My death needs to mean something.
December 30, 2014 9:28 AM   Subscribe

17 year old Leelah Alcorn died last weekend when she was struck and killed by a tractor-trailer on I-71; her suicide note (tw: suicide, transphobia) has been shared tens of thousands of times in the wake of her death, as part of her wish that her 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." posted by roomthreeseventeen (290 comments total) 45 users marked this as a favorite
 
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Rest In Peace, Leelah. I'm sorry that you couldn't find comfort and safety in this world.
posted by echolalia67 at 9:35 AM on December 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


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posted by Gymnopedist at 9:36 AM on December 30, 2014


People say “it gets better” but that isn’t true in my case. It gets worse. Each day I get worse.
Ugh, this is fucking tragic. I am not trans, but I was a severely depressed teenager once, and am glad now I did not go through with my desire to commit suicide. I wish she had held out a little longer -- she is probably right it would never have been an easy life, but I am sure it would have gotten at least marginally better once she was able to get away from her terrible parents.

I am sharing this on Tumblr. Thank you for posting.
posted by Librarypt at 9:37 AM on December 30, 2014 [9 favorites]


Jesus.
posted by odinsdream at 9:37 AM on December 30, 2014


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posted by duffell at 9:38 AM on December 30, 2014


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posted by pemberkins at 9:39 AM on December 30, 2014


That's fucked up.
posted by Drinky Die at 9:39 AM on December 30, 2014


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posted by hazyjane at 9:42 AM on December 30, 2014


Heartbreaking. All of it: Her death, what led her to it, and the fact that her family and her school called her Joshua in their remarks.
posted by duffell at 9:42 AM on December 30, 2014 [9 favorites]


. for the trucker who has to live with the memory of killing this girl for the rest of his life.

Please don't commit suicide. But if you're going to commit suicide, don't bring others into it, please.
posted by sparklemotion at 9:43 AM on December 30, 2014 [124 favorites]


Poor kid.

I find myself feeling somewhat cynical, though, because a friend of mine committed suicide a few years ago, and he also had shit parents. At his funeral and after his death, those same parents continually used their status as tragic figures to deny who he really was and try to twist his memory into something that was completely false. And evidence that their child wasn't who they wanted him to be was met with social-media outbursts and rage and tantrums of various sorts, making it abundantly clear how messed up it must have been to grow up with those parents and making a lot of his problems more understandable.

I expect Leelah's parents will make some sort of statement. I expect they will say she was exaggerating, was sick, was a problem child, and so on. It would be nice if her death was a moment of transformative change for them, but there's every possibility it won't be.

But maybe someone else will be helped, and that would be a good thing, though not worth the cost.
posted by emjaybee at 9:46 AM on December 30, 2014 [18 favorites]


roomthreeseventeen, your 3rd and 4th links go to the same page
posted by Librarypt at 9:46 AM on December 30, 2014


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Going to make a donation to the wonderful GLBT health center in my city today. For Leelah, for all the trans women who've been brutally murdered here, for my friends who survived severe depression and suicide attempts and lived to transition and thrive. So many resourced needed, and so many people who flat-out don't give a shit about trans lives. It makes me furious every time.
posted by ActionPopulated at 9:49 AM on December 30, 2014 [3 favorites]


I don't feel right linking to it, but Leelah's mother posted a Facebook update saying, in part, "My sweet 16 year old son, Joshua Ryan Alcorn went home to heaven this morning. He was out for an early morning walk and was hit by a truck." I know the family has to be grieving, but geez, way to stick your head in the sand.

I'm sorry, Leelah.

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posted by Metroid Baby at 9:49 AM on December 30, 2014 [29 favorites]


Trans LifeLine
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:49 AM on December 30, 2014 [4 favorites]


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Another one. Too many names over too many years. I've lost count.

Rest in peace.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 9:49 AM on December 30, 2014 [5 favorites]


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posted by oneironaut at 9:52 AM on December 30, 2014


I worked with Carolyn Washburn during her stint in Des Moines. She wasn't looked on fondly by many employees. The journalists I respected seem to respect her though, so she gains some credibility there. Mostly I don't have an opinion, but I am glad she made the choice to run this one.

As some insight into why there's the "Why we wrote about this" disclaimer at the beginning…well, suicides are like car crashes. They really aren't that newsworthy. They happen all the time. It takes something to make one stand out. In the case of suicides there's also the added burden of ethics. Generally, no one wants to glorify the suicide, so the individual doesn't get the angsty writeup they are hoping for lest it encourage others. They get an obit and that's generally it.

It sucks this woman felt a need to kill herself. It sucks even more she choose to involve someone else. It's too bad she couldn't have hung on for a few more years, because I am certain she was wrong and that it would have gotten better. It gets better for everyone after high school (and those few for whom it doesn't have even sadder lives).
posted by cjorgensen at 9:54 AM on December 30, 2014


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posted by andoatnp at 9:56 AM on December 30, 2014


Preface: I understand the primacy of a parent's rights to raise their children in the religious tradition of their choice, to make decisions about a child's education, and to choose a child's medical treatment and I understand why those are extremely important rights even when parents make bad choices with which I disagree.

However, at this point, parents sending GLBTQ children to pastors and therapists trying to "pray away the gay" when they're 16 just need to lose custody of those kids. Full stop. It is abuse, and it is abuse that frequently ends in death.

I dunno where you wanna draw that line, maybe whatever age they can get birth control by themselves in your state, but clearly 18 is TOO LONG for children to have to wait to make these choices for themselves. A kid clearly articulating to a teacher or a social worker or a doctor that they believe they are GLBTQ and their parents are telling them to just pray it off -- that kid deserves a court order for therapy with a qualified professional with expertise in supporting GLBTQ teens, and if the parents cannot follow that court order and provide at least minimal safety and support in the home as directed by the therapist, they should lose custody. (Ideally to a loving and supportive family member; otherwise to a state program that provides high-quality custodial care for GLBTQ teens.)

Also I really think state medical boards or legislatures need to start scrutinizing the qualifications of therapists who treat teenagers by telling them to ignore their problems. If adults want to see unqualified therapists, that is their business, but I don't think "Christian counselors" who obviously have no understanding of GLBTQ teenagers and have a moral objection to attempting to understand should be handling teenagers who are a suicide risk.

(Not all Christian counselors, obvs. Some are great. Others are hacks who stick a Jesus fish on their sign to dupe trusting, troubled families into paying them for nonsense. But I hope the therapists and counselors who provided this child treatment are being scrutinized.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:57 AM on December 30, 2014 [110 favorites]


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posted by probu at 9:57 AM on December 30, 2014


I agree with sparklemotion wholeheartedly for the trucker who has to live with the memory of killing this girl for the rest of his life.
Please don't commit suicide. But if you're going to commit suicide, don't bring others into it, please.

posted by robbyrobs at 9:57 AM on December 30, 2014 [14 favorites]


Right now there's a small-but-growing group on Twitter using the #RealLiveTransAdult hashtag. I would link to some specific favorites but they are ALL my favorite.
posted by komara at 9:57 AM on December 30, 2014 [8 favorites]


Jones drew Alcorn as Elsa from "Frozen."

"It was her favorite thing ever," Jones said.

posted by chavenet at 9:58 AM on December 30, 2014 [5 favorites]


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posted by oceanjesse at 9:59 AM on December 30, 2014


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posted by kelborel at 9:59 AM on December 30, 2014


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posted by supermassive at 10:00 AM on December 30, 2014


I know the family has to be grieving, but geez, way to stick your head in the sand.

This notion that Facebook posts have to be soulful performance art subject to the hyper judgment of strangers is in my opinion part of the problem. As evidenced in the suicide note, the isolation and judgment people feel because of social media. I hope in the future there are stronger communities built online. It makes me sick knowing that I will acknowledge this, develop some kind of angle, and move on to the next tragedy. Pick up the phone and check in on somebody today.

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posted by phaedon at 10:00 AM on December 30, 2014 [5 favorites]


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posted by suelac at 10:01 AM on December 30, 2014


As for my will, I want 100% of the things that I legally own to be sold and the money (plus my money in the bank) to be given to trans civil rights movements and support groups, I don’t give a shit which one.

If anyone if interested in making a donation to charity that supports transgender people in honor of Leelah, these are my personal Chicago area favorites:

Project Fierce Chicago: Project Fierce is working to provide housing to transgender and queer youth, who, like Leelah, often do not have the support of their families and can face disproportionate housing instability

Chicago House: Chicago House and Social Service agency serves individuals and families who are disenfranchised by HIV/AIDS, LGBTQ marginalization, poverty, homelessness, and/or gender nonconformity by providing housing, employment services, medical linkage and retention services, HIV prevention services, legal services and other supportive programs.

Trans Tech Social Enterprises: Trans Tech is dedicated to leadership and technology skill development for the LGBTQ community, with special emphasis on serving transgender people.
posted by Juliet Banana at 10:02 AM on December 30, 2014 [21 favorites]


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cjorgenson: It's too bad she couldn't have hung on for a few more years, because I am certain she was wrong and that it would have gotten better. It gets better for everyone after high school (and those few for whom it doesn't have even sadder lives).

Easy for you to say when you're not a trans woman. As cited in this Slate article:
If any other population attempted suicide as frequently as trans people, the government would declare a public health crisis. According to a new study by the Williams Institute and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, 46 percent of trans men and 42 percent of trans women in the United States have attempted suicide. That’s far higher than the 4.6 percent national average, and more than double the 10–20 percent of gay and lesbian people who report a suicide attempt. And the numbers only get bleaker from there, revealing that trans people also experience homelessness, domestic violence, mental illness, sexual abuse, and employment discrimination at vastly higher levels than the general population.
posted by divabat at 10:03 AM on December 30, 2014 [53 favorites]


Put me among the group who believes her "Christian" family is guilty of murdering her.

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Joshua was long dead. YOU killed Leelah in cold blood.

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posted by oneswellfoop at 10:03 AM on December 30, 2014 [16 favorites]


I'm with Eyebrows McGee on this one. We need to look into the possibility of declaring parents who refuse to recognize the GLBTQ status of their kids as unfit. I acknowledge the importance of religious freedom. But just as we hold Christian Scientist parents accountable when they try to pray their kids to health and the kids die, we should start looking into avenues by which we could hold parents who try to pray away the gay similarly responsible.

Maybe something could be worked out on the emancipated minor front? Or something similar? IANAL, obv.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 10:04 AM on December 30, 2014 [21 favorites]


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posted by lord_wolf at 10:04 AM on December 30, 2014


That's not even counting the percentage of generally-reported suicides that stem from gender dysphoria.
posted by odinsdream at 10:05 AM on December 30, 2014


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This happened just a few miles north of my home, in neighboring Warren County. The initial reports were of a teenage boy struck by a truck, so I'll be curious to see how the local Cincinnati TV news treats this story now that we know she was LGBT. Warren County is pretty rife with right-wing politics and religion (to the point that various Tea Party and Christian anti-gay groups have held official marquee events at the Kings Island theme park in Mason, with little or no comment from outside), so I'm all but certain that there will be a fairly herculean effort to sweep the larger social implications under the rug. On the other hand, the extremely conservative Cincinnati Enquirer did make a point of referring to Leelah by her preferred name and gender in the linked article, so who knows?
posted by Strange Interlude at 10:05 AM on December 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


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Dammit, parenthood rule #1 is love your kids. Human rule #1 is be kind. Leelah's parents failed her so badly and continue to fail her. The goodbye notes to her siblings, they're stuck with those parents. That poor truck driver, can't imagine what he's going through.
posted by arcticseal at 10:05 AM on December 30, 2014 [22 favorites]


If you're willing to donate internationally (via IndieGoGo), the PBKS Center in Chow Kit, Malaysia is seeking replacement funding after losing crucial funding from the Malaysian Government. The center primarily serves trans women, people living with HIV/AIDS, and sex workers; a couple of the staff are heavily involved with trans rights activism in Malaysia, such as legal support for arrested trans women and winning a court ruling declaring anti-crossdressing laws unconstitutional.
posted by divabat at 10:07 AM on December 30, 2014 [12 favorites]


Eyebrows McGee: "However, at this point, parents sending GLBTQ children to pastors and therapists trying to "pray away the gay" when they're 16 just need to lose custody of those kids. Full stop. It is abuse, and it is abuse that frequently ends in death."

Even trans women who aren't actively abused by their parents in this way often show all the signs of recovering from abuse. It can be horrifically traumatic just to make it through childhood as a trans girl; to have this kind of thing heaped on top has -- I know from many years in the trans community -- a not particularly high survival rate.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 10:13 AM on December 30, 2014 [28 favorites]


Yo, it would be good if we didn't posthumously shame a dead child.

I'm just keeping my reality goggles on. This is tragic and sad, and further evidence of the gigantic gulf that continues to exist in this country with regards to this issue. But it's a major decision to kill oneself, let alone jumping in front of a truck driver who, for all we know, could've saved her life if the circumstances were different.
posted by ReeMonster at 10:14 AM on December 30, 2014 [5 favorites]


If we're listing our trans-related charities of choice here: Mazzoni Center in Philadelphia. All kinds of free support groups, legal representation, and they will bend over backward to help anyone of any income level access transition-related medical care.
posted by ActionPopulated at 10:14 AM on December 30, 2014


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For Leelah, and for everyone who just can't bear this world or find their place in it. I wish it wasn't so. I wish we could be kinder.
posted by billiebee at 10:17 AM on December 30, 2014 [15 favorites]


You guys, I just think it's important to remember that depression, especially suicidal depression, is a mental illness. Obviously, the cause of that in this case seems to be at least partially external, but blaming her for the way she killed herself? That's pretty cruel.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:20 AM on December 30, 2014 [50 favorites]


[Folks, castigating a dead person over the manner of their suicide is not appropriate here, or possibly anywhere. Please make other choices. Thanks. ]
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 10:22 AM on December 30, 2014 [73 favorites]


Oh my god are we really going to pillory this kid for jumping in front of a truck because she couldn't take being alive anymore, so now she's history's greatest monster?

(I am in general very tired of the "suicides are selfish assholes" idea. If you are sad/sick enough to kill yourself, then that is what's important, not how ethically pure your chosen method was. Jesus.)

