Transgender teen Leelah Alcorn’s death stirs action in U.S. and beyond

Leelah Alcorn memorial

Stacy Manning, left, and Jessica Freeman gather with a large crowd at Kings Mills High School for a candle light vigil on Jan. 3, 2015, to remember the life of Leelah Alcorn, a 17 year-old transgender girl who committed suicide, in Kings Mills, Ohio. In what's believed to be her final message, Alcorn implored: "My death needs to mean something." It has, at least making her a poignant new face for the transgender movement and those struggling to fit in. Meg Vogel, The Enquirer (AP)

Leelah Alcorn memorialMeg Vogel, The Enquirer (AP)

Stacy Manning, left, and Jessica Freeman gather with a large crowd at Kings Mills High School for a candle light vigil on Jan. 3, 2015, to remember the life of Leelah Alcorn, a 17 year-old transgender girl who committed suicide, in Kings Mills, Ohio. In what’s believed to be her final message, Alcorn implored: “My death needs to mean something.” It has, at least making her a poignant new face for the transgender movement and those struggling to fit in.

CINCINNATI — Leelah Alcorn wrote a note on her Tumblr blog, then walked through the night and into the path of a tractor-trailer rumbling down a highway. In the final message attributed to her, she pleaded: “My death needs to mean something. … Fix society. Please.”

Although many details about her life and tragic end are still unclear, the transgender Ohio 17-year-old became, within days of her death Dec. 28, the new face of a growing movement of people hungering for acceptance.

Leelah Alcorn

Leelah Alcorn

Anne Neal, left, embraces Alysia Jones after they both spoke at the vigil at Kings Mills High School to remember the life of Leelah Alcorn.Meg Vogel, The Enquirer (AP)

Anne Neal, left, embraces Alysia Jones after they both spoke at the vigil at Kings Mills High School to remember the life of Leelah Alcorn.

From the parking lot of her former suburban high school to London’s Trafalgar Square, thousands have attended vigils in memory of Leelah. Tens of thousands have discussed her on social media or signed online petitions in support of transgender people.

And a Golden Globe winner dedicated the award to her on national television.

“It was the right time and place for Leelah’s story,” Jill Soloway, creator of the TV series “Transparent”- about a father who comes out as a transgender woman – told The Associated Press. “There are so many people like Leelah. There are so many stories.”

Alcorn’s selfies and poignant messages hit home among many transgender people who say they have faced disapproving families, discrimination or violence.

Many hope the discussion generated by her death will lead to more acceptance of transgender people and reassure them that they are not alone.

Studies have found extraordinarily high suicide and attempted suicide rates among transgender youth. A 2010 survey found 41 percent of transgender people responding said they had tried to kill themselves.

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