Transgender teen’s suicide continues to draw attention — one year later

Leelah Alcorn

Leelah Alcorn

CINCINNATI — The message of a transgender teenager who urged people to “fix society” before she stepped in front of a tractor-trailer in southwest Ohio still draws attention — one year later.

Leelah Alcorn, 17, of a northeastern Cincinnati suburb, walked onto Interstate 71 in the early morning hours of Dec. 28. Her death was deemed a suicide. A note on her Tumblr blog pleaded for her death “to mean something.”

Leelah’s selfies and poignant messages on social media hit home among many transgender people. Her death prompted social media discussions, online petitions in support of transgender people, and vigils as far away as London. She was mentioned in a Golden Globe winner’s televised speech.

Her case has helped raise awareness both nationally and in her home region.

“Leelah’s death sparked conversations around water coolers and dinner tables,” said Chris Seelbach, Cincinnati’s first openly gay councilman. “What does it mean to be transgender? Why are these people asking to be treated equally? That conversation is leading to change.”

Officials say counseling and other services have been expanded in Cincinnati in the past year.

The Cincinnati Enquirer reports that the Transgender Health Clinic at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center has tripled its caseload to 360 patients in the past year.

“Families aren’t just shoving this under the rug,” said Lee Ann Conard, who oversees the clinic started nearly three years ago. “They’re bringing in their kids. No matter where the parents are, no matter how upset they are, they’re at least bringing in their kids. They’re seeing this is way better than reparative therapy.”

The Cincinnati city council earlier this month voted to prohibit the therapy, also called “conversion therapy,” by health professionals designed to change sexual orientation or gender identity.

The Ohio Highway Patrol reported after its investigation that Alcorn had left a handwritten note on her bed — “I’ve had enough” — and had done an online search about runaway assistance and a Tumblr search for the word “suicide” before walking onto the interstate. The driver wasn’t charged; the Patrol report stated he wasn’t speeding, and that he and Alcorn both tested negative for alcohol and drugs.

Chris Fortin, a 2001 graduate of the same Kings High School that Alcorn once attended, led an Adopt-A-Highway effort in her memory. There are two signs with her name on a stretch of I-71.

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