While the figures came from Argentina, they are probably applicable to many other countries. What those numbers tell us is, among other things, that too many of us die too soon, and for the same reason: hate.
Even in countries with trans-friendly laws and policies--like Argentina--or those where there is a high level of education and awareness among many sectors of the population, or those with advanced medical care, the life expectancy of trans people is shorter, often by decades, than it is for the rest of the population.
Much of the reason for this is the discrimination and other forms of rejection that leave too many of us unemployed and homeless--or, in the cases of many younger trans people, selling drugs or their bodies on mean streets and desolate back alleys. Resorting to such things to survive means, of course, that death--whether by a needle, bullet or knife, or from within--can come at any moment.
But for every one who dies that way, there are others who die by their own hand. I can't even begin to count how many times I contemplated suicide when I was living as male. And I know that two friends of mine killed themselves because they could not deal with the conflict between what their minds and spirits told them, what their bodies indicated and what expectations they tried to fulfill--and the rejection, shame, ridicule and pure-and-simple meanness they faced in spite (or, perhaps, because) of their efforts.
Add to those numbers Leelah Alcorn of Kings Mills, Ohio. The 17-year-old left this on her blog, Lazer Princess:
If you are reading this, it means that I have committed suicide and obviously failed to delete this post from my queue.
Please don’t be sad, it’s for the better. The life I would’ve lived isn’t worth living in… because I’m transgender. I could go into detail explaining why I feel that way, but this note is probably going to be lengthy enough as it is. To put it simply, I feel like a girl trapped in a boy’s body, and I’ve felt that way ever since I was 4. I never knew there was a word for that feeling, nor was it possible for a boy to become a girl, so I never told anyone and I just continued to do traditionally “boyish” things to try to fit in.
When I was 14, I learned what transgender meant and cried of happiness. After 10 years of confusion I finally understood who I was. I immediately told my mom, and she reacted extremely negatively, telling me that it was a phase, that I would never truly be a girl, that God doesn’t make mistakes, that I am wrong. If you are reading this, parents, please don’t tell this to your kids. Even if you are Christian or are against transgender people don’t ever say that to someone, especially your kid. That won’t do anything but make them hate them self. That’s exactly what it did to me.
My mom started taking me to a therapist, but would only take me to christian therapists, (who were all very biased) so I never actually got the therapy I needed to cure me of my depression. I only got more christians telling me that I was selfish and wrong and that I should look to God for help.
When I was 16 I realized that my parents would never come around, and that I would have to wait until I was 18 to start any sort of transitioning treatment, which absolutely broke my heart. The longer you wait, the harder it is to transition. I felt hopeless, that I was just going to look like a man in drag for the rest of my life. On my 16th birthday, when I didn’t receive consent from my parents to start transitioning, I cried myself to sleep.
I formed a sort of a “fuck you” attitude towards my parents and came out as gay at school, thinking that maybe if I eased into coming out as trans it would be less of a shock. Although the reaction from my friends was positive, my parents were pissed. They felt like I was attacking their image, and that I was an embarrassment to them. They wanted me to be their perfect little straight christian boy, and that’s obviously not what I wanted.
So they took me out of public school, took away my laptop and phone, and forbid me of getting on any sort of social media, completely isolating me from my friends. This was probably the part of my life when I was the most depressed, and I’m surprised I didn’t kill myself. I was completely alone for 5 months. No friends, no support, no love. Just my parent’s disappointment and the cruelty of loneliness.
At the end of the school year, my parents finally came around and gave me my phone and let me back on social media. I was excited, I finally had my friends back. They were extremely excited to see me and talk to me, but only at first. Eventually they realized they didn’t actually give a shit about me, and I felt even lonelier than I did before. The only friends I thought I had only liked me because they saw me five times a week.
After a summer of having almost no friends plus the weight of having to think about college, save money for moving out, keep my grades up, go to church each week and feel like shit because everyone there is against everything I live for, I have decided I’ve had enough. I’m never going to transition successfully, even when I move out. I’m never going to be happy with the way I look or sound. I’m never going to have enough friends to satisfy me. I’m never going to have enough love to satisfy me. I’m never going to find a man who loves me. I’m never going to be happy. Either I live the rest of my life as a lonely man who wishes he were a woman or I live my life as a lonelier woman who hates herself. There’s no winning. There’s no way out. I’m sad enough already, I don’t need my life to get any worse. People say “it gets better” but that isn’t true in my case. It gets worse. Each day I get worse.
That’s the gist of it, that’s why I feel like killing myself. Sorry if that’s not a good enough reason for you, it’s good enough for me. As for my will, I want 100% of the things that I legally own to be sold and the money (plus my money in the bank) to be given to trans civil rights movements and support groups, I don’t give a shit which one. 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. 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.
"Please don't be sad, it's for the better." If a line like that isn't a gut-punch, I don't know what is. "The life I would've lived isn't worth living in"--wait for it--"because I'm transgender." As I relate that line, I am not fighting tears, but I am fighting the anger I feel roiling up from within me.
She felt that her life wouldn't be worth living because she was transgender. I felt the same goddamned fucking way when I was her age, and before that, and long after that. (I will curse through the rest of this post. I make no apologies.) It's been a long time since I was her age, but from reading her note, I have to conclude not one fucking thing has changed. Not one.
The only difference is that she experienced, overtly, the sort of hostility I might've faced had I "come out" as a teenager. As it was, I experienced taunts and innuendoes. But she at least had "friends" on social media who were supportive. However, she lost them for five months because her parents pulled her out of public school and forbade her from using social media.
Now, if I had a trans child, I might take him or her out of public school for one reason: bullying, whether it came from other kids, teachers or administrators. I would educate that child myself, or hire people who could. And I would not allow anyone to wreck whatever self-esteem my child might have.
Unfortunately, Leelah's parents didn't think that way. They fancied themselves as devout Christians and, from what I've read, it seems that her mother in particular was particularly judgmental and un-accepting. She enrolled Leelah in "Christian" school and sent her to "Christian" therapists, who told her she was a selfish sinner who should simply let God help her become the man He intended her to be.
Notice that I used the word "Christian" in quotation marks and said Leelah's parents fancied themselves as Christians. Well, I have a good reason for that. If you've been following this blog, you might recall that I started going to church about a year and a half ago. Sometimes I struggle with it precisely because of people like Leelah's parents--of whom, fortunately, there are none (that I know of, anyway) in my parish--and folks like the Reverend Fred Phelps of the Westboro Baptist Church. I don't claim to have the "right" interpretation of the Bible or of Christianity. Then again, I'm not sure anybody does. Still, I cannot understand how anyone can call him- or her-self a Christian when he or she is using faith and the Bible to rationalize hate and intolerance.
If you think I am being harsh, take a look at what Leelah's mother wrote:
"My sweet 16 year old son, Joshua Ryan Alcorn went home to Heaven this morning. He went out for an early morning walk and was hit by a truck."
Bitch, are you fucking clueless, or what? Your daughter walked in front of a truck on I-71 after writing the post telling us that her life would never be worth living. She didn't "go out for an early morning walk" any more than my friend Corey was measuring the height of his ceiling when he hung himself from the rafter.
Whatever else happens, I hope that Leelah's last request--that all of her belongings be sold and the proceeds donated to transgender civil rights and support groups--is honored. And I hope, Mrs. Alcorn, that you understand what agape and philia are and that, if you can give to your daughter, now, what you couldn't give her in life--and that, if you have other kids, you can give it to them.
If you can't, I hope others will. I will, as best as I can. That is one reason why I won't abandon the faith I re-discovered so recently in my life.