I feel bad for the truck driver, but he's alive. He is also blameless and while traumatized, will probably be ok in the long run.
posted by emjaybee at 10:23 AM on December 30, 2014 [29 favorites]


Jesus. That poor girl.
posted by Myca at 10:25 AM on December 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


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posted by mordax at 10:28 AM on December 30, 2014


I've just made donations to the Trevor Project and the Transgender Network Switzerland in honour of Leelah.

I am so horribly upset about this that I don't know what else to say, except that there but for the grace of God go I -- and all of us.

(And fuck her parents for using their religion against her, so that that phrase, which I despite being an atheist find a beautiful and meaningful one, feels like the wrong thing to say here. Ugh.)
posted by daisyk at 10:31 AM on December 30, 2014 [6 favorites]


I do have to say that I am heartened that #LeelahAlcorn is the number one hashtag on Twitter right now. Assuming Twitter skews a bit young, it gives me a lot of hope for the future.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:34 AM on December 30, 2014 [2 favorites]


People who are suicidal are by definition under severe mental duress and are not necessarily thinking logically or clearly. Suicides are not always well-planned, and when someone is generally suffering from severe depression and suicidal thoughts, just getting through a normal day is like standing on the edge of a cliff every minute. When you see death calling for you everywhere, when you are constantly battling intrusive thoughts like, "If I just hit the gas, if I just jumped off, if I just took the whole bottle . . ." one moment's desperate impulse is all it takes to make a terrible mistake and it's not necessarily the case that you are in a place to be able to think clearly about the consequences of your actions. Blaming people who suffered from mental pain so severe that death seemed like the best option to them for choosing an inconsiderate way to commit suicide is NOT HELPFUL. It's not going to undo what happened and it's not going to stop other people from killing themselves in inconsiderate ways.

If you want people to not commit suicide in ways that might upset or disturb or accidentally physically harm other people then maybe try to focus on helping more people not reach the point in the first place where stepping in front of a speeding truck feels like a desperately tempting option.
posted by BlueJae at 10:40 AM on December 30, 2014 [52 favorites]


> Easy for you to say when you're not a trans woman.

I guess I am at a loss for what you are trying to say. Are you saying it doesn't get better ever for trans individuals?
posted by cjorgensen at 10:42 AM on December 30, 2014


Leelah Alcorn's parents murdered her, and should stand trial. When you bully and abuse somebody long enough that suicide looks like the only way out, you should be made to answer for your actions, and not to some imaginary God in an imaginary afterlife.
posted by starbreaker at 10:44 AM on December 30, 2014 [18 favorites]


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posted by Splunge at 10:45 AM on December 30, 2014


I think divabat is saying that currently society is so tough on trans women that the normal 'gets better after high school' rule of thumb does not apply.
posted by biffa at 10:50 AM on December 30, 2014 [26 favorites]


cjorgenson: I'm saying that your claim of "it gets better for everyone after high school" is nowhere near accurate, especially for trans people.
posted by divabat at 10:50 AM on December 30, 2014 [33 favorites]


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posted by domo at 10:50 AM on December 30, 2014


I guess I am at a loss for what you are trying to say. Are you saying it doesn't get better ever for trans individuals?

On preview, what divabat said in her defense. Even though our society has made a substantial amount of room for queer-identified people, we're still a ways away from full acceptance of trans persons -- not just in our schools and churches, but in the world at large. So yeah, for a lot of trans people right now, things don't get better after you've graduated high school or left your closed-minded small town. Anti-trans discrimination and alienation exist most everywhere, even in more "enlightened" places.
posted by Strange Interlude at 10:52 AM on December 30, 2014 [2 favorites]


I'm such a balled-up mess of feelings having read Leelah's note. I keep trying to express it and I just can't manage anything coherent. Her life was so, so similar to mine in my mid-late teens - letting people think of me as gay as a fucked-up grasp for a tiny, inadequate degree of authenticity, parents more concerned about how their kid made them look to other people, flatly refusing to believe I was anything but broken, wrong, set tragically off the course they'd imagined by evil outside influences. Waiting to have my absolute certainty about myself respected over the opinions of people without a fucking clue, head full of poison believing every day that passed was sentencing me to a body that'd never fit in, never go unnoticed in a world where even feminists would kick the shit out of me for the kind of girl I was.

I attempted suicide around my sixteenth birthday; I'm alive because a parent came home early for some stupid, ordinary reason, and because the ambulance came quickly. They kicked me out/I left for good within a year. Today I'm glad I'm alive; I have a life I never would have believed was possible. I have known so many girls and women who weren't so lucky. Nobody should have to be.

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posted by emmtee at 10:54 AM on December 30, 2014 [61 favorites]




You know things are fucked up when SNOPES will correctly gender someone, but their parents won't.
posted by stoneweaver at 10:58 AM on December 30, 2014 [10 favorites]


I suspect that Rob Halford, having spent so many years in the closet, could have empathized with Leelah Alcorn: "Keep the world / With all its sin / It's not fit / For living in."
posted by starbreaker at 10:59 AM on December 30, 2014 [2 favorites]


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posted by and they trembled before her fury at 11:02 AM on December 30, 2014


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posted by Twain Device at 11:04 AM on December 30, 2014


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Remember though, that you have to respect the parents religious views, as espoused on here recently.
posted by marienbad at 11:06 AM on December 30, 2014 [4 favorites]


I am really wary of focusing on conversion therapy because of this. I mean, it's something that absolutely needs to end, no matter what, no question, but if conversion therapy hadn't been something her parents had access to there would have been other ways for them to abuse her.

Ultimately the thing that will most help young trans girls survive abusive childhoods is massively increased funding for shelters, and making damn sure the shelters that already exist actually admit trans girls (there are problems with shelters refusing to accept trans women at all, or refusing to accept trans girls who haven't started transition yet).

I would love to see whatever political energy comes from this directed towards making sure trans girls have a place to escape to, rather than just take away one of the many tools available to their abusers.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 11:06 AM on December 30, 2014 [29 favorites]


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posted by Banknote of the year at 11:08 AM on December 30, 2014


Remember though, that you have to respect the parents religious views, as espoused on here recently.

Pretending your child isn't transgender when they tell you they are is not a religious view that I am aware of.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 11:08 AM on December 30, 2014 [23 favorites]


> I'm saying that your claim of "it gets better for everyone after high school" is nowhere near accurate, especially for trans people.

Thank you. I consider this asked and answered. I guess I would like to believe it gets better. Maybe someday.
posted by cjorgensen at 11:12 AM on December 30, 2014 [5 favorites]


So yeah, for a lot of trans people right now, things don't get better after you've graduated high school or left your closed-minded small town

Plus the issue of paying for medical bills. This poor kid says right in her note that she felt that she was running out of time for the kind of conversion she wanted . And she wasn't totally wrong about that, from what I understand? Even if she emancipated herself, became a ward of the state or went to college she couldn't pay for it or (probably) get the kind of insurance that would. It must have seemed totally insurmountable to a teenager.
posted by fshgrl at 11:14 AM on December 30, 2014 [10 favorites]


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posted by Cash4Lead at 11:14 AM on December 30, 2014


Dammit, parenthood rule #1 is love your kids. Human rule #1 is be kind. Leelah's parents failed her so badly and continue to fail her.

No kidding. After I saw the screenshot of Mom's statement about the death of "her son", I looked at the rest of what was public on her Facebook page. Lots of cutesy Pinterest shit. Congratulations, Mother of the Fucking Year. Maybe you could have laid off the fancy cupcakes and spent some time trying to understand your kid instead.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:17 AM on December 30, 2014 [27 favorites]



Remember though, that you have to respect the parents religious views, as espoused on here recently.

Hamburger?
posted by domo at 11:17 AM on December 30, 2014


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posted by Quasirandom at 11:20 AM on December 30, 2014


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posted by Kitteh at 11:21 AM on December 30, 2014


What a horrible, avoidable tragedy. I will never understand why someone's gender or sexual orientation matters so much to anyone that they would shun or abuse that person. Religious beliefs are not a defense against this behavior any more than they would be if the parents were abusing people of a different race.

I've seen that Trans Lifeline number linked many times across social media platforms and I wonder what their staffing level is relative to their demand. I just checked the website and there are 3 volunteers online now. I hope that's enough, and that they have adequate training.
posted by desjardins at 11:22 AM on December 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


For those unaware, there is a MeTa about this thread.

And boy is this a hard thread to read.
posted by marienbad at 11:26 AM on December 30, 2014


cjorgensen: "Someday" will only come if we - especially those of us who are not trans - come together and work on making things actually better for trans people, such as supporting trans-friendly shelters, getting them medical care, and providing safety.
posted by divabat at 11:27 AM on December 30, 2014 [12 favorites]


cjorgenson: I'm saying that your claim of "it gets better for everyone after high school" is nowhere near accurate, especially for trans people.

I don't know if I agree with cjorgensen's claim or not, but your quoted stat doesn't seem to say anything about whether trans people do better after high school or not, it just sums up lifetime experiences.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 11:32 AM on December 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


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posted by Rustic Etruscan at 11:34 AM on December 30, 2014


I invite you to use Google to find out whether it gets better for Trans Women. I'll get you started with a search for trans women that were murdered in 2014. This information is available.

Listen to people saying that in a lot of ways, it really never gets better. Does that justify suicide? Hell if I know. It's horribly sad that it did for this girl, and I am so so sorry that this is the world she was born into. We should be doing better. We should be doing A LOT better.
posted by stoneweaver at 11:36 AM on December 30, 2014 [15 favorites]


@marienbad wrote, "Remember though, that you have to respect the parents religious views, as espoused on here recently.", but I don't agree. The parents' religious views deserve no respect whatsoever, because they gave the parents an excuse to slowly murder their trans daughter by abusing her until she was so thoroughly broken that suicide seemed a reasonable option. God is not a shield.
posted by starbreaker at 11:38 AM on December 30, 2014 [15 favorites]


I don't know what sort of conclusive proof you need for "life doesn't necessarily get better for trans people after high school". Here's a direct link to the study I cited so you can comb through it.
posted by divabat at 11:39 AM on December 30, 2014 [5 favorites]


#RealLifeTransAdult here, and the news about Leelah and her family has hit me (and other friends of mine) pretty hard.

Further context I haven't seen mentioned here. Leelah posted on Reddit, including to /r/suicidewatch. Last month she wrote, "If I could have gone on puberty blockers as a kid or even just start hormones a couple years earlier I could have turned out so much prettier, and I'll never be able to achieve that beauty because of something that I can't control, like what family I was born into."

It's heartbreaking for me because I've seen many other trans youth run into problems with getting medical treatment, or with gatekeeping. And the experiences of trans adults and trans youth can be so unintelligible to each other...

And on the flip side of things, a picture of Leelah and her family was apparently run in the January 2011 edition of the Christian Chronicle in an article with the headline, "Ohio church’s message: Families matter to God" and the sub, "FAMILIES: Churches aim to equip parents to raise godly children".

This pushes a lot of my buttons.
posted by QuantumMeruit at 11:42 AM on December 30, 2014 [23 favorites]


Metriod_Baby is right about the mother's head in the sand. The mother seems to be in denial about her daughters gender and the fact that she committed suicide. I can only imagine the mental gymnastics that mother needs to go through to maintain the illusion that she is a good christian. She pushed a member of her family to suicide.

Considering that many Christians believe that suicide keeps you out of heaven, I can understand her desire to refuse the truth of her daughters life and death.
posted by Gor-ella at 11:48 AM on December 30, 2014 [5 favorites]


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posted by naju at 11:48 AM on December 30, 2014


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posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 11:49 AM on December 30, 2014


We, as a society, need to start treating trans* kids with the same compassion and resources that we give kids born with cleft palate.

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posted by Jacqueline at 11:52 AM on December 30, 2014 [10 favorites]


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posted by moonlight on vermont at 11:57 AM on December 30, 2014


FWIW, the mother seems to have made her Facebook private so that people can't snoop anymore.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 11:57 AM on December 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


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posted by allthinky at 11:57 AM on December 30, 2014


@starbreaker - that's exactly my point. Maybe I should have added the hamburger tag after all.

@roomthreeseventeen - yes it is - from the suicide note: "I finally understood who I was. I immediately told my mom, and she reacted extremely negatively, telling me that it was a phase, that I would never truly be a girl, that God doesn’t make mistakes, that I am wrong."

Sounds pretty religious to me.
posted by marienbad at 11:57 AM on December 30, 2014 [2 favorites]


"I finally understood who I was. I immediately told my mom, and she reacted extremely negatively, telling me that it was a phase, that I would never truly be a girl, that God doesn’t make mistakes, that I am wrong."

I still don't believe that withholding medical treatment from a young person is considered valid religious practice. Don't Jehovah's witnesses go to jail for that?
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 11:59 AM on December 30, 2014




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posted by bwerdmuller at 12:04 PM on December 30, 2014


a second post went up on Leelah's tumblr. appologies to friends, and this message to her parents:

"Mom and Dad: Fuck you. You can’t just control other people like that. That’s messed up."


That pretty much sums it up.

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posted by mrjohnmuller at 12:07 PM on December 30, 2014 [8 favorites]


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Is there a fundraiser to get her a headstone? I expect that any headstone her parents get will misgender and misname her. It's not the same as donating to an organization, but a proper headstone or memorial plaque somewhere would be kind.
posted by Countess Elena at 12:08 PM on December 30, 2014 [23 favorites]


Don't Jehovah's witnesses go to jail for that?

They may, although apart from objecting to blood transfusions, Jehovah's Witnesses accept medical treatment. You may be thinking of Christian Scientists?
posted by OmieWise at 12:09 PM on December 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


Yes, thanks. I was thinking of Christian Scientists.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:10 PM on December 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


Also, anyone who says something like “I wish I got to know him better” or “I wish I treated him better” gets a punch in the nose.

THIS THING RIGHT HERE. People who express sympathy for the dead but never reach out a hand to the living are Part Of The Problem, and not a small one, when it comes to marginalized people turning to suicide.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 12:12 PM on December 30, 2014 [11 favorites]


The poor child.
The poor trucker.



[Folks, castigating a dead person over the manner of their suicide is not appropriate here, or possibly anywhere. Please make other choices. Thanks. ]

Oh my god are we really going to pillory this kid for jumping in front of a truck because she couldn't take being alive anymore, so now she's history's greatest monster?

(I am in general very tired of the "suicides are selfish assholes" idea. If you are sad/sick enough to kill yourself, then that is what's important, not how ethically pure your chosen method was. Jesus.


