June is Pride Month.
Leelah Alcorn just wanted to be happy.
At 14, Leelah came out to her parent as transgender. Doug and Carla Alcorn, devout followers of the Church of Christ, were mortified. They refused to accept Leelah’s identity. Leelah pressed and stood firm, despite her parent’s denial. At 16, instead of supporting Leelah’s request for transition treatment, they enrolled her in their church’s conversion therapy program. They exacerbated the situation by removing her from public school and revoking her social media privileges. Leelah grew more alienated and lonely. She grew more frustrated with her parents as well as her own dead-end future.
Leelah was enrolled in an online school and at the end of the semester, her parents returned her cellphone. Leelah tried to rekindle friendships, but she found the task difficult. She took to Reddit to vent about her parents’ mental abuse. She explained that they spoke to her in a mocking tone, telling her things like: “You’ll never be a real girl!” and “God hates you and you don’t deserve to be alive.”
Just after Christmas 2014, Leelah used Tumblr’s timing option to publish a suicide note that would automatically “go live” just after Leelah’s plans to take her own life had transpired. She left her house with her computer and began to walk along Interstate 71 in Union Township, Ohio. At 2:30 in the morning, Leelah was stuck and killed by a semi-tractor-trailer, fulfilling her plan of suicide by vehicle.
In the wake of Leelah’s death, her parent’s public statement referred to Leelah by her dead name. They also campaigned to have her suicide note on Tumblr deleted, a request which was granted.
A petition bearing the name “Leelah’s Law,” was created in an effort to ban conversion therapy. By 2018, four cities in Ohio had passed the law, prompting one journalist to write: “the Buckeye State has become an unlikely leader in banning conversion therapy at the local level.”