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’.