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.