The suicide and suicide letter of Leelah Alcorn haunt me. They have gripped my heart and not let go, squeezing tighter every time I think about them. And, I think about them often.
Leelah’s suicide affects me so deeply because, like her, my child is differently gendered — putting him in the group of children who have the highest rate of suicide attempts in the world.
That could be my child. That could have been my brother.
We grew up in very religious home. We went to youth group on Wednesday nights and church every Sunday. If you didn’t go to church, you didn’t go anywhere else.
Starting in seventh grade, at age 12, I was taught that being gay was one of the worst sins a person could commit and being transgender was unspeakable. When I was in high school and my brother came out I was afraid to tell the people at church. When I did, my pastor made to cry tears of shame and fear. That was the day my disappointment in and separation from organized religion began.
Then, along came C.J. The more gender nonconforming my son became, the less I wanted to do with church. The thing I heard – and continue to hear – most about my son is something that Leelah often heard.
“God doesn’t make mistakes.”
Religious people use the saying in their opposition to those who are differently gendered. They hope to mean that God makes everyone cisgender — with bodies and genders that align. He doesn’t. Just as not everyone is white and right handed with blonde hair and blue eyes. They feel that if my son is gender nonconforming, it’s a mistake and it’s my fault.
My son, with his boy body, girl brain and pure heart, is not a mistake. My unconditional love for him is not a mistake. No part of C.J. is an inaccuracy, error or blunder. He is perfectly created by – if you are a believer – a God who does not make mistakes. My son and Leelah were perfectly made.
God doesn’t make mistakes, people do.
Often they make mistakes in God’s name. The bulk of the hate mail I receive (I’d say at least 80 percent) is from religious people who say outright or strongly imply that they are speaking on behalf or at the inspiration of God or his son Jesus Christ. They spew vile, hateful, graphic words at my family and me in the name of a god who explicitly preached to spread love. When people write those things to me and press the send button, I picture their God and their Jesus in heaven shedding a tear and shaking their heads. This is not how he intended his disciples to witness. Of this I am sure.
And, that is not how he wants parents to parent the children he has given to them. Bullying your child into the path of a semitrailer is no way parent. No way to be a human being. No way to call yourself a Christian. That’s a lot to have to answer for at the pearly gates on judgment day. I hope Leelah’s parents and all other homophobic and transphobic Christians are prepared when that day comes.
Amazing post, so true
Hello, I have been following you for a long while, however not consistently. But I am grateful for your story, for your parenting gives me strength. I am a bi-sexual women…. however I at times feel like a man in a woman’s body, I guess that’s what it means in a way to be bi-sexual, meaning you have both aspects of life within you at your core. I have always felt this way, however I never came out until I was 25 because I felt so much fear and hatred from others. There were many times that I went down the dark spiral of abyss of hatred of others, allowing people to judge me, and a greater part, me judging myself and hating myself for being this feeling creature. You said it so well, we are all simply meant to spread love, however many humans make mistakes because they are wanting to cast blame or hatred onto others for their pain. My mother was and still is one of my greatest bullies within this, She mentioned to me that I am her greatest fear incarnated. The one thing she was most afraid of when she was pregnant for her children and they were growing was that one of them would come out as gay. She is still in denial that I enjoy both sexes, and personally I feel a deeper attraction towards women, but I haven’t fully expressed that to her, because she keeps denying me and my values and what I love and who I am at my core. I’m not sure she will ever understand me, nor do I expect her to. But that feeling of unworthiness and hatred has been so grand at times. I am thankful for the love of the universe, the acceptance of others along my path for they have helped me gain some added footing under my feet especially after I felt as though my footing was ripped completely out from under me at the hands of the hate and vileness spewed on me by my own parents. That distasteful hatred judgemental belief system has to be eradicated from our minds. My heart hurts not simply for the pain in which I have personally felt through my journey but the pain in which I know that all other LGBT children and adults alike face within. I am grateful that you are growing a strong son who will be able to navigate his own in this world once he leaves your nest. Love is and always will be stronger than hatred and fear. I hope for one day where all beings can live happily, healthily and in enjoyment of their personal lives without being pained by the backlash of others ignorance. This I dream for on many levels. May peace, happiness, love and many rainbow blessings be sent your way.
