I’ve been reviewing my past posts as I put this site back together. This one, about the death of Leelah Alcorn, struck a chord with me and so I’ve reviewed and reposted it.
When I saw the death of transgirl Leelah Alcorn I was saddened. I know first hand the mental anguish that can drive someone to contemplate suicide. I know too the difficulties of being someone that society doesn’t consider “normal” and having to confront bigotry and hatred because of it.
Only when I read her suicide note and saw the Facebook post from her mother the red mist came down. How could parents, the one set of people you hope in all the world will support you, drive their own child to suicide? How could they consciously decided to commit what amounted to abuse to a child struggling with their identity and calling out for help? How could they then attempt to “whitewash” the entire tragedy and deflect blame from where it rightly belonged?
And then I realised they did it because they didn’t know any better.
In my youth I struggled with my sexuality and identity. I was labelled a “cross dresser” because I developed what I now know is a fetish for spandex. My parents, not knowing better, consulted a doctor to see if I could get “treatment”. We ended up at a child psychologist where his assessment was my parents needed to back off, let me discover myself and deal with it. My parents didn’t like that so a “don’t ask, don’t tell” philosophy developed in the house until I was spectacularly outed over a bondage related incident.
Now, as a responsible adult, I am seeing it from the other side as my own daughter struggles with her sexuality. I’m watching her mother all but ignore that side of her, adopting the same “don’t ask, don’t tell” mentality. I’m watching her mother fret about marriage and children and whether our daughter will be happy. I’m watching our daughter withdraw from their relationship because she knows she’s not being accepted.
I can’t help but wonder if the support I’m offering by daughter is directly related to my experiences as a child. If that psychologist had adopted a different tact, if he’d decided to tell my parents “it was a phase” or “he needs to be sorted out” would I be taking the same approach with her? Would I be creating the same hostile, unsupportive environment that Leelah Alcorn faced? Would I know any better?
My hope is that the parents of Leelah Alcorn face up to the fact they have lost the human being they saw as a son and she saw as a girl because they didn’t know any better. I hope they have the courage to stand up before the people who are vilifying them and say, “We got it wrong. We made a terrible mistake and the family has paid an extreme price”. I hope other parents whose children are fighting similar battles see what has happened, what their own behaviour can lead to and question whether they need to change their approach.
And if a parent can’t face up to their responsibilities to love and support their child no matter what I hope they have the good grace and good sense to at least get out of the way of those who can.
Tagged: Mental Health
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