Remembering Leelah Alcorn by picking up trash

Leelah Alcorn

Leelah Alcorn

A campaign to keep a stretch of Ohio interstate named in honor of transgender teen Leelah Alcorn is underway, and in desperate need of volunteers.

According to Equality Ohio, Chris Fortin saw a paper sign along Highway 71 serving as a memorial to Alcorn, who stepped in front of an oncoming truck in December 2014 in order to kill herself. Her suicide note went viral, explaining her despair, her frustration at her parents’ lack of acceptance and insistence on reparative therapy.

Fortin lives nearby and decided to take action, as Equality Ohio noted, after seeing a paper sign by the side of the road. “He knew it wouldn’t last. It’s not legal to put signs like that along the highway. But what is legal? Adopting a highway in Leelah’s name. And that’s just what he did.”

“I remember the day that Leelah Alcorn died by suicide on a highway just minutes from where I grew up. I was saddened that something like this had to happen for transgender issues to be brought into the spotlight… Whenever a life is lost, we have to ask ourselves why it happened and how to prevent future loss of life. Just like with the LGBT movement, education was important and still is because most who aren’t part of the community would like to learn more. From school-aged kids to adults, we all need to expand our knowledge base to be more tolerant.”

Fortin told Equality Ohio the Ohio Department of Transportation allowed him to adopt a section of the highway, with the provision that he organizes four cleanup events every year. The state put up official signage, in memory of Leelah. Fortin decided to go beyond just the cleanups, however.

“In addition to picking up trash and being visible to the community, we will hold four educational events per year, all publicized on our Facebook and Twitter pages,” he told Equality Ohio.

Fortin is recruiting volunteers via FacebookTwitterYouTube, email, and by phone at (513) 268-6126.

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