As someone who attempted suicide with a gun, and almost made it, as well as someone whose brother killed himself and took an innocent party with him, I feel highly qualified to speak to these comments.

You can't castigate someone who's dead. You can feel empathy, sympathy, and pain that they chose to end their life. You can abhor and despise their chosen method. You can strongly believe that they were wrong in involving another.

Suicides ARE selfish. In pain, not thinking correctly, not entirely to blame for their actions, but totally selfish. They can be assholes if they involve another person, whether they use them as an instrument of their destruction or murder another while destroying themselves.

My brother was wrong in what he did. My family has to live with it. The family of the man he murdered has to live with it. He was an asshole. I loved him.

This poor child was wrong in using another human being in such a fashion.

Suicides are not monsters. They're not necessarily entirely blameless, either.

Because she was that desperate, because she is dead, we must forgive her.



Her parents, their religion, our society ... are to be castigated.
posted by BlueHorse at 12:13 PM on December 30, 2014 [50 favorites]


.
posted by Halloween Jack at 12:17 PM on December 30, 2014


I fear that trying to turn the discussion into whether or not she should have died the way she did would take away from the reason she died and the reason she wanted her death to matter: because this is way too often the state of being for trans people, given no empathy or concern when they were alive, and yet still castigated for their lack of empathy upon death. We are all complicit in her death.
posted by divabat at 12:17 PM on December 30, 2014 [31 favorites]


*Let's all acknowledge that yes this must be traumatizing for the driver and yes, she probably was too busy being in total despair to think about the consequences of her own suicide.*

Now we can go back to discussing her and her tragedy.

.
posted by Tarumba at 12:36 PM on December 30, 2014 [2 favorites]


Incidentally the Cincinnati.com article with more details about Leelah has been updated to use the right pronouns.

More coverage of the coverage on local media.

Perhaps also noteworthy, the school system's entire Twitter account (@Kings_Schools) was apparently deleted today.
posted by QuantumMeruit at 12:43 PM on December 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


I really hope Leelah's sisters and brother will be able to get the help they'll need to cope with her suicide, and not just attempts at brainwashing them to posthumously hate her. :(
posted by daisyk at 12:45 PM on December 30, 2014 [8 favorites]


There's a time and a place to talk about people who survive suicide. And there are probably much better articles and media pieces for launching that conversation.

But fucking hell, closets kill. We have a pandemic that's been killing us by the thousands for the better part of a century. When LGBT people are not murdered out-right, we have a dozen ways to die, quick under a truck, or slowly as life is harassed, beaten, and raped out of us, much of that happening in our own homes and families. And trans people get the worst of it by far.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 12:52 PM on December 30, 2014 [17 favorites]


What a heartbreaking read. You just want to hold your arms out to her, and it's too late.

Of course her parents are in denial. How else could they manage to draw another breath after reading that? I can't imagine reading a suicide note like that from my child. I don't know how you wouldn't die on the spot from the weight of the guilt.
posted by tyllwin at 12:57 PM on December 30, 2014 [6 favorites]


.
posted by tonycpsu at 1:01 PM on December 30, 2014


tyllwin: "I don't know how you wouldn't die on the spot from the weight of the guilt."

People are pretty good at editing that stuff out. I told my parents I was a girl when I was five, continually, and they did nothing about it. I had to wait until my early twenties and suffer a whole fucking lot on the way there. It never comes up.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 1:03 PM on December 30, 2014 [19 favorites]


I can't help but wonder if expanding the age of medical consent, like Oregon has, to age 15 would have helped in this situation at all. The American Academy of Pediatrics recognizes that a teen needs to be informed and consenting to medical treatment, and I believe they set their ethical guideline as age 14. That basically a child's body is not the property of the parents. This kid was denied potentially lifesaving treatment by her parents. Of course paying for treatment is out of reach for many adults, let alone teenagers...
posted by fontophilic at 1:15 PM on December 30, 2014 [21 favorites]


I expect they will say she was exaggerating, was sick, was a problem child, and so on.

This is a significant reason why I have failed suicide. The certainty that your identity and entire personhood will be retconned out of existence after your death is absolutely terrifying on an existential level that is nearly impossible to articulate. Having some way of financially escaping abuse, or establishing a legal identity that survives me would be..."nice" is an understatement.

1) I know everyone means well, but the "depression is a mental illness" framing is insulting. Enormous parts of this are because of systemic societal failure and evoking mental illness in conversations about trans people committing suicide has uncomfortable implications. Even that aside, "mental illness" can be very hand wavey and can deny the validity of a person's experience. In this case, there are absolutely many realities Alcorn perceived accurately and acutely that were not mere phantoms invoked by an altered neurochemistry.

2) Don't say, "It gets better." Especially not to trans youth, but ideally don't say that at all. Please. I am not castigating anyone, I am sincerely asking. It is actually an ugly thing to say, because it suggests that nothing needs to change, and marginalized people should just keep their heads down until they can either use their privilege to coast into a better situation with zero effort or the social tides just magically turn in a positive direction. LOTS of things actually do need to change.

.
.
.
posted by byanyothername at 1:17 PM on December 30, 2014 [61 favorites]


In this case, there are absolutely many realities Alcorn perceived accurately and acutely that were not mere phantoms invoked by an altered neurochemistry.

I think I said that, though. A lot of the reasons Alcorn left in her note were external.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:19 PM on December 30, 2014


Don't say, "It gets better." Especially not to trans youth, but ideally don't say that at all. Please. I am not castigating anyone, I am sincerely asking. It is actually an ugly thing to say, because it suggests that nothing needs to change, and marginalized people should just keep their heads down until they can either use their privilege to coast into a better situation with zero effort or the social tides just magically turn in a positive direction.

Thank you for that insight.
posted by mordax at 1:26 PM on December 30, 2014 [2 favorites]


The assumptions behind "it gets better" simply do not apply to trans youth, especially not to trans girls. It's glib and useless.

Try helping now.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 1:28 PM on December 30, 2014 [27 favorites]


@byanyothername is right. It doesn't just magically get better. Justice is a human concept, and it is up to humans to impose justice on a world that is utterly indifferent to human concerns. We have to make it better.

Even if the abuse stops, the damage remains. It doesn't heal easily, assuming you can heal it at all, and it always leaves scars.
posted by starbreaker at 1:30 PM on December 30, 2014 [3 favorites]


The assumptions behind "it gets better" simply do not apply to trans youth, especially not to trans girls. It's glib and useless.

Try helping now.


And it's a tricky part. Because sometimes trans girls will swear to you that they aren't trans girls even when it is pretty obvious to everyone. You are exactly correct here, don't wait, just help any kid who asks it.
posted by Drinky Die at 1:35 PM on December 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


The phrase "depression is a mental illness" is maybe less useful than "suicide is a public health issue".

Rates of suicide can be reduced by actions we, as a society, take. Like limiting access to firearms in the home, increasing affordability and access to care for people showing symptoms of depression, decreasing social stigma around mental health treatment, and so on. And more specifically for the discussion at hand, increasing tolerance for LGBTQ individuals at large, increasing access to minor emancipation, increasing medical provider awareness of transgender issues and treatments.

I think when people use the phrase "suicide is a symptom of a mental illness" they mean it from a place of compassion, but ultimately expect medicine to have some answer for it. Maybe a pill that comes in a box packaged with a ribbon. Some correct answer to apply to a very messy question.
posted by fontophilic at 1:46 PM on December 30, 2014 [4 favorites]


.
posted by Golden Eternity at 1:56 PM on December 30, 2014


byanyothername, I really appreciate your insights here. Honest question, do you think what's going on in the #RealLiveTransAdult hashtag is a useful and helpful thing? My initial reaction to it was thinking it was a really great and encouraging thing to be doing, but as a (more or less) cis person I'm not sure how it reads to someone who's a teenager and not sure if they can get there from here.
posted by capricorn at 2:21 PM on December 30, 2014


.
posted by horizonseeker at 2:24 PM on December 30, 2014


The assumptions behind "it gets better" simply do not apply to trans youth, especially not to trans girls. It's glib and useless.

I think "it gets better" applies to a ton of LGBT folks still living at home under awful conditions. The campaign was specifically trying to address LGBT teen suicides, to it's pertinent to this discussion I think. While 'it gets better' may be true, the campaign slogan isn't 'it gets okay' or 'it gets good', just that it gets less shitty. And I can't imagine a worse existence than living under the regime of parents that deny your sexuality and then add religious condemnation in with their own awfulness.

I have a feeling the parents are going to hear from (some of ) the internet on these matters. And while I'm sure they are grieving, it's difficult to muster too much sympathy for them, as they are directly (partially) responsible for this tragedy.

I do hope that courts will grant emancipation to minors living in religiously oppressive households, but too many judges are also religious, so this may be slow in happening.

Yay towards (some of) the media in using appropriately respectful pronouns, it's too bad the girl had to die before she was acknowledged as she wanted to be though.
posted by el io at 2:36 PM on December 30, 2014 [5 favorites]


Some of the tweets are definitely helpful (I like the ones that are basically "we exist" the most), some of them aren't (like the ones telling Leelah/past me that "passing" doesn't matter, which is not useful to someone in that position in that moment).

This hurts so much.
posted by Corinth at 2:39 PM on December 30, 2014 [7 favorites]


One of the issues with trans girls is that passable transition is significantly easier if it starts before the changes brought on by puberty or as early on in the process as possible. They don't have the time to wait for it to get better more so than other LGBT folks. They need it to get better right now.
posted by Drinky Die at 2:39 PM on December 30, 2014 [15 favorites]


I think when people use the phrase "suicide is a symptom of a mental illness" they mean it from a place of compassion, but ultimately expect medicine to have some answer for it. Maybe a pill that comes in a box packaged with a ribbon. Some correct answer to apply to a very messy question.

Oh God this is why I found Depression Quest so hard to play when it first came out - it seemed to go towards "pills and therapy will save you!" and, well, I wish. And I have it relatively better than a lot of folks.

"It" will not get better if we don't actively make it better - especially those of us who are in a position of power or privilege. We can't expect those who are suffering to just keep on suffering for our sake (and the guilt-tripping of "all the people you could have helped if you hadn't died!!!" doesn't help; where were all the people helping the suicidal when they needed it?!) and hope, maybe, someday, there will be utopia.
posted by divabat at 2:41 PM on December 30, 2014 [5 favorites]


ArmyofKittens wrote: The assumptions behind "it gets better" simply do not apply to trans youth, especially not to trans girls. It's glib and useless.

I agree that "it gets better" can be glib and harmful when heard by trans youth who don't see things getting better any time soon (or ever), and for many people -- especially trans women of color -- it is very hard for things to get better.

But speaking solely from my own experience, I spent an awful lot of time pre-transitioning expecting worst-case scenarios to occur. And for me, that never happened.

Yes, there is a huge rash of violence against trans women of color. But as a very privileged, over-educated professional who also happens to be trans, it took me a while to recognize my own privilege and understand that those outcomes weren't predestined to be mine -- and in fact were not as likely as I had feared.

I try to be very careful when talking about trans issues to acknowledge my own privilege, and to recognize that my own privilege made the (positive) outcome I have experienced possible. And that others -- especially disadvantaged trans women of color (and POC in general) don't have those advantages.

But for some -- including some trans youth -- "it gets better" is a true statement. Getting out from under the thumb of unsupportive parents and finding one's own path is tough, but it IS a path that some are navigating.
posted by QuantumMeruit at 2:42 PM on December 30, 2014 [7 favorites]


.
posted by box at 2:47 PM on December 30, 2014


hi if you're not a trans woman can you think very carefully how you use the word "passable" and what you're implying.
posted by thug unicorn at 3:00 PM on December 30, 2014 [20 favorites]


Anyone who says that mental illness makes those problems less real doesn't know what they're talking about.

We dump our industrial and agricultural waste on low-income, disproportionately minority populations, and outsource our industry and resource extraction labor to countries where our poisons are out of sight, out of mind. And then we lament that children are ill, the workers are ill, the cute telegenic animals are ill, and the ecosystem is ill when we document the tumors, the birth defects, the neurological syndromes, and the compromised immune systems. (But we don't protest too hard.)

Today, this month, I don't see a difference between the poisons of PCBs, dioxins, and mercury and the poisons of transphobia, homophobia, and misogyny. Or profiteering from selling poisons legal and illegal to vulnerable populations and profiteering from heterosexism and cissexism. We know that they're cumulatively more toxic on developing minds, hearts, and souls than the mercury and lead we banned from our homes and backyards. We know what harassment, abuse, and rape does to brains, especially developing brains. We can estimate the mortality and morbidity of prejudice, but we won't do anything about it as a society. We can ban traces of poisons that drove hatters and emperors mad but not the abuse that makes us mad.

Because freedom of conscience. Freedom of speech. Religious freedom means freedom to preach and discriminate on the job. To not do your job. Freedom to say that we're termites to be exterminated because one cartoon deigned to acknowledge us. The exterminators, they're the honest ones. The brilliant thing about both chemical and psychological poisons is they provide plausible deniability. "Not my car." "Not my joke." Same thing in the end.

I was already pissed before this. I've been traveling for a month, and of fear of triggering the attention of straight people was quite successfully burned into my brain 30 years ago. It's not a delusional phantom, it's an allergy to casual anti-trans and anti-gay, gender-policing bullshit. I have a young nibling who loves art, pink, Frozen, and Hello Kitty. And I already mourn for the day when they show up when that's been bashed out of them in favor of fear, loathing, and self-censorship. I don't want for them to get my cognitive cancer.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 3:07 PM on December 30, 2014 [3 favorites]


like, we get the "pass or die" thing from society enough. we don't need it from allies too. y'all can afford to make room for the ones who don't, can't, or won't pass, and we definitely don't need you guys telling us whats important is that we start sooner so we can be "passable". please please please don't reduce our transness to what we need to do to our bodies to survive.
posted by thug unicorn at 3:08 PM on December 30, 2014 [43 favorites]


.
posted by thug unicorn at 3:09 PM on December 30, 2014


Thug Unicorn, thank you.
posted by transitional procedures at 3:09 PM on December 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


. is not enough. I don't know what is.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 3:43 PM on December 30, 2014 [7 favorites]


There are very few things that make me as angry and sad as people using religion as an excuse and a cudgel to beat others down. The God I believe in loves Leelah.
posted by sarcasticah at 3:53 PM on December 30, 2014 [10 favorites]


.
posted by Grandysaur at 4:03 PM on December 30, 2014


(like the ones telling Leelah/past me that "passing" doesn't matter, which is not useful to someone in that position in that moment).

