • Leanne, thank you so much for your message. I believe telling our stories are a great way to create awareness and understanding.

      Your story is very touching and I can’t thank you enough for sharing it on HotSaltBeef&Mustard. I am sure a lot of people can identify with it, having to hide their sexuality or gender dysmorphia and not feeling that they will be excepted by their friends and family but we need to push forward and educate and give hope to the next generation. It’s time we stood shoulder to shoulder with our transgender brothers and sisters and gave them our support and help them live the lives that I as a gay man can take advantage of now.

      I am so happy that you are here to tell your story and I am proud that you are such a wonderful woman and living the life you were so rightly born to live.

  2. Thank you Mr Hot Salt Beef. I don’t have all of the answers, but then again who does? There may be others who now find themselves in similar circumstances and if I can be of help, all they have to do is ask? It’s knowing that we are “not alone” that can provide the greatest comfort. I thought I was the only one who felt like I did – how wrong I was.

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