I wonder if those on the religious “right” (those making nasty comments/sending hate mail and condemning anyone who doesn’t fit into their ideal mold of how/what a human being should act/”be”) would feel so judgemental and quick to condemn if one of their children came out as LGBT?
“I’m never going to have enough love to satisfy me. I’m never going to be happy.” The lack of hope is the first reason for suicide. Not stupid people, not unloving parents, not Christian people… I wish that Leelah will be the last LGBTQ person to feel so lonely so hopeless. Her death is our responsibility, of all of us, Christian or not, parents or not. Every time we see someone alone and do not act anything to comfort and support, that’s our responsibility, not God’s.
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I keep rereading this and getting chills each time. I am 37+ weeks pregnant with our first child. I just couldn’t even fathom every in a million years treating this child like that. You said this so well. Thank you.
I have such a hard time with the whole religion/god thing. I am a lesbian in the south. I struggle daily with it… there is so much hatred, especially here in the bible belt. Friends try to get me to go to church… but their church has it written in their by-laws that gays are sinners and not allowed to be ministers to people… and I’m told, but our church is different… but it’s not. They seem to be all the same when you dig a little bit. And even the churches that welcome us still insist that being gay is a “sin”…. I have yet to hear any churches say that this is the way god made me so it’s perfectly ok… Most of the time I just want to say I give up, I’m an atheist. But I believe being an atheist in TN is worse than being a lesbian!
I love your blog, and the above is so well written. You are such a wonderful mother!
From another Lori in TN!
Lori, I just want to mention here that Unitarian Universalist churches actually are different. I’m sure that not all UU churches are equal, but in general they are very welcoming. I don’t think there is a concept of “sin” in UU religion, at least not as far as I understand it. Even if there were sin, being gay is perfectly fine. Also UUs are not expected or required to believe in God. Many people in my UU congregation do not.
Below are a couple of references about GLBT policies etc:
GLBT people are ordained ministers. UU churches have held commitment ceremonies and marriages for same sex couples for decades now.
If there is not a UU church in your area, you can check out the church of the larger fellowship, which is an online UU congregation.
I’m sorry if this sounds in any way like I’m pushing religion. I don’t mean to at all. I’ve found a lot of friendship in my church and I wish I’d found it a couple of decades earlier. At least want to say that there are churches that are different.
There’s also MCC which is a denomination explicitly for GLBT people.
AMEN. I’m posting this on Facebook.
As usual, so incredibly well said!
I often wondered how God loving people can be so hateful. I doubt Jesus would’ve acted this way. God is love the bible says. People are just ignorant at times. Good post!
I have absolutely no doubt that you’re 100% right. CJ is exactly who he is supppsed to be. A beautiful child. And you’re an equally beautiful mom.
I have read everything I can find about Leelah’s story, her posts on Reddit, her tumblr back to the beginning, grieving for her loss, grieving for her parent’s loss, grieving, grieving, and I have not cried.
Until this post, which reduced me to tears, unlocking the box where there can be healing. I’m so glad you exist, and that CJ exists, and that you exist together.
“My son, with his boy body, girl brain and pure heart, is not a mistake. My unconditional love for him is not a mistake.”
No, they are not, Lori.
Thank you for this.
I find myself thinking of Leelah at odd times of the day; wishing she was alive and with a family who truly understands unconditional love. There’s been such an outpouring of support for her. If only she knew how much people cared.
Forgot to add, her parents took down her Tumblr page so your link doesn’t work. However there’s an archived version that can be found here: http://web.archive.org/web/20150101040547/http://lazerprincess.tumblr.com/
Yeah, I’d guess they were so embarrassed by what they’d done, or at least I hope so. Wonder if it will ever sink in to them? I was appalled that mom posted after the fact about her sweet boy who was merely struck by a truck on 71, as if it were an accident that she or leelah had no part of.
In the vein of why god would choose to send this child to her and her husband, I would venture to guess that it was to give them the opportunity to open their eyes and hearts, or someone else’s in that judgmental community, when without her that may not have been possible. Perhaps that was their lesson this time around.