I wish we could somehow destroy the notion of 'passing'. It would be stunningly naive to say that it doesn't matter, given that people are killed as a result of being perceived to be trans, but it's so fucking toxic. It's not enough for trans people's appearances and presentations to be constantly policed by cis people, but trans people busily tell each other they must be invisible to be 'successful' as trans people. I have no idea what we do about it, though, I just feel the need to rant.

(By the way, this is what makes the "there's an urgency to medical transition for youth" thing a bit awkward, especially coming from cis people. It's urgent because withholding access to transition inflicts pain for no reason and leads people to kill themselves, not because we must rescue youth from not passing or something.)
posted by hoyland at 4:07 PM on December 30, 2014 [30 favorites]


What are the risks of taking medication to suppress puberty? How reasonable is that as an option for trans* kids whose parents aren't willing to consent to them beginning more permanent treatments before they reach adulthood?

While I certainly believe (based on all the lived experiences I've read about here) that trans* kids certainly do know their own correct genders, I understand why parents and others worry about minors making irrevocable decisions. Campaigning for trans* kids' rights to not go through puberty in the wrong gender could be politically viable, though.

Unfortunately, kids' rights to science-based medical care are pretty shitty in general (e.g., the anti-vaccination movement) but they are getting slightly better over time (e.g., Christian Scientists being prosecuted after their children die from lack of medical care).

Maybe it's time for parents of trans* kids who commit suicide after their parents denied them treatment to start getting prosecuted too. It sounds like in Leelah's case that her parents all but pushed her in front of that truck. :(
posted by Jacqueline at 4:52 PM on December 30, 2014


Jacqueline, here is some information on hormone blockers.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 4:54 PM on December 30, 2014 [2 favorites]


[at this point, talking about "passing" feels like it will derail the thread from the original story and I'd ask people to ease up and not let this subject overtake the thread]
posted by mathowie (staff) at 4:56 PM on December 30, 2014 [2 favorites]


I feel a deep pit in my stomach right now, because while people no longer as often kill those who don't fit neatly in line with their beliefs, they can still drive them to kill themselves.
posted by halifix at 5:07 PM on December 30, 2014 [2 favorites]


That's so fucking heartbreaking. Society's backwards, puritanical sensibilities have claimed the life of another bright, conscientious teenager.

Wherever you are, Leelah, I hope you are at peace.
posted by and miles to go before I sleep at 5:08 PM on December 30, 2014 [2 favorites]


I was careful to say "severe mental duress" and not mental illness in my comment above about what it is like to feel suicidal, byanyothername, and I hope what I was trying to express by that choice of words came across. I am aware of the history of trans folk being dismissed as mentally ill just by nature of being trans and I definitely didn't want to make that implication. I consider Leelah to have been under duress in the sense that the source of her pain was external. I assume that Leelah would not have been suicidal if her parents and other important people in her life had accepted her for who she was and helped her access the medical assistance she wanted instead of trying to force her to live a lie, if she felt that she could look forward to a happy and safe future, etc. The girl wasn't crazy. The world around her was, and is.

But I also think it's important to note that people who are driven by mental pain to the point of suicide are in general not thinking clearly. In the same way that someone who is walking around with a freshly shattered arm is not thinking clearly. It's very hard to think clearly when you're in that much pain. That's why it's so, so important to reach out to people we care about when they are in serious emotional pain, because they may not be capable of asking for help themselves when they need it the most.
posted by BlueJae at 5:31 PM on December 30, 2014 [11 favorites]


What are the risks of taking medication to suppress puberty? How reasonable is that as an option for trans* kids whose parents aren't willing to consent to them beginning more permanent treatments before they reach adulthood?

As I understand it (and I have done a bit of crash-learning on this recently), puberty suppression is reversible. The youth can go off of the blockers and puberty would progress at its natural pace.

In some cities, with some medical providers, getting support for blockers can be straightforward. In other cities, you wind up chasing after providers who might have varying levels of competence (or be unwilling to prescribe).

Oh, yeah. Blockers are crazy expensive and are unlikely to be covered by many insurance plans. (We can barely get insurance plans to cover hormone therapy for adults, although that is slowly changing.) Privilege, again.

Getting medical treatment without parental consent is a mess. It requires non-trivial interaction with the legal system.
posted by QuantumMeruit at 5:42 PM on December 30, 2014 [2 favorites]


Poor girl. I feel so sorry for anyone who is suicidal, having been there before myself. But I always feel especially sad when I learn about suicidal children.

Depression makes the sufferer feel hopeless, in part, because the depression robs you of your will. You can't see your way out because you lack all motivation to do what it takes to get to a better place. Sometimes it would require hard work to get there, yes, but most often it just seems much bleaker than it is, like an impossible task, to pull yourself out, because the depression is there, whispering to you that you don't have what it takes, that you are a loser or too weak. Not good enough. Inadequate.

But with children, the mental obstacles in their way are compounded by the reality of what limited control they have over their own lives and fates. Loving, supportive family and friends can help you through a difficult time, but what if every day is a misery because your family is not loving and supportive? What if, when you think, as many teens do, "No one around here understands me, I'm different, I don't fit in," you're absolutely right?

An adult feeling these things can access medical help, therapy, maybe even move away to a more tolerant and accepting community. But a child can only act within the confines of what the adults around them have deemed acceptable, the rights we as parents allow our kids to have.

If your parents 'don't believe' in therapy, if they don't accept who you are, if they think that prayer is the answer, and that if prayer isn't working it's because YOU just don't have enough faith--well, you ARE helpless. How do you stay hopeful about the future when you have no control over your life right now, and understand that, realistically, you can't expect to until you are at least 18?

Leelah was 17. Think back to when you were in high school, and a year felt like forever. A year is a lifetime when you are 17 and suicidal.

And reaching your legal majority is still no guarantee of independence. "While you live under my roof, you follow my rules" is a pretty standard mindset these days, and even kids with healthy home lives find it hard to transition into adulthood right away.

Leelah's homelife was far from ideal.

We all ought to be accepted for who we are. But it is unbearably tragic to me that Leelah chose suicide because she knew--with eyes wide open--that it was not going to come from her own parents. Acceptance from them was not a gift she could expect to unwrap on her 18th birthday, or any other day.
.

Rest in peace, Leelah.
posted by misha at 6:44 PM on December 30, 2014 [14 favorites]


Jacqueline, here is some information on hormone blockers.

Thanks!

OK, so after reading that and looking more stuff on my own, it seems that the hormone-blocking drug leuprolide acetate is relatively safe? And it's already routinely given to children suffering from precocious puberty? Then it seems like a no-brainer that trans* kids should have the right to at least this minimum level of treatment even if their parents aren't supportive of them transitioning before they are 18.

The more I read about cases like Leelah's, the more livid I become that being trans* isn't treated like any other birth defect by parents, doctors, health insurance companies, and society in general. If it were reclassified as a birth defect instead of a mental illness then at 1 in 333 (assuming that the ~0.3% estimate is correct) it would one of the most common birth defects in the US, roughly twice as common as Down's Syndrome.

People tend to be much more compassionate and reasonable about birth defects than they are about mental illnesses. If parents of a kid with cleft lip forced him/her to keep his/her derpy face until adulthood because "God doesn't make mistakes," they would rightfully be vilified as delusional and grossly negligent and probably lose custody of their child. Or if they just couldn't afford the treatment, there are plenty of doctors and charitable organizations who would help them get their kid the surgery and followup treatment anyway. No one would expect the kid to just live with it until adulthood, much less for the rest of his/her life.

In comparison, having your WHOLE BODY -- including your hormones and all that they affect -- be wrong is a much more dire condition than having a messed-up face and should be prioritized accordingly.

[Note: I sincerely hope that referring to being born trans* as a birth defect is not offensive to trans* people. I don't call it that as an insult, but as acknowledgement of trans* people's own explanations of being born this way and knowing their gender identity from early childhood as well as the mounting scientific evidence that being trans* is a physical condition and not a mental illness. The more I read about trans* people's experiences, the more I think that this so-called "gender dysphoria" is a perfectly sane reaction to a serious medical condition.]

Oh, yeah. Blockers are crazy expensive and are unlikely to be covered by many insurance plans. (We can barely get insurance plans to cover hormone therapy for adults, although that is slowly changing.) Privilege, again.

The ~$300/month price tag for the injections is unfortunate, but if ~0.3% of the US's ~22 million children ages 12-17 are trans*, even paying full retail price that's still only ~$238 million a year. A tiny drop in the bucket for Obamacare if it's covered (I've read that covering treatment for trans* adults is required now?) or a reasonable fundraising goal for addressing the one of the most common birth defects in the US -- more than that is raised each year for cleft lip and cleft lip only affects 1/3rd as many people.

So, where do I go, who do I talk to, and what do I do to campaign for the rights of trans* kids to -- at a minimum -- delay the onset of puberty in the wrong gender, even without their parents' consent? This issue is at the intersection of trans* rights, teen rights, health insurance reform, and medical charity fundraising and there are a zillion organizations covering each of those areas. Is there an organized campaign for this specific issue?

I'm really looking forward to the era in which everyone looks back on these days in horror as the (end of the?) dark ages for LGBTQ rights. I hope to see it in my lifetime.
posted by Jacqueline at 7:17 PM on December 30, 2014 [7 favorites]


.
posted by augustimagination at 7:41 PM on December 30, 2014


.

And .'s for all the trans girls who tried to keep it inside and don't even show up in the statistics.
posted by fleacircus at 7:42 PM on December 30, 2014 [11 favorites]


re: "referring to being born trans* as a birth defect"

there are trans people who will be offended if you refer to them like this (eg, me), and there are trans people who will be offended if you refer to their transness in literally any other way.

to make this personal, i would have jumped on puberty blockers and hrt if that was an option when i was a kid/teen. male puberty was not welcome. but now that i'm in my early 20s, i'm not mad about what testosterone did to my body, i'm mad about how society sees what tesosterone did/does to my body as a problem.

there's no one way to conceptualize transness. trans people are ridiculously divided on so many things in so many ways. whats important to me is finding a way to lift everyone up.

>on preview, thank you mods for handling this thread so well
posted by thug unicorn at 7:42 PM on December 30, 2014 [25 favorites]


Thanks, thug unicorn. It's easy to want one set of rules, but of course it's never that easy. We here on Metafilter have the benefit of many different trans perspectives to drive it into our skulls that hey, it's people: we're all all over the deck, but it's all us and we're all real.

This is hurting a lot of us, I know. Thank you to our trans members who can somehow continue to talk when it hurts them most. I mourn the statistic, but you're the 50% that will drag us through these dark times.
posted by gilrain at 7:57 PM on December 30, 2014 [2 favorites]


I know someone who is suppressing their transness by overdosing on religion. S/he came out briefly, was not accepted by family, and went right back in the closet. I truly hope nothing like this happens to them.
posted by jenh526 at 8:02 PM on December 30, 2014 [2 favorites]


there are trans people who will be offended if you refer to them like this (eg, me), and there are trans people who will be offended if you refer to their transness in literally any other way.

Yeah, the birth defect terminology/analogy is definitely problematic -- "defect" is an inherently negative word and implies that a person is therefore "defective," which is not at all what I'm trying to say.

However, I see the advantage of reframing it in such terms because most people won't judge someone for being born with a birth defect and the outpouring of compassion, financial help, emotional support, and other resources is far greater for birth defects than it is for most other conditions.

Regardless of specific terminology, we can probably agree that it would be great if everyone started being as nice about trans* kids as they are about kids with cleft lip and spina bifida and whatnot -- i.e., it's not in any way their fault that they're different and of course we should give them appropriate medical treatments to improve their quality of life.

...After giving it more thought, would "congenital anomaly" be OK with you? That seems to be both medically accurate and connotatively neutral.
posted by Jacqueline at 8:07 PM on December 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


A tiny drop in the bucket for Obamacare if it's covered (I've read that covering treatment for trans* adults is required now?)

Not quite. Obamacare prohibits discrimination on account of gender identity in (federally funded) health care, but as far as I know there hasn't yet been a federal court decision mandating trans-inclusive healthchare coverage. And, in fact, most of the health care plans offered to federal civilian employees still have trans exclusions.

It shouldn't surprise anyone that there are pending lawsuits. It will take time.

A few states have state regulations which prohibit trans-exclusionary healthcare plans.

The ~$300/month price tag for the injections is unfortunate

Yeah, this is a bit idealistic. We can barely fund one-time expenses of a few hundred dollars a pop related to name-changes to get updated, accurate identity documents.
posted by QuantumMeruit at 8:14 PM on December 30, 2014 [2 favorites]


Honest question, do you think what's going on in the #RealLiveTransAdult hashtag is a useful and helpful thing?

I have no idea how to answer this, actually. I am a legitimitely poor person with Poor People Internet and most Web 2.whatever stuff simply doesn't work unless the stars are right, so I have no idea what's going on over there. Is it trans people who successfully transitioned and overcame whatever amount of social injustice they faced just kinda hanging out? Because if so, that is a good and important thing and it helped me a lot when I was younger to be exposed to stuff like that, but it's not enough. Seeing inspirational people who have made this work for them while being real, relatable human beings and not the ugly cliches trans people are supposed to be filled me with enough hope to pursue transition--which was a good thing until reality kicked my fucking teeth in and none of those people cared. Because my culture and situation is a lot different and a lot worse than a lot of loudly positive trans people online and I need a lot more in the way of real individual and systemic aid, resources and services.

So, on a narrative and mythic level, it's absolutely a positive thing to see people who have realized fulfilling and meaningful lives in the face of a society hostile to their identities. But on a practical level, it's just air. It achieves nothing by itself. That's the problem with the attitude that "it gets better." Everyone feels like they're doing something while real people are dying in the cold. There is an insight that gets kicked around a lot: when someone realizes that "human rights" and "justice" are merely invented concepts that don't exist in actuality. But it's rare that anyone takes that farther, and cites it as a reason to be more vigilant and passionate about achieving and ensuring rights for all people. More often, it's treated as an excuse not to care.

