WASHINGTON — More than 300 people gathered in the nation’s capital on Saturday raise awareness of issues facing transgender individuals and to honor a 17-year-old transgender teen who took her own life last month.
Demonstrators gathered at the “Justice for Leelah Alcorn Rally and March” in Washington D.C. to speak out against transphobia and conversion therapy for LGBT youth, and raise awareness of health and policy concerns affecting the transgender community, reports News2Share.
The gathering was named for Leelah Alcorn, who died in the early morning hours on Dec. 28 after stepping in front of a semi truck on Interstate 71 near Lebanon, Ohio.
Leelah’s suicide was explained in a note she left on her Tumblr page, in which she blamed years of bullying and harassment, rejection from her parents, and for being subjected to Christian counseling and conversion therapy.
Article continues belowHer death has resonated within the LGBT community, sparking demonstrations and candlelight vigils around the world.
“Oppression manifests in every aspect of our lives, but the way structural oppression is set up will have you to believe that we need to be fixed,” said Lourdes Ashley Hunter, the National Director for Trans Women of Color Collective, at the gathering (video).
“I’m here to tell you, we don’t need to be fixed there is nothing wrong with us. What is wrong is society’s depraved existence, willful ignorance, complicity, and inactive engagement which refuse trans people humanity and right to life,” said Hunter.
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Leelah’s death has mobilized the transgender community and its allies to call for new protections and an end to conversion therapy for gay and transgender youth in response to the teen’s final plea to “fix society.”
“When I was 14, I learned what transgender meant and cried of happiness. After 10 years of confusion I finally understood who I was,” Leelah wrote in her suicide note.
“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.”
Since Leelah’s death, more than 300,000 people have signed a Change.org petition calling for a national ban on transgender reparative therapy.
Only two states — California and New Jersey — and the District of Columbia have enacted laws banning the practice on LGBT youth.
A 2010 study by from the National Center for Transgender Equality report that 41 percent of people who are transgender or gender-nonconforming have attempted suicide sometime in their lives, nearly nine times the national average.
Additionally, more than 50 percent of transgender youth will have had at least one suicide attempt by their 20th birthday.
Photos courtesy News2Share Productions.
Additional photos and video from Saturday’s rally is here →
Editor’s Note: If you or a young person you know is LGBT and thinking about suicide, please call The Trevor Lifeline at 1-866-488-7386, or the Trans Lifeline at 1-877-565-8860. For adults over 24, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.