As Laura H says, you said it all perfectly and you’re an amazing mother and person. you act wonderfully and answer those evil words with perfect prose and understanding. your son is perfect the way he is, because he is. your a perfect mother because you’re supportive and chose to follow your own guts and your beliefs. Keep it up!
Follow your heart and may 2015 bring light in the mind of those who have not understand the concept of goodness upon others.
Wonderful true post. No one’s sexuality nor heart is my concern. I needn’t make judgment of any soul. My role is love my children. Who knows what is in another’s sole? Who am I to presume I know the worth of a person based on the little I see
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You are amazing…..and spot on…..as always.
So much wisdom we all must have! 😊
Watch the Lifetime movie “Prayers for Bobby.” It’s based on a true story and will move you to tears.
My dear sister hope this scribe catches you well. I enjoy reading your blog immenseky. You kerp strong in what you do and raise him to the best of what your heart can give. I wS a born again christian as well as roman catholic and honey from experience my best men in bed were the most holidr than thou. Hiding behind the bible and the cross for self righteous publicity. I was also at one point in my life trans and I can tell you from experience that having a mothers love made the world of a difference. I cared less what ppl thought and because my mother Accepted me and loved me confrontation was easier to deal with.
Shared your post on my FB page today, with the following comments:
I love the “Raising My Rainbow” blog.
Yesterday, I read Leelah’s suicide note and wept. She articulated so well the pain of being trapped in a prison of judgment-drenched religious ideology where the jailers are your own family whose love for their ideas of “right and “wrong runs deeper than their love for their complex, challenging, splendid, boundary-exploding kids who don’t–and can’t–conform to their parents’ ideas of who/how they should be. How I wish someone could have reached between those bars and helped Leelah plan her jailbreak before it became so unbearable that she gave up on fighting to be free. Today, the grief feels a little lighter reading this blogpost, knowing that others’ hearts also ache at Leelah’s words, and that some of them are the hearts of parents who ARE ready to take on the challenge of fully seeing and honoring who their children are–beyond preconceptions and fears, parents who are strong enough and open-hearted enough to shed fears or ideologies that stand in the way of fully embracing, protecting and nurturing the precious uniqueness of that child.
My heart breaks for Leelah, the pain, torture and rejection he lived. When will this madness end? When will people wake up and live from their hearts instead of from a place of fear? Lori, the work you are doing is helping to change the world.
Mother Monster #2!! 😉 Gaga is #1………:)
Society fears what they don’t understand, things that are different from the norm or isn’t popular with the masses. However power and strength come from those brave enough to break from the path to create new norms.
Perhaps as a result of this senseless tragedy, 2015 will be the year we really begin the effort, at least the serious and open discussion, that “stuff” is not inherently gendered. There is no boy stuff or girl stuff but it is all just stuff. There is no masculine or feminine colors, they’re just colors. Girls have made huge strides in this regard but boys have been woefully ignored in this conversation, as if there is only one kind of boy and he must conform to that or else he just simply isn’t a boy. Not only is that wrong but it’s dangerous.
Jenna lyons started this conversation in 2011, now almost 4 years ago for having fun with her son beckett while painting his toes. There has been some improvement since then as a result of the conversation being brought to the fore. Now it’s time to build on it.
Target for example likes to show all manners of diversity in their ads, they are very proud of their stance. So maybe they show boys playing with pink ez bake ovens while their girl playmate waits for the result, or cuddling a new baby doll while the aforementioned playmate looks on approvingly. In any event it’s time to move on and start to show diversity in action.
I love what you wrote, and at the same time wish this was no longer an issue for all the children, teens, & adults, too. My heart goes out to dear Leelah Alcorn, and all the lonely individuals out there.
I, too, have separated from the church due to the mixed messages they send. I believe our God preaches love not hate. So, until I find a church that is loving & accepting of all, we will no longer attend.
My wish for 2015 is that messages of love & acceptance will prevail, so no more of our youths’ lives are lost. I have to believe the world will be a better place for my transgender daughter, and all the gender nonconforming children.
I still have tears in my eyes from reading about this earlier. My heart just breaks for Leelah and as an agnostic, I can’t help but feel if there is a God, he did make a mistake when he sent this child to people who could not love her unconditionally and protect her. Every time I do want to believe there is a God, I hear about some more vile hatred done in the name of God that makes me think he couldn’t possibly exist. I’ve met very few Christians that act anything like Jesus supposedly acted yet they’re offended that I remain unconvinced.