Hope is important and necessary but what makes me so angry about "it gets better" is that it's so loaded with unexamined assumptions. If it got better for you, why did it get better? Are you white? Are you financially secure? Were you living near an affluent urbane area with lots of opportunities? Did you not have many opportunities but lucked out and worked hard at this one particular job that got you enough money to get out of abuse? Because for every successful escape, there are a thousand instances where people don't get away. Where it does in fact get worse. These are social problems that simply cannot be solved individually. Saying it got better for you can be inspiring as a narrative, but as practical advice it's very insulting and it hurts to hear. It's not very different from gloating. Even if the examples aren't personal--say, gay people marrying in New York--it's still often like dangling food someone desperately needs to survive in their face and then eating it up. In a meditative, mystical sense, yes, it is good that some people in some parts of the world will enjoy what has been denied to me and so many others. But on a practical and personal level, it's difficult not to feel ashamed and angry and hurt by that. There are times when, if your knowledge of minority rights struggles is superficial but you still want to say something supportive, simplicity is your friend. "I'm sorry," simple acknowledgements of pain without glib non-solutions, are infinitely more powerful. On the one hand, we need to care about these issues as a society. On the other hand, don't feel burdened into offering careless solutions as an individual.
posted by byanyothername at 8:21 PM on December 30, 2014 [13 favorites]


I have been out of the loop in the news but just tuned in. This happened in my dad's neighborhood about 20 miles up the road. I'm so sad, and so heartbroken.

I moved back to the Cincinnati area a year ago after living away for several years, and want so, so badly to believe my corner of southwest Ohio has resources it didn't use to have, and that progress has accelerated since I helped phone bank one day for the Campaign to Repeal Article XII which had previously enshrined bigotry in Cincinnati's city charter. While her death did not happen in Cincinnati, it did happen in the metro area, and I really feel like she was let down by the area's notoriously conservative reputation.

Our openly gay Cincinnati city councilman, Chris Seelbach, posted a heartfelt Facebook message about it. I made the mistake of reading the comments. I wish I hadn't, after seeing a bunch of people defending the parents.

I don't really know what to do except keep telling everyone I know to read Janet Mock's memoir Redefining Realness and maybe to send some money over to TransOhio.
posted by mostly vowels at 8:35 PM on December 30, 2014 [4 favorites]


we, members of white liberal western society, need to give our trans kids appropriate medical treatments because duh.

however trans kids & adults are only an "anomaly" when you accept as natural some stuff that is extremely culturally relative. this is a huge can of worms.
posted by thug unicorn at 9:23 PM on December 30, 2014 [10 favorites]


.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 9:30 PM on December 30, 2014


or from a more radical transfeminist angle: i'm acceptable as a woman if and only if i can convincingly say i have a treatable congenital anomaly?
posted by thug unicorn at 9:37 PM on December 30, 2014 [6 favorites]


Leelah said "Fix society. Please."
and now i'm crying.
posted by thug unicorn at 9:44 PM on December 30, 2014 [6 favorites]


Reading Leelah's words was particularly difficult. And it brought to mind my own experiences as a trans youth. Though I came from a home with military/conservative (not religious) undertones and encountered a slightly different struggle (being a transguy), I could've written Leelah's words as a teen -- and it breaks my heart to know how alone she was.

I've been there. The loneliness is absolutely crushing. No one understands --- no one wants to. Not your 'family', not your 'friends', not even 'professionals'. So you turn inward, hoping that self-love will combat the chill of social isolation. But you're confronted by despair that you'll always be 'broken' and a wall of internalized hate from a lifetime of never knowing the acceptance of others. Self-love can also be impossible when faced with the knowledge that you may never outwardly be the 'self' you so desperately want to be. Why live a life without love, support, and the ability to be your true self? For the vague promise that it 'gets better'? Examples are hard to find and statistics suggest otherwise for many trans people. Death becomes a logical (not selfish; not unclear) release from it all for some. I took a 'nothing to lose' approach after I failed at the former and subsequently made some very unwise (and a few dangerous) life decisions to facilitate transitioning. I was lucky.

Having said that, passing seems pretty relevant to the thread, considering one of the major areas of Leelah's distress was over progressing in puberty and passing. I certainly can't speak for every trans person, but passing was a huge part of my distress as a trans youth as well. I had long hair (that I was forbidden to cut), a feminine voice and a very top-heavy figure, so it was impossible for me to pass despite my best efforts. It made everything so much harder to deal with. I can't help but feel this is doubly so for transwomen, for whom passing may become more difficult once the irreversible effects of puberty occur. This difficulty is then layered with the constant pressure society places onto women (and increasingly men too) to meet unrealistic standards of beauty. These standards already drive many women (and some men) to depression, and I think passing may play a similar role in many trans peoples' lives. Loving who you are sometimes isn't enough -- not when the rest of the world is very eager to remind you of who you aren't.

Of course, to our detriment, this sort of goes hand in hand with greater societal pressure to conform to binary gender norms to begin with. And I can't help but think we're not only losing lives because of it, but also a chance at a greater understanding of ourselves as human beings.

RIP Leelah
posted by stubbehtail at 9:45 PM on December 30, 2014 [21 favorites]


or from a more radical transfeminist angle: i'm acceptable as a woman if and only if i can convincingly say i have a treatable congenital anomaly?

You're acceptable as a woman if you say you're a woman. Your brain knows your true identity, even if some of your other organs may disagree.

I'd like to continue our discussion via MeMail, if that's OK with you? I have some more things I'd really like to run by you but I don't want to have a long side discussion in the middle of Leelah's thread.
posted by Jacqueline at 10:57 PM on December 30, 2014 [2 favorites]


I haven't seen anything about a fundraiser for Leelah's headstone, but here's a petition for her headstone to have her correct name.

As for the medical-reasons-for-trans-ness discussion: on the one hand, ableism is still a massive problem in the world, so I don't think marking it as some sort of medical-related issue would make people care more. On the other hand, I know that in Malaysia and some parts of South Asia trans people have made great strides in getting civil rights for themselves precisely because they argued under the medical model, that it was unconstitutional to discriminate against someone with Gender Identity Disorder.
posted by divabat at 11:26 PM on December 30, 2014 [2 favorites]


I just read a comment on Autostraddle's summary from rhymeriver:
This is not just an issue of circulating information on how hormones work (because 18 is very young and no reason to pose a problem), we (people who are not trans women) as a society really need to make deep changes in the way we see and celebrate trans women: there is something really horrible and wrong going on that the prospect of not being pretty (that is, looking cis) could fill a trans teenage girl with such lethal despair.
When I talk with other trans people about the concept of "passing," I think it's better to discuss it in terms of conditional cis privilege, which frames the issue accurately and switches it from being something we do to something our cisnormative society does. Something jealously doled out arbitrarily that can be yanked away at any time no matter what you do or say or look like. Something that makes it clearer that the entire fucking machine needs to be destroyed.

But look: I know all the right things to say about this. I understand the thinking, and the transfeminist theory, and the backing framework. But this is still really hard on a personal level, because how people perceive you just makes such a stupidly large difference. I had FFS in October, something I was able to do because I had all kinds of advantages that so many others don't. I feel guilty about it, like if I were a real activist/feminist, I should have toughed it out with pride as a more visibly trans woman. But being a visibly trans woman is fucking hard, and no amount of knowing that it shouldn't matter actually makes it less hard when you are being hurt for being trans. Being told that you don't have to look cis doesn't stop people from throwing anti-trans slurs at you on the street - only looking more cis does that for you on a timescale that matters. The timescale of yesterday, today, tomorrow, next week. You can't wait around hoping your skin will eventually get thick enough that you can handle it, especially not when you're 14, 15, 16, 17, and it doesn't seem like you can last that long.

And so it's so, so easy to get trapped down in that well that Leelah was in, where even if you're armed with third wave righteousness it gets beaten out of you and you just need it to stop. Where you're hurt for being trans and you reach for the avenue available to you to try to handle being trans and get slapped away. Where time costs you not just testosterone damage but a real life, because it hasn't even started for you yet and every second wasted in the before-times is a second you'll never get to live.

It is fucked up that this is how things are, and it's fucked up that society is okay with Leelah as the collateral damage of propping itself up.
posted by Corinth at 11:28 PM on December 30, 2014 [37 favorites]




Your brain knows your true identity, even if some of your other organs may disagree.

this is harmful and violating well meaning cis allies please don't ever do this.
posted by thug unicorn at 11:43 PM on December 30, 2014 [4 favorites]


Fascinating paper, divabat. Some things that surprised me: there seem to be much more transwomen than transmen out there (Table 2); and also that how well you perceive yourself to pass doesn't seem to have much of an effect on your lifetime suicide risk (Table 6), about 5% difference between people who feel they always pass and people who feel they never pass. The raw percentages are shocking, though!

Anyone know what's up with the disparity in MtF vs FtM? It's almost 2:1 - although of everyone surveyed, the breakdown of their birth sex is about 60:40 in favour of males, which I guess implies that it's much more likely for someone assigned female at birth to identify as genderqueer or something else rather than FtM?
posted by nicolas léonard sadi carnot at 11:52 PM on December 30, 2014


.

There was another person who committed suicide in the same way recently in the Cincinnati metro area, an 80 year old man who started a successful annual fundraising campaign for a local food bank. The method seems pretty unusual, so I wonder if this might be a copycat.
posted by Small Dollar at 12:02 AM on December 31, 2014


nicolas léonard sadi carnot: "Anyone know what's up with the disparity in MtF vs FtM? It's almost 2:1 - although of everyone surveyed, the breakdown of their birth sex is about 60:40 in favour of males, which I guess implies that it's much more likely for someone assigned female at birth to identify as genderqueer or something else rather than FtM?"

I know and know of a number of trans women who identify that way because that is the way they are positioned, socially, politically, etc. They self-describe as agender or genderqueer or as other genders but they are made to exist, under patriarchy, in the same category as a trans woman, and so that is how they live their lives. So, yes, essentially: people who are assigned female at birth are more likely than people assigned male to identify outside the male/female binary because it is safer for them to do so.

FYI, the terms "assigned female at birth" and "assigned male at birth" -- and their acronym'd counterparts, AFAB and AMAB (and variations, such as CAMAB, "coercively assigned male at birth," and DMAB, "designated male at birth") -- are slowly chasing out the old MtF/FtM terminology. You'll find as many trans people who use one set as use the other at this point.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 12:19 AM on December 31, 2014 [12 favorites]


This is horrible. That poor kid.

.
posted by homunculus at 1:02 AM on December 31, 2014


They self-describe as agender or genderqueer or as other genders but they are made to exist, under patriarchy, in the same category as a trans woman, and so that is how they live their lives.

I don't think I fully get this, do you have any blogs etc that might go into it more?
posted by nicolas léonard sadi carnot at 1:54 AM on December 31, 2014


speaking for myself, someone who is more like that kind of trans woman than Leelah's kind of trans woman:

this is like, a really good question, and for me to answer it to the best of my ability is not within the scope of this thread or possibly even the blue period. Have you read Nevada? that might be a good start to get into like, the culture of 2000 and 2010s (white western) trans women and transfeminine ppl dealing with queer and feminist gender identity stuff.

For non-cis and gender-questioning amab folk, i'm happy to take further discussion to memail.
posted by thug unicorn at 3:54 AM on December 31, 2014 [12 favorites]




They self-describe as agender or genderqueer or as other genders but they are made to exist, under patriarchy, in the same category as a trans woman, and so that is how they live their lives.


The way I read this, I think AoK is saying that if you are an AMAB person who is feminine-spectrum, even if you don't feel like you are a trans woman per se, other people assume that you are a trans woman, treat you as a trans woman and link your access to political power, visibility and medical care to calling yourself a "trans woman". Like, if you try to live as a genderqueer AMAB person, maybe people just treat you as a giant weirdo, but if you say "oh, I want to transition", you may still get treated badly but at least some people will be "that makes sense". And the availability of narratives is a big deal - if you don't have examples and cultural space you can easily sort of long for something but you don't know quite what it is or how to seek it out.

Whereas for AFAB masculine spectrum people, there is a lot more space within the queer community for different expressions of gender* - consider the many, many ways of being masculine spectrum, androgynous, butch, tomboyish, etc. And it is a lot easier to live in the world as an ambiguously gendered AFAB person - for example, I wear about half men's clothes and even the women's clothes I have look like men's. I go to a barber. My affect, though not actually, you know, manly, is not typical of women. And yet I have a job! And although people still think I'm a big freak and I get a certain amount of hassle, it's not nearly as overt or dangerous as what AMAB feminine people go through.


*I do think that there's also some cultural pressure not to transition even if you want to - there's an awful lot of "but we're against gender/patriarchy/etc, why do you want to be a loathesome man, why can't you just be a Very Butch Woman" - at least, I've had that conversation with people, and it's frustrating. Also, I feel like there could stand to be more diverse models of masculinity - many people don't want to transition into a bro, but sometimes it feels like that's the expectation. I surmise that there would be at least somewhat more trans men - just as there might be more genderqueer, etc, AMAB people - if we develop better and more diverse models of gender.
posted by Frowner at 3:55 AM on December 31, 2014 [27 favorites]


There have been a lot of thoughtful and enlightening comments in this thread, and as always when trans issues are discussed on MetaFilter I feel like I've had my eyes opened even more to the complexities of the issues, and the personal struggles of people open enough to post here. So if even on only a very small and personal scale I wish that Leelah could know that her death meant something and it wasn't in vain.
posted by billiebee at 5:20 AM on December 31, 2014 [6 favorites]


Is it possible that AFAB men are undersampled in surveys because most people just assume that they are cis men? In my experience, once the beard starts growing in it's almost impossible to tell the difference between a cis man and a trans man. I've read things from several AFAB men who say that they no longer identify as trans* because their male identity has been so thoroughly integrated into society.
posted by Jacqueline at 5:34 AM on December 31, 2014 [1 favorite]


Anyone know what's up with the disparity in MtF vs FtM? It's almost 2:1 - although of everyone surveyed, the breakdown of their birth sex is about 60:40 in favour of males, which I guess implies that it's much more likely for someone assigned female at birth to identify as genderqueer or something else rather than FtM?

There's a bunch of stuff going on. Almost any (more on this later) article on the prevalence of trans-ness is going to find a hell of a lot more AMAB trans folks, sometimes by margins of like six to one.