I do understand the visceral fear that we parents have that make that thought spring into your mind that this could be CJ, but this won’t be CJ’s experience. CJ has a family that love and celebrate him for exactly who he is and he knows that. If there is a God, he did get it right when he sent CJ to you. If only all kids were as lucky.
So very sad. Thank you, Lori for all you do for LGBTQ people of all ages. Our 25 year old gay son tells me that most of the gay people he knows are atheists. Why would you go to church when most people at those churches hate you so much? For all the “Christians” out there who believe that the only way to heaven is through Jesus Christ: thank you very much for excluding all LGBTQ people from that opportunity by not allowing them to feel welcome in your churches.
We love our gay son, his partner & friends. We pray that someday he will come back to his faith. Fortunately our Methodist faith is more liberal than most Christian groups. RIP, Leelah.
You said it all so well. Bless you and your family.
Loved what you said so so perfectly! Thanks for bringing this to light as always. Hopefully someday there won’t be the labels and we will all live together in a society that is totally accepting!
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I sobbed through Leelah’s letter. I couldn’t stop myself from looking around me, at myself, at those in my life who are not part of societal norms. I wept for the loss of a young life lost because of ignorance, fear, and judgement. I thank God for parents like you every day, Lori. The ones who care, the ones who know that a person whose gender and genetics not matching up is not a mistake but a part of the human experience. Those who encourage their children to be who they are, be that gay, straight, trans*, bi, gender non-conforming, whatever. I’m glad that CJ has parents who are supportive and I pray that more and more parents follow your example. I also pray that Leelah has found peace.
When I heard about this I was at a loss for words. Leelah’s letter was eye-opening and heart wrenching, and while I knew I felt sadness for the trans* community and our communities as a whole, I struggled with sorting out her Christian roots and how a community based around love can be so hateful. This post was exactly what I needed. Thank you.
Reblogged this on Tales of a North Shore Princess and commented:
i lost a best friend to suicide and it still haunts me 30 years later. This post made me cry and touched my heart
Reblogged this on Peacfulyogamama and commented:
Knowledge that needs to be shared and understood 🙏❤️
Thank you for sharing 🙏 blessings to you and your son and i hope
Leelah is at peace ❤️ such a tradgic loss just because humans cant open their minds! Lets educate and spread the knowledge! Lets shine the light in the dark corners so our kids can grow up safe and understood instead of in pain and judged! 🙏❤️
Thank you so much – great post. I’m transgendered too and a regular reader. You continue to inspire :o). From a Christian background with a fundamentalist spouse, I get put under a huge amount of pressure to allow God to ‘fix’ me. I’ve done everything the church has ever prescribed to ‘cure’ myself and for whatever reason God has chosen not to do that for me. I’m told that it is because I don’t want to be cured enough. Over years and years (I’m 40) I have sincerely shed tears and cried out to be different – but again, nothing. As you describe, it is heartbreaking when otherwise good hearted people, call it sinful and evil and tell me that it is because I’m demon possessed. I wish they would sometimes step back and realise that the vitriol they create is doing more harm that good – its turning away the people they are called primarily to love.
“Forgive them, Lord, for they know not what they do.”
I always think that if there is such a thing as a god, an omnipotent being, than that in itself implies he knows all and therefore all he does is planned/intended. Whatever that may be and it is very likely we don’t understand the why or the how or the who (“Why me?”). I am not a religious person, but I am also not ignorant of religion. People are scared beings, especially if they don’t understand – which is often. Western society is by no means perfect and we still have lots to work on and your family is contributing to that. Goodluck for the New Year 🙂
Thank you for writing this. I have been so sad and so angry about Leelah’s story. I hope that her articulate suicide note and responses like this post will help bring much needed changes.
very well said. Leelah’s death has been on my mind since I first heard the news. As a mother, I simply cannot imagine putting belief before my children.
Reblogged this on JerBear's Queer World News, Views & More From The City Different – Santa Fe, NM and commented:
A must read response from the mother of a gender creative child on the Leelah Alcorn tragedy…
Agreed. Such a tragedy.