Probably the single biggest reason for this was that it was traditionally particularly difficult for AFAB people to access medical transition--if you even figured out it was possible (keep in mind that a shocking number of people still don't know that trans men exist), your chances of finding a doctor who would take you seriously were pretty much nil (and in the absence of a trans community, which was the case for most people pre-internet, if the first doctor you dare to talk to tells you you're nuts, you're likely not going to try again). And, of course, how are prevalence studies conducted? By counting the people who walk through the door of gender clinics (mostly at a handful of universities). That's not going to be a representative sample to begin with (but it's the best you can find usually), and then you add in the part where the clinics have had a history of serving one population (white, middle- and upper-class trans women) reasonably well and sending everyone else packing on the grounds they're not trans. (For example, it's only in the last five to ten years that you stopped seeing the advice telling gay trans men to lie about their sexual orientation as a matter of course when trying to access medical transition because gay trans men "didn't exist".) I think we'll slowly see the numbers start to even out.

Then there's the part where our society gives more latitude for gender non-conformity to AFAB people. Living as a highly gender non-conforming woman is a whole world of difficulty even when you are a woman, but it can look easier than transitioning, especially in light of the previous paragraph. Given that people tend to transition when they hit their breaking point, every extra year you hold on makes it that much more likely you'll decide "I've made it this far, I can suck it up the rest of the way" and not transition. (I also know a guy in his 60s who's thinking "I fought so hard to live as a woman on my own terms, I don't know if I want to transition and have to do it again".)

The weird part is that there are two studies from the 1980s, one done in Poland and then other in Czechoslovakia (IIRC) that found far more trans men than trans women. No one really knows what to make of this. Most prevalence studies (and studies of trans people generally) are done in the Netherlands and the United States and may only have locally-applicable results, particularly because the above two paragraphs are full of things that are very much culturally bound. But, as far as I know, no one has tried to count trans people in Eastern Europe more recently, never mind elsewhere in the world.

As a note, genderqueer people were included in that survey (look further down Table 2). Rather more AFAB identified themselves as genderqueer/gender non-conforming than AMAB people did.

I've read things from several AFAB men who say that they no longer identify as trans* because their male identity has been so thoroughly integrated into society.

This tends to be who the 'birth defect' crowd evolves into. I'll just say that I think it's an idea that requires a bunch of privilege and leave it at that.
posted by hoyland at 5:59 AM on December 31, 2014 [16 favorites]


This is really educational, thanks everyone. hoyland, if we shared a city I'd buy you a drink and talk your ear off about this stuff.
posted by nicolas léonard sadi carnot at 6:12 AM on December 31, 2014 [1 favorite]


reminder this is a thread about a trans girl who killed herself because she didn't think she could ever look right for people to love her.
talking about men, population statistics, masculinity, even "diverse models of masculinity", is not imo welcome. i know every trans thread devolves into a generic trans thread, but fuck, talk about more diverse models of femininity if anything.

anyway: on the nb vs tw thing, i was holding back before, but its a hell of a lot less of a derail than population statistics.

frowner you're kinda right about a lot of the stuff you're talking about but...seriously, do you really need to center your own experiences like that? can you maybe explain to trans-101 type people how its considered cool to be an afab person who isn't quite a man but not cool to be a amab person who isn't quite a woman, without talking about how cool it is to be an afab person who isn't quite a man?

and everyone, but especially people with a privileged position in explaining transness to people, ie non-women, amab gender diversity fucking doesn't go away when we dare to name ourselves women. we're androgynous, butch, tomboyish, etc, too.

i can't speak to the experiences of someone like leelah who knew she was a girl from a young age and talked about the idea being loved as a woman by a man. but as a woman-loving amab feminine queer, i figured out after a year or three of gender questioning i could spend my whole fucking life trying to explain to people the cute nuanced reasons i wasn't a straight cis guy, or i could dare to claim sisterhood for myself.

i can be an angry trans woman like this on metafilter because if i talked like this and call out like this IRL i wouldn't be welcome in cis women's spaces or mixed lgbt spaces. I have to tone police myself so much to be "one of the good ones". Trans girls, especially trans girls of color, are dying.
posted by thug unicorn at 6:40 AM on December 31, 2014 [24 favorites]


if you're a feminine amab person and you fight hard to live on your own terms in a gender-swapped version of hoyland's example, pretty damn quick you're not a gender-non-conforming guy any more you're a gender-non-conforming trans woman. thats just how it works. and thats why you center trans women in discussions like this.
posted by thug unicorn at 7:09 AM on December 31, 2014 [7 favorites]


frowner you're kinda right about a lot of the stuff you're talking about but...seriously, do you really need to center your own experiences like that?

I apologize - that wasn't cool of me at all and I'll be more aware of thread focus in the future.
posted by Frowner at 7:10 AM on December 31, 2014 [6 favorites]




reminder this is a thread about a trans girl who killed herself because she didn't think she could ever look right for people to love her.

I reiterate my earlier questions about viable political strategies for winning trans* kids the legal right to at least a minimum level of treatment even if their parents don't consent. I'm assuming that those of you who have been in the movement for a while have a plan so please tell the rest of us where to go, whom to talk to, what to do, etc.

Leelah told us to fix society. Let's roll.
posted by Jacqueline at 9:02 AM on December 31, 2014 [2 favorites]


Have you read Nevada? that might be a good start to get into like, the culture of 2000 and 2010s (white western) trans women and transfeminine ppl dealing with queer and feminist gender identity stuff.

If you, or other people in this thread, have more fiction suggestions, I would very much like to hear them. I'm trying to develop a better collection of trans-related stuff at my library (we're doing okay with nonfiction and memoir (but we could do better--I'd happily take suggestions in those areas too), but could definitely use more fiction) (and, yeah, I realize I'm asking to be educated, and I'm already doing my own collection development work, but I would highly value additional perspectives).
posted by box at 9:41 AM on December 31, 2014 [3 favorites]


Jacqueline, I am heartened by your enthusiastic responses in this thread and I don't want to dissuade that, but unfortunately, there is no (inter)national movement and no real, major effort to change things for trans people, currently. There are smaller, more local efforts, but most of these are so ineffectual as to be enclaves. The Trevor Project linked in the OP is probably the most high profile resource in the US, but it's kind of a bad joke.

Right now, there is a petition to ban conversion therapy in the US. This would not have prevented Leelah's death, but it would be a positive step. Where I live, the overwhelming majority of therapists do this and it is incredibly harmful and needs to just stop. Even if the US did ban it, though, there would still be regions wiggling out of the ban, and the absence of what is essentially a form of torture for trans people is not really much for inspiring hope and positive change. That the best thing I can think of offhand is a probably ineffectual internet poll to stop needlessly harming trans people speaks to the real level of meaningful social engagement and change we have. It's not as bad as it was, largely because the internet has given trans people a platform to express and define themselves (this is the #1 reason why you see fluid language in trans activism: most of the older terminology was set by establishments hostile to us, and don't reflect our identities and experiences, so of course there are efforts to change the words we use), but it's still not good.

What you can do is ask around to see if there are any resources or organizations near you and volunteer time or donate money. Even if there are no trans centers, gender clinics or LGBT initiatives, there might still be some people on the ground fighting for basic rights. In my region, our very meagre trans activism and resources are all tied up with a counseling center and the Universalist church. None of it is very out there in the open and finding it took several years of asking around. It is hard work, it is not rewarding, but it is probably there for you, too.

Lurking in trans forums and spaces is also a good way to keep up with major petitions, lawsuits, protests, resource buildings and charities as they happen. Trans-specific areas of Reddit and Tumblr are your friends here (though it should be noted that Reddit, generally, is not).
posted by byanyothername at 10:47 AM on December 31, 2014 [9 favorites]


Oh! box! I missed your post. Haruki Murakami's Kafka On the Shore features a trans man as a major character, who is probably the best fictional trans character I know of. Oshima doesn't dominate the narrative, he's an interesting person in his own right and his transness is just kind of there, discussed with nuance a few times, and accepted by the narrator. Murakami treats transness as a detail, rather than the entire character definition, which is hugely important to me.

Takako Shimura's Wandering Son manga series is also excellent, and focuses more on gender identity and transness as the underlying theme of its plots. Characters inhabit different areas of the gender spectrum, and it does a pretty good job of showing that gender is a spectrum, that there is no universal trans experience and that resources and social attitudes are...lacking, without edging into Pitiful Trans Women tropes. It's positive without being twee or carrying unexamined privilege, which is also hugely important to me.
posted by byanyothername at 10:56 AM on December 31, 2014 [9 favorites]


Box, that's a brilliant idea, getting more trans* friendly books for your library!

I live in the South, and activism is slower to develop and, I think, takes a more gradual pace than where a lot of you live. It is common to just dismiss us down here with "Southerners are racists" rhetoric. I think (well, I would, being a Florida native), that this is of course lazy stereotyping; we have a diverse population and are making strides. Typically Red State Florida went with Obama in 2008 and 2012, for example. But it is slow going still, and religion plays a huge part in gumming up the works. I see this in part as a by-product of a larger elderly population, many of whom move down here to retire and are still holding on stubbornly to their own prejudices. So we have mega churches supporting conservative idiots like this group in their bigotry and making the national news, while traditionally Southern franchises quietly go about doing the right thing.

The point being that we have both a lot of older religious type folks AND a lot of young, progressive folks here, and getting the word out to the younger folks is both more challenging and more necessary because of that. Universities, of course, are the popular bastions of liberal thinking once a young person comes of legal age, but before then it is the Internet. In Leelah's case, I wouldn't be surprised if the internet was the only place where she could feel accepted...

Still, parents monitor kids' online activity, too, so If we could find a way to get more materials into our middle and high school libraries, that might be the best way to reach out to more of these young people, to let them know there are others like them and they are not alone at the very least. I am up to the task of gathering up a bunch of trans friendly YA titles myself and seeding them around here if anyone thinks that would help!
posted by misha at 11:05 AM on December 31, 2014 [4 favorites]


My FPP from back in July (god it feels like longer, what is with 2014) was about fiction by trans women - I didn't have time to include detail on half the writers I'd have liked to, but it's well worth chasing up the names dropped in the post and the links.
posted by emmtee at 11:46 AM on December 31, 2014 [4 favorites]


byanyothername: "There are smaller, more local efforts, but most of these are so ineffectual as to be enclaves."

Dealing specifically with teenagers -- get trans* identity included in your school district's non-discrimination policy and bullying policy, so that trans students know they are recognized as a legitimate, protected class. Not a lot of kids come forward to take advantage of the bullying policy's protection in general, but it's really important for that to be part of the school district's official policies, because that makes a statement about community values and makes clear that students being harassed are suffering from a wrongdoing. They don't "deserve" it.

I had to sell this to two white Republicans and four black-church Democrats, none of whom at first considered this a legitimate issue we needed to be addressing, to get the votes to pass it, but I said at the beginning (of the policy revision process), "This is going in, this needs to go in," and I never waivered and I spent eighteen months selling stakeholders (parents, administrators, teachers union) on the necessity of adding trans students to our non-discrimination and bullying policies. One key point is that to make these kinds of local, small-scale changes, you don't have to get people to agree with you about trans-ness -- you just need to get them to agree to put it in the policy. One of the Republicans I sold on the idea is an older man, and he was pretty up front that he doesn't really "believe in" trans identity and that with teenagers, it's "just a phase." I said, "Even if you're right, these are kids who are questioning their sexuality and identity who may be coming from strongly religious homes with repressive parents who aren't good at helping their children navigate these issues of self-understanding, and school needs to be a safe place for them where they won't be bullied while they work this all out. Even if it is "just a phase," they have GOT to know they're safe coming to school so they have the time and space to grow up. We're talking about kids who are often in a great deal of emotional pain, who feel isolated and alone and scared, and regardless of anyone's opinion on whether people can be born in the wrong body, these are children who need a place to be safe and it is our job to provide it for them." He looked at me for a very long moment and then said, "Fair enough, you've got my vote." A lot of the people I convinced to support the change are not trans allies, and I have no illusion about that, but they are allies of children, and my whole pitch revolved around the fact that these are uniquely vulnerable kids that we need to keep safe long enough to get them to adulthood so they can make decisions about their own lives, or get out from under their horrible families. (Everyone who works in schools knows that sometimes the best you can do is give a kid enough support to withstand the crushing weight of their awful family long enough to turn 18.)

Another area to consider is sexual health education. What does your local school district provide, and is it inclusive in recognizing GLBTQ students and their experiences? Are your sexual health educators trained in trans issues, and able to answer questions about it in a non-judgmental, helpful way? Do they know how to find resources and help students find resources? There are state and national sexual education groups that advocate for these things; you can find the one in your state and use their information to work on lobbying your local district. Your county health department is probably a central point for the provision of sexual health services for teenagers, and ongoing education and training to people who work with teenagers (like teachers); how good are they with trans issues? Are they willing to get better?

Are your school's social workers receiving training in helping GLBTQ teenagers? Are they aware of local resources? Do they know how to recognize when being "closeted" may be contributing to a child's problems at school, and how to handle that in a sensitive manner? Does your district have a gay-straight alliance at the high school? Are they accepting of trans students? Does your district have adults who signify that they're GLBTQ-friendly? (Often with a sticker or sign, so students know it's safe to approach that teacher/coach/administrator if they need to talk about sexuality.)

These are public institutions that welcome public input and serve taxpayers, so if you think trans health services are important, you keep telling the health department that until they start doing better. They need to keep hearing from the community that this is what the community wants.

Those are some small reforms that specifically target teenagers, where the infrastructure is already in place (schools) and you just need to make sure there's knowledge and training. Ensuring trans kids have access to safe housing, etc., is a lot harder because it often involves creating and sustaining new entities, but school is the traditional venue for getting to kids whose parents are part of the problem, and the systems already there just need some updating and will self-sustain pretty well thereafter.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:56 AM on December 31, 2014 [32 favorites]


Like Son by Felicia Luna Lemus is about a Chicano struggling to accept his father and salvage his relationship. His transness is just an established fact, not part of the plotline; I love that it's not a transition story, and I love that it's by a queer Latina.

The Creamsickle by Sister Spit alum Rhiannon Argo is about a bunch of sloppy, broke, hard partying baby queers in SF. All the main characters are MOC/genderqueer and one of them comes out as a trans man and begins HRT during the book.

I want/need to read a million more books by and about trans women and I am so grateful the always awesome emmtee posted the link to her FPP. I don't know how I missed that, but my goal in 2015 is to read every single one of those authors.
posted by Juliet Banana at 12:06 PM on December 31, 2014 [7 favorites]


I would be interested in hearing what media was available to people who figured out they weren't cis* pre-internet. I remember checking out Stone Butch Blues from the library (along with most of the other queers in the universe, according to the recent mourning for author Leslie Feinberg).