Thanks for the post. I needed it. I too have been gripped by this story and felt hurt all day. I always think, as you do, that could be my son. I love him so much and I want him to always remember he is perfect the way he is. Thanks for again being a haven I can come to when I’m feeling so downtrodden!
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Being transgendered is a sin, eh? Better exterminate the entire earthworm population, then! As a trans/fluid person who’s only recently “found” myself, I know the pain and confusion, as well as the cognitive dissonance sometimes necessary. I just wish I could send along a good chunk of my strength and resilience to your son, and to every single person in this world who struggles.
Reblogged this on A Momma's View and commented:
Parenting should be about love and acceptance and not bullying your child. I love this post so much. It nails it…
Btw, I don’t think there is such a thing as transgender any longer, at least not in the way it’s generally referred to. Alot of that has been because of reading you and others Lori, so thank you. I believe it is the world that’s out of sync with reality in that there is no either this OR that, but what is reality is all through a spectrum of both/and. I believe there has been a turning point in that old way of thinking, albeit a small and early one, but i’m going to bet that soon you’ll see a major shift. Hopefully those who express on that spectrum will have enough love and support to be there when it arrives. But it is coming.
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I also a have a transgender child and I agree with everything you say. Thank you for voicing my words once again. A tragic way to start 2015. Thank you for sharing Leelah’s Art. My heart breaks for these kids whose parents don’t understand and give them a safe place to be.
Thank you for this; I’m a teacher to trans middle school students – plural. I’m happy to say that in the last few years, I’ve seen more kids publicly identifying as being trans – and seen our loving community support them as such. There is hope.
You’re right. God does not make mistakes. This was all intended for His/Her teasons. The same folk who say god is perfect in the same breayh say S/He made a mistake by at least allowing the child to have free will. Makes no sense to me.
Just this past week, my niece in law came out as transgender. This same niece was criticized so badly for being gay but of course now the family is completely off game. Makes me laugh in an odd way. My response to my BiL, his uncle, was that well now you don’t have to get all whacked out because he’s gay since he was really straight all along. That garnered me no points. Oh well.
Thank you. This is such a tragedy. I wish parents would understand that yes it can be a disappointment to not have your kids turn out the way you thought they would – maybe they’re not into sports or science like you’d hoped, maybe they’re gay or gave up their promising career in finance to become a buddhist monk – but what is a little disappointment compared a dead child? This sort of thinking has always boggled me.
If God is love, then God is in those of us who love our children unconditionally. God is not with those who hate. I am so happy to share this world with you and all the CJs of the world. May your New Year be bright!
Sent from my iPhone
My five year old grandson received a gift card to Toys R Us for Christmas, and I went with him and my daughter for his “shopping spree”. Now, he seems to thoroughly enjoy being a ” typical” boy. He has tons of Hot Wheels, trucks, etc. But he also has tons of stuffed animals, and a baby doll I gave him when he was two, that he also loves. A couple of times when I have taken him shopping for a toy, he has expressed interest in something and then said, “But that’s a girl toy, huh, Nanni?”. I always tell him, ” There is no such thing as girl toys or boy toys. There are only toys you like, and if that is what you want, I will get it for you”. At Toys R Us the other night, he wanted an umbrella, and the one he picked was purple with ruffles. I don’t think the color or the ruffles mattered to him, he wanted one with a cane handle, and that was the only one. In the end, there was another toy he wanted more than the umbrella and he couldn’t get both with his gift card. But for all that I consider myself this bleeding heart liberal and strongly support LGBT rights, I confess that my first thought was, “If he takes that umbrella to school, the kids will make fun of him”. And that thought broke my heart.
I admire you so much, Lori. I don’t know how you have the strength to send your precious child out into this cruel world. And my heart breaks for Leelah that she not only faced rejection and ridicule by those out in the world, but also in her home, where every child should feel safe. And yes, my heart breaks for her parents, too. They will either realize too late how they failed their child, and have to live with that. Or they will never realize it and continue to live in ignorance. Either way seems a sad way to live.
If you ever want to try “organized” religion again, check out the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers). The faith holds up the values of peace, community, equality, simplicity, service, and integrity. The meeting my family attends is very welcoming and inclusive of ALL people, believing that there is that of God in every individual. (There are east coast – west coast differences in Quakerism that I don’t know much about; we are east-coasters).