I also shoplifted some Susie Bright from a bookstore, which I actually really regret; this is not the time or place for me to start repeating gross anti-trans rhetoric but it was pretty lame coming from a queer sex educator and incredibly harmful for me to internalize as I began a puberty that I would take back in a heartbeat.

I don't remember a lot of media about trans women that wasn't super fucked up, and that's a shame, and something that's thankfully changing. What was there out there for kids to find before the last decade?

*not necessarily a lightbulb going off saying TRANS, but all the stuff you felt as a kid that now looking back is hella obvious, or that weird generalized feeling that something is wrong about you or there's something different about you from everyone else
posted by Juliet Banana at 12:15 PM on December 31, 2014 [3 favorites]


Screencap of a Facebook post by a neighbor (posted to Twitter), discussing what happened when Leelah came out as "gay".

Her parents apparently forbade her from visiting the neighbors, who were supporting.
posted by QuantumMeruit at 12:37 PM on December 31, 2014 [9 favorites]


.
posted by floatboth at 12:59 PM on December 31, 2014


I think I pretty much relied on the Famous Five to navigate this as a kid, pre-internet. It wasn't as bad as that might sound.
posted by Ashenmote at 1:07 PM on December 31, 2014 [1 favorite]


Jeez, the more I read, the more I hope someone has the courage to charge these parents with negligence.

I don't necessarily want that kind of charge to result in a punishment for them--I am not one much given to subscribe to vengeance being a good thing--but I think just bringing up the idea that charges could be filed would go a long way towards addressing the overwhelming sense of puritanical righteousness of the kind of fundamentally religious people who so dogmatically dig in their heels instead of listening to their kids.
posted by misha at 3:04 PM on December 31, 2014 [5 favorites]




Now there's a Buzzfeed listicle post I can get behind. Thanks, divabat!
posted by tonycpsu at 3:49 PM on December 31, 2014 [3 favorites]


There was one thing I wanted to say - as heartened as I am by the response to Leelah's life and her last requests - to cis people, and to feminists in particular: dead trans girls are easy to support. They don't criticise community spaces and norms you hold central to your queer identity and history; they don't call for you to reconstruct ideology and theory that you've found liberating where it contradicts the reality of their lives. They don't demand that you stop promoting people whose work you find personally resonant when the same people repeat exterminationist rhetoric.

I genuinely hope support for Leelah and girls like her doesn't evaporate when we aren't so easy; when we can't be, when change means compromise and some small sacrifice, when we tell you unpleasant truths about 'LGBT' and 'queer' and 'women's community' and what those things have been allowed to mean for young girls who don't see a future. While we're alive.
posted by emmtee at 3:51 PM on December 31, 2014 [30 favorites]


I reiterate my earlier questions about viable political strategies for winning trans* kids the legal right to at least a minimum level of treatment even if their parents don't consent. I'm assuming that those of you who have been in the movement for a while have a plan so please tell the rest of us where to go, whom to talk to, what to do, etc.

Sorry for being a bit of a downer, but it's important to remember that access to medical transition is probably not the most pressing issue facing trans youth or trans people generally. Being able to consent to hormone blockers or hormones would be a great boon to youth, but it doesn't do you a whole lot of good if doing so is going to land you on the street or if you have no realistic means of paying for it and so on.

I would be interested in hearing what media was available to people who figured out they weren't cis* pre-internet. I remember checking out Stone Butch Blues from the library (along with most of the other queers in the universe, according to the recent mourning for author Leslie Feinberg).

It's not pre-internet as such, although it's pre-internet-as-we-know-it, but it's probably a good thing I didn't have the nerve to get my parents to take me to see Boys Don't Cry when I was 13.

I think the only thing I had growing up with queer characters were Dick Francis books with the inexplicable gay characters. (He's portraying being gay as a neutral thing in like 1965, which was pre-legalisation in Britain.)
posted by hoyland at 4:19 PM on December 31, 2014 [4 favorites]


i want to signal boost a poor transfeminine person of color who probably wouldn't want me to drop their name here, who addressed what allies should do to help trans women and trans girls especially of color.

they talked about local sex worker rights groups. the ones led by sex workers. if you're not a sex worker you can be an ally. secondly, they talked about shelters and other domestic violence resources. shelters and domestic violence resources are, as a rule, not accepting of trans women and this is a huge problem.

this reminded me of some of the stuff emi koyami taught me. the postscript to her manifesto and her writing on the experiences of women in shelters are really powerful.
posted by thug unicorn at 6:10 PM on December 31, 2014 [6 favorites]


"The Leelah Project", the top link in Divabat's list of places to give money in Leelah's memory, is not something I would feel comfortable supporting.

In its initial tumblr post, it talks about sending nice stuff to trans women and amab nonbinary people. After it went viral and got on GoFundMe, it takes a different turn.

A "nonbinary" person who is not a woman, and who does not have words in their tumbr about page for their asab or relationship to transmisogyny, is raising a huge pile of money with the name and picture of a dead trans girl and is going to give half of it to people who don't experience transmisogyny.

Better people and organizations deserve your money and honestly divabat i kinda expect better from you.
posted by thug unicorn at 6:37 PM on December 31, 2014 [3 favorites]


thug unicorn: I first saw that project just before it got viral - it was linked on a comment on the Autostraddle article that got posted earlier in this thread. The first post on that is Alex offering to donate their clothes (which are largely feminine) to people who need it. They got a lot of response from other people wanting to help so they decided to be more organised about it.
posted by divabat at 6:39 PM on December 31, 2014 [1 favorite]


I can't let a mention of Emi Koyama pass in a mefi thread about trans women -- particularly in this kind of context -- without noting that she has been responsible for spreading some pretty toxic ideas about trans women.

I mean, quoting directly from the manifesto PDF link: "While it is true that male privilege affects some men far more than others, it is hard to imagine that trans women born as males never benefited from it. Most trans women have "passed" as men (albeit as "sissy" ones) at least some point in their lives, and were thus given preferable treatments in education and employment, for example, whether or not they enjoyed being perceived as men. They have been trained to be assertive and confident, and some trans women manage to maintain these "masculine" traits, often to their advantage, after transitioning."

It's horseshit. Violent, inaccurate horseshit, representative of a feminism that prefers its trans women silent, meek, constantly apologising for privilege we do not and may never have had access to, and talked over by all. I had heard that at the time she wrote the manifesto she was calling herself a trans woman despite not being AMAB, but I don't have a primary source to link to to support that (although people I trust who were around when it was first written have confirmed this to me privately), which makes the whole exercise even more ugly and distasteful.

While I don't deny that she may have had useful things to say on other topics, I consider boosting her voice uncritically to be outright harmful.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 6:40 PM on December 31, 2014 [12 favorites]


It's up to you whether you want to support it or not, and I can understand your discomfort with it. The list is made up of places that I saw recommended around the Internet, including and especially by other trans people, plus some extra research I made when I realised the list was US-heavy. I'm not endorsing any of it personally (except perhaps the PBKS fundraiser) since I don't have a direct relationship with any of the organisations listed.
posted by divabat at 6:43 PM on December 31, 2014 [1 favorite]


god. i keep pulling my punches and regretting it. i knew that about koyami and posted that anyway. why? i don't know. #RealLifeTransAdult here, i have no idea how to talk about trans community politics because everything is fucked. Everything AOK said is totally true.

i'm really sorry about making it unnecessarily personal, divabat. i understand these things move really fast and the rest of your list looks pretty awesome and i'm glad you spent time putting it together.

The attitudes that dead trans girls are the property of all trans people, and that dead brown and black trans people are the property of white trans people...i think this is the reason why things don't get better, and this is something we can all try to chew on and be uncomfortable and awkward about, i think. fyi yea i'm white. oof.

anyway i think i'm going to go dress up so i can get wasted tonight in style. happy new year everyone, i hope i didn't completely ruin this thread, bye everyone.
posted by thug unicorn at 7:04 PM on December 31, 2014 [10 favorites]


No worries, thanks for speaking up. I'm sorry on my end too.
posted by divabat at 7:07 PM on December 31, 2014 [1 favorite]


Happy new year and have a good one.

And I think most trans women have experience in pulling useful theory, observations, and praxis from the writings of people who would hurt us; it is the legacy of decades upon decades of transmisogynist feminist theory leaving us only with the cracks in the pavement to walk on.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 7:08 PM on December 31, 2014 [6 favorites]


thug unicorn - you haven't ruined the thread, your comments have been very interesting, so don't worry.
posted by marienbad at 7:09 PM on December 31, 2014 [3 favorites]


liketitanic said it best, so I will just link to their comment.
posted by marienbad at 7:21 PM on December 31, 2014


Regarding the Buzzfeed listicle, for organizations taking a very active role in providing direct services to trans women of color, I would personally endorse Casa Ruby and HIPS in DC. I am also (personally) a supporter of ROSMY in Richmond, which does good work with trans youth in the area. (Disclaimer: I know and have done stuff with people involved in all three of those organizations.)

And I hate to mention this in the same breath, but CNN ran a "both sides equal" article (headline: "An Ohio transgender teen's suicide, a mother's anguish") today.

Leelah's mother told CNN that she told Leelah she loved her unconditionally, but "they wouldn't stand for that" (transition?) and "We don't support that, religiously". The hypocrisy, it stings.
posted by QuantumMeruit at 7:55 PM on December 31, 2014 [4 favorites]


I don't think she understands what "unconditionally" means.
posted by misha at 8:03 PM on December 31, 2014 [21 favorites]


.
posted by bile and syntax at 8:27 PM on December 31, 2014


Disgusting that she can say that in the face of her daughter's suicide.

(I originally had "astonishing" there, but no, I'm not astonished; I've seen this play out this way too many times.)
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 2:50 AM on January 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


The more I read about cases like Leelah's, the more livid I become that being trans* isn't treated like any other birth defect by parents, doctors, health insurance companies, and society in general.

There is a pretty ugly and problematic history of doing just this with regard to intersex conditions, and it is unlikely to be a less problematic proposition with regard to transness either...
posted by Dysk at 5:36 AM on January 1, 2015 [5 favorites]


Yeah uh, defect is not the right word.
posted by Drinky Die at 9:37 AM on January 1, 2015


Having transness perceived as a voluntary medical thing would be a better direction than the current view of transness as delusional "men who want to be women" (I'd reverse this also, but awareness of trans men lags and there are a lot of ugly factors surrounding that), especially in the US where no one has direct access to healthcare. The important thing is stressing that there is never going to be a single, universal medical/psychological "explanation" for transness, and people want varying degrees of treatment (but access to treatment is the goal worth working toward). The big danger I see with a more medical model is that there is never going to be a test to prove % of "medical transness," but that is obviously what bigots who want to deny care want out of the medical model. Coercively "correcting" transness the way intersex conditions have been (and are) is obviously terrifying and horrible.

Anyway, it's late in the thread and it's probably down to just the usual suspects, and this may be an unnecessary clarification, but I wanted to say plainly that the kind of abuse Leelah suffered in life is not at all limited to trans youth. I am a disabled adult who has to deal with similar abuse, and there are insufficient resources to escape it. It is extremely damaging at every level of being. A reason to spearhead efforts to help abused trans youth is that it gets harder to get away over time.
posted by byanyothername at 10:10 AM on January 1, 2015 [4 favorites]


Given the varying types and intensities of dysphoria people report, the existence of many non-western gender systems that include genders I as a white westerner might instinctively think of as "transgender", and the many different ways people describe and experience their genders, I'm comfortable assuming there are dozens of "causes" of transness, all as real and valid as each other.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 10:32 AM on January 1, 2015 [9 favorites]


I have really mixed feelings about this, not least because suicide contagion is a real thing, and her suicide (and subsequent media coverage) makes it more likely that other LGBT youth will kill themselves.
posted by klangklangston at 12:44 PM on January 1, 2015 [4 favorites]


Me too. Personally I wish nobody, ever, felt like they had no choice but to kill themselves. We should work towards a world where that is the case. But I also think that sometimes killing yourself could be a rational least-bad alternative and I think we all have the right to decide for ourselves if that's the case. Mental illness complicates this evaluation to an incredibly problematic degree.

I don't have a lot of good answers.
posted by Justinian at 12:50 PM on January 1, 2015 [5 favorites]


Cincinnati's convention center's civic identity sign was lit up in rainbow colors last night in Leelah's memory.
posted by tizzie at 1:23 PM on January 1, 2015 [6 favorites]


As difficult as it's been, I want to thank so many of you for sharing your thoughts and stories. Reading them has been cathartic for me and left me oddly happy and comfortable with myself for the first time in untold years. Thank you Leelah for challenging us to change. I'm just so sorry for the cost.
posted by michswiss at 3:48 PM on January 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


.

For all the trans* kids and teens out there. I hope we can make the world a safer place for you.
posted by daybeforetheday at 5:58 PM on January 1, 2015


Listening to the Living and the Dead: Ruminations on #justiceforLeelahAlcorn (Tw: Suicide)
I debated for a long time about whether or not to write about Leelah. In part because I loathe the prurient media fascination in recent years with trans kids and also because the things I have to say are going to be difficult, uncomfortable, and could bring me a lot of harassment. Trans women of colour (twoc), dear friends of mine and people I care about, have received death threats and endless online harassment for talking about some of the topics I’m going to cover in this post.

But…

I can’t ignore Leelah’s entreaty: “Fix society. Please”.

I also can’t ignore the fact that, on Twitter at least, people have been demanding #JusticeforLeelahAlcorn without any clear notion of what this means or what it entails. In a general sense, true justice for Leelah would involving fixing society, just as she asks us to do. But as I’ve been articulating on my own Twitter account, for the past few days, this hashtag and most discussions only focus on one part of her story. The easy part.

This part, of course, is the abuse she endured at the hands of her parents. Most calls for ‘justice’ in the Twitter hashtag mainly involve parents accepting their children, religion bashing, and similar remarks. At least this is the comments from the mainstream/cis society.

The response from the trans community has likewise been disappointing in how much it misses the mark and refuses to engage with narratives and comments not only expressed within Leelah’s suicide note but that have been articulated by trans women of colour since we started the entire modern ‘gay rights’ movement.