I continue to hold you and your family in the Light and have such great respect for you as a mom.
Happy and safe new year to you all!
i completely agree. As a Christian parent of a 7-year-old transchild, I too believe God doesn’t make mistakes. Our child is exactly who she’s meant to be; exactly who God made her to be. Far be it from me to go against the higher power who entrusted her into our care. We love & treasure our child because we’re parents. Leelah’s parents were given a beautiful & unique light to protect & nurture, and they threw her away. The world is a little darker now without Leelah’s shining light.
I join you in feeling the pain and pointlessness of this suicide. I believe that God doesn’t make mistakes. CJ in all his fabulousness is not a mistake and neither is anyone else.
People are afraid of what they don’t understand/what is different. They will cling to whatever excuse comes along to justify their fear as being ‘right’. There is no denying that awful things have been done through the millennia in the name of this or that God. As a progressive Christian, I agree that this type of judgment and forceful attempted changing of people is not what Jesus probably had in mind when he said love one another. I know there are a lot of religious folks out there who would agree with us.
Thank you for being your honest truthful self. You are making a huge difference and I look forward to continuing to read and repost your wisdom and educational points in the new year. I pray that 2015 will be a year where all people will be seen for their inherent worth and loved for who they are.
I so totally agree with you Lori ,you are so courageous and loving. You are the antithesis of those who caused such a tragedy and you stand as a shining example to all of us. This kind of insanity makes me want to hug your C.J. and say “Hey kiddo, you know what, you are 100% A-Ok and perfect just the way you are.” Even more I’d tell C.J., never EVER change because someone tells you to change or tries to force you to into it in the name of religion or anything — only change if YOU want to change and it feels right to you in your heart and mind. I’m thankful that C.J. has you and such a loving, caring and accepting family. Bless all of you in 2015!
I love reading your posts – they always bring a smile to my face – even this one that has tragic loss and your sadness in it. If want a world free of judgement of others and ourselves. How does judgement service any of us? We’ll get there – CJ will show us the way by being his pure-hearted self – the only person he knows how to be. We could all use a lesson in happily being ourself. Squeeze CJ with love for me. Thank you for being you and sharing your family!
Reblogged this on Charissa's Grace Notes and commented:
Constance, the amazing Lori Duron says it best. Please read her post below. I am still processing this horror, but may have some thoughts in a few days.
Walk Humbly. Just that.
She was just 17, the same age as my (not yet out) daughter; it shook me to the core. When I read the story I went to my daughter, hugged her tight and told her if she ever came across anyone who needed love and acceptance to bring them home. I don’t understand how people can misinterpret God, who is only love, so badly. May we be the voices of change and love that Leelah so desperately needed and asked for.
God doesn’t make mistakes! God created your son to be wonderfully and wondrously unique! It amazes me in this day & age that people still think that gender is simply the “parts” on your bodyand the mind plays no role in that. My heart is broken for Leelah. My heart is broken that she felt so hopeless and isolated. We need to find a way, as Harvey Milk said, to give them hope!
The same people who have made distressing/insulting/demeaning/hurtful comments to your brother, you, and the transgender children who have committed suicide are those without souls. They are judgmental fools believing their way of worship is the only “good/proper” way of belief. I am so very, very sorry that this has happened to your family.
The meaness/unkindness shown to you is being done by those who’s belief system has become twisted and cruel and is not a true version of faith and belief of true Christians.
Thank you so much for writing this. You’re such a gem and you give me hope for future generations who are/will be LGBTQ and who are/will parent LGBTQ kids. I shared this post on FB but have not posted RE Leelah b/c it is just so heartbreaking.
You have at least one “Rev. Dr.” here saying a hearty “AMEN!!!” and “Thank you.”
I too have felt such deep sorrow over this and the backlash as well. Lori, as always your eloquence is surpassed only by your huge loving heart.
Before I read that suicide note I had never come across that phrase being used in an anti trans way. I’d only ever heard it used by LGBT folk, affirming their own identity. R
Oh how much I love this post!
Bravo…perfectly stated. You’re an amazing mother and person. Thank you for all you do on behalf of all children.