This post/essay/etc will be an exploration into what justice for Leelah Alcorn might actually look like and some of what is needed to ‘fix society’.
posted by divabat at 7:41 PM on January 1, 2015 [22 favorites]


That post is powerful. Thank you, divabat.
posted by Corinth at 10:18 PM on January 1, 2015


That is a fantastic piece.
posted by odinsdream at 6:20 AM on January 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


I don't know. I found the binaohan piece to be a little terrible. They TOTALLY missed the point of #RealLifeTransAdult. Red (the author of the hashtag) HATES "it gets better" and that was not at all the intent of the hashtag.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 6:55 AM on January 2, 2015


They definitely have a different view of #RLTA than I do, but overall I think it's a good piece. I think it's important to boost voices like theirs in activism because the "opposite" view, what some would call the liberal, individualist view, the view that treats symptoms rather than root causes, is more dominant in trans and LGBT activism in general.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 8:02 AM on January 2, 2015 [2 favorites]




[updated the 404 suicide note link with a working copy of it]
posted by mathowie (staff) at 9:36 AM on January 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


The viewpoint about #RLTA shared by binaohan is one that I've seen shared by many trans women of color in general.
posted by divabat at 9:47 AM on January 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


The viewpoint about #RLTA shared by binaohan is one that I've seen shared by many trans women of color in general.

Did you watch the founder's YouTube video? They totally misunderstand her.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:00 AM on January 2, 2015


The Binaohan piece is incredibly powerful and the first thing I've read on this that resonates more than superficially with me. It touches on a LOT of points that many of us have to dance around (and she admits that she is in some ways still dancing around some things) for anyone to consider (and usually reject) listening to us. The #RLTA thing is a minor detail, and one I can't comment on because none of that matters to me. There is so, so, so much there beyond that, and it's so, so, so valuable to hear.
posted by byanyothername at 10:12 AM on January 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


I just disagreed with almost everything in that piece. It missed the mark to me on anything important.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:13 AM on January 2, 2015


They're not misunderstanding her, they're saying that for all the good intentions #RTLA has, it still misses the mark because it didn't take into account how things are a hell of a lot more complicated when you are marginalised multiple times. It wasn't intersectional enough, in other words.

A lot of the critique of IGB (as you can see in this thread too, earlier on) is that for certain groups it doesn't ever really get better. On this thread it started off with pointing out that it doesn't really get all that much better for trans women; binaohan points out that there's an extra layer of complexity when you bring race into it, since trans women of color bear most of the brunt of transmisogyny and can't escape it in ways that white trans women can mitigate to some degree.

And again, they're far from the only person saying this.
posted by divabat at 10:41 AM on January 2, 2015 [7 favorites]


Did you watch the founder's YouTube video? They totally misunderstand her.

This is probably a problem with Twitter specifically as a medium, whereby the participants in a #Thing could be quite different from the founder of that same #Thing.
posted by odinsdream at 11:16 AM on January 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


Did you watch the founder's YouTube video? They totally misunderstand her.

And #GamerGate is really about ethics in games journalism.


I just want to quote-for-truth something from the binaohan article:

In generaly, neither the cis nor trans communities are really willing to address or deal with the enforcement of cisnormative standards of beauty that at once robbed Leelah of hope but also ensured that, in death at least, her life matters (and matters more than the deaths of the trans people whose distance to cisnormative beauty is even greater).

Also, the whole section on 'Desirability'? The descriptions of trying to talk about this online are bang on the nose for metafilter, for example (minus the death threats).


Now I'm white, and middle class (even if I am also poor as fuck) and I get a bloody cushy ride compared to most, but god damn if I haven't seen everything that article describes from both wider society and trans communities (almost especially the latter) and I know I don't get it as bad as many others out there. I don't normally like to discuss the failings of trans communities in this sort of venue (far too easily seized upon by transphobes, TERFs, etc, as 'proof' of their generalisations) but I will say that from where I'm sitting, I see a lot of truths in the binaohan article, and the more uncomfortable they make you, the more you probably need to listen.
posted by Dysk at 1:23 AM on January 3, 2015 [10 favorites]


As someone who has un-approving parents and has to wait until she's 18 to start therapy/hormones, I get depressed at the idea that I'm never going to be as pretty as I could have been. If I could have gone on puberty blockers as a kid or even just start hormones a couple years earlier I could have turned out so much prettier, and I'll never be able to achieve that beauty because of something that I can't control, like what family I was born into.

I feel bad for saying that because I know there are people on here who didn't get to start transitioning until much later in their life, but seeing girls start HRT younger than me on /r/transpassing completely ruins my day.

Thoughts?

Heartbreaking. I'm glad she at least found some support in online spaces like Reddit even if it wasn't enough. The ignorance of the parents drives me as crazy sometimes. Would they force someone assigned female at birth testosterone just because as parents they decided she should be a boy instead? Thinking that forcing a trans person to be something they aren't is any less abusive makes no sense to me. I understand trans issues are new to a lot of people, but when it's your children I expect people to grow and change to fit their needs. I hate that not everybody can have parents that do that.
posted by Drinky Die at 4:11 AM on January 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


https://twitter.com/EntirelyAmelia/status/551227294086602752
Hey guys, just so it’s clear, #LeelahAlcorn’s blog was taken down due to a parental request and not for any other reason.
Some one mirrored the tumblr's content here: http://lazerprincess.soup.io
posted by and they trembled before her fury at 4:58 AM on January 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


It's so sad that Leelah thought that she'd never be "pretty enough" or "pass" if she didn't start hormone therapy before her 18th birthday. IIRC, Laverne Cox didn't start hormone therapy until adulthood yet she's an incredibly gorgeous, sexy woman.

If I didn't already know that Lavern Cox was AMAB, I'd probably never guess -- yes, she's rather tall and muscular for a woman, but she's no taller than Tricia Helfer and she's less muscular than Linda Hamilton in T2.

(Note: I'm not saying that trans women should have to "pass" or that's even an appropriate goal for all trans women -- just that, given that seemed to be Leelah's goal, it's sad that she gave up on ever obtaining it.)
posted by Jacqueline at 5:50 AM on January 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


Also, while more legal rights for trans* minors may be a long political battle, something we could do right now is provide a better support network for newly-18-year-old trans* teens who have left home or been kicked out with nothing but the clothes on their backs.

Maybe identify the best cities for trans* folk to live in, and then help them get there unmolested and hook them up with local resources and contacts once they land? Similar to programs for domestic violence victims (i.e., pick them up from their abusive homes at any hour, provide emergency shelter and other basic needs, plug them into programs that can help them, etc.) but instead of housing them at a shelter within their hometown work on transporting safely to a more trans-friendly environment.

Like a modern-day Underground Railroad... I'm not trying to be hyperbolic with that analogy, it's just the closest example I can think of for networks of ordinary Americans acting on a moral imperative to help strangers get out of a really bad (sometimes life-or-death) situation.

I've just been in so many online conversations with suicidal LGBTQ kids stuck in the middle of nowhere with abusive and/or neglectful parents where all I can really tell them is "hang on until you're 18 and then get yourself to a coastal major city." It would be really nice if I could also offer them some realistic hope for how they could manage the logistics of that doesn't involve the risks of hitchhiking across country and ending up homeless in a city where they don't know anyone.

My own finances and living situation are currently too precarious to offer monetary help or temporary shelter, but I could probably manage the time and gas to pick someone up from anywhere within Virginia (including on very short notice in an emergency) and drop them off at the next stop on the "railroad" if the whole round trip for me could be done within a day's drive. (And someday when I've got my own shit together, I hope to be able to do a lot more, including become a foster parent for LGBTQ teens.)

I imagine there are many people like me... if someone asked you, for example, "hey, this trans* person needs help leaving their abusive home in bumfuck Kansas and getting to San Francisco and you're along the way, can you help?" would any of you NOT be willing to help in some small way within your means -- a ride, a place to sleep for one night, a meal, some clothes, some toiletries, a small amount of cash, introductions to more LGBTQ-friendly people you know along their way, etc.?
posted by Jacqueline at 6:16 AM on January 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


It looks like the Quakers have set up an Underground Railroad to smuggle LGBTQ people out of Uguanda (where the situation is much more dire!) but I can't find anything about similar networks in the US/Canada for LGBTQ teens trying to leave abusive homes. Worse, the only references I can find to networks for LGBTQ teens leaving home are the bad kind that funnel them into prostitution. D:

It seems like in the age of AirBNB, Couchsurfing, Lyft, Uber, etc. and the vast online LGBTQ support communities on Tumblr and other social media sites that this should be a solvable problem, no?
posted by Jacqueline at 6:26 AM on January 4, 2015






Jacqueline: http://www.transhousingnetwork.com

Thanks!

That seems like a good start but, in my area at least, there are far more "needs couch" than "has couch" so there seems to be a need for a recruitment drive for volunteers.

It also doesn't seem to cover other needs like emergency rides from abusive homes/situations, other transportation, supplies (e.g., clothes, toiletries, phones, etc.) for people who've had to leave home with nothing, etc. Also, the addition of relocation guides for cities known to have adequate trans-friendly employment, housing, medical, and social resources would provide more long-term solutions than a couch to crash on temporarily. Or maybe these things are already on there and I just can't find them -- better organization and a more intuitive interface would help.

I'll contact them and ask them how I can help them recruit more people to provide safe shelter, since I can't currently do so myself. I'll also see if they're interested in expanding their mission to include my other ideas or if they'd rather someone else take that on and then just link to them as a housing resource.
posted by Jacqueline at 7:25 AM on January 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


OK, I messaged them asking how I could help. I also submitted myself to the directory as a "resource" for emergency pickups/rides within Virginia and am contacting a few of the "need couch" kids to offer them a ride once they find a place to stay.
posted by Jacqueline at 8:29 AM on January 4, 2015 [5 favorites]


"cover-ups and concern trolls: actually, it's about ethics in suicide journalism"

That's a deeply frustrating exchange, where the underlying TERF is right about suicide contagion and Chu over-reacts to disparage the valid point while pointing out that the broader context that the TERF is assuming is wrong.

The org I work for, who were the ones to ban conversion therapy in California, passed a law a few years back named after a kid who had committed suicide after being bullied. Pretty much every anti-suicide service provider called to chew us out. Apparently, naming a law after a kid who committed suicide is pretty much a big sign that says, "Hey kids, want to be famous? Appreciated? Powerful? Kill yourself." Suicide ripples like a contagion, and Chu's weird double-flip over justifying the high suicide rate for trans* youth in order to argue against Ditom just makes it clear that he's out of his depth.

The generally accepted explanations of (population-level) disproportionate suicide rates of trans* people are pretty much minority stress and lack of effective preventative services (simplifying). And while Chu is right that those are at least somewhat political projects, the only way that Leelah's death helps is if it decreases the number of trans* youth who kill themselves, especially since there's a legitimate risk that it may catalyze other kids into doing the same thing.

The only way that Chu's broader position makes sense, that suicides are rational responses to the world around trans* people, is to forgo everything we know about suicides in general. It's not. outside of very, very few exceptions, the decision to attempt suicide is a predictable, irrational act that is fairly definitionally outside the realm of good mental health. Something that helps highlight this is that most trans* people haven't attempted suicide. The rate is still disproportionately high, roughly 10x the national average.

Recognizing that doesn't mean letting the parents off the hook either: You can tick boxes off on that list of risk factors; the parents substantially increased the risk of her death through "conversion therapy" bullshit, rejection, etc. They probably do feel awful, and they should. It's as bad as if they'd gotten her loaded on schnapps and handed her car keys. It's a parent's job to be responsible for their kids, and they failed.
posted by klangklangston at 4:39 PM on January 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


Jacqueline: look up trans organisations in your area and see what they're already doing. The temptation to get all Savior Complex and start new efforts is strong, but this kind of work is already being done; they just need more people to notice and help.
posted by divabat at 6:15 PM on January 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


divabat: I wish there was a local trans* organization to support but I live in the buckle of the Bible Belt, just down the road from Jerry Falwell's Liberty University. Every time I've asked around looking for the local LGBTQ community the only1 response I've gotten is "if you find something, please tell me!" We don't even have a gay bar here -- the nearest one is in another city 60+ miles away. So if there are any trans* organizations in my area, they are hiding really really well.

There used to be a local trans women support group but I can't find any evidence of activity from them more recent than 2011. Meanwhile, the founders of a local LGBTQ advocacy organization left town in 2012 after publicly declaring our state unsafe for gays. The only local LGBTQ organizations that still seem to be (sporadically) active are a PFLAG support group for freaked out parents and a Gay-Straight Alliance student club at the secular university, but everything I've seen from them suggests that they focus almost exclusively on the LG part of LGBTQ.

IMO, the best way to help trans* people (or LGBTQ people in general) in my area is to help them get the hell out of here because of the abundance of bigotry and dearth of support locally. Hence my interest in trying to help facilitate an "underground railroad" to do just that.

1: Well, except for the one time someone recognized my name and added "what kin are you to [my late father-in-law] just between you and me he has a fine looking son working there hair coming out his shirt is hot yea i get tire there." Apparently that guy spread the word because my husband noticed an uptick in the number of gay men coming to his tire shop from unusually far away after that, LOL!
posted by Jacqueline at 1:58 AM on January 5, 2015


If I didn't already know that Lavern Cox was AMAB, I'd probably never guess -- yes, she's rather tall and muscular for a woman, but she's no taller than Tricia Helfer and she's less muscular than Linda Hamilton in T2.

I know you don't mean it to, but even with a disclaimer, there is absolutely no way you can say "you don't even look trans" and not have it be intensely problematic patronising.
posted by Dysk at 3:43 AM on January 5, 2015 [9 favorites]




The family planning clinic in the building where I work is picketed constantly by an anti-abortion group, who also plague them with false calls for appointments so that actual women who need help can't be seen. So it doesn't surprise me that helplines are also abused in this way. It's horrendous.
posted by billiebee at 6:00 AM on January 5, 2015


False calls to what is essentially a suicide helpline should be prosecuted severely.
posted by odinsdream at 6:36 AM on January 5, 2015 [4 favorites]


Gotta agree with Dysk that critiquing the looks of trans women and pointing out physical traits that may be taken as "evidence" of their past is not helping. Physical traits are varied and unique to all humans with our special snowflake bodies, there are no "trans" traits and "cis" traits, and we should all strive to look at other humans and only think "dang, I wonder where they got those earrings, they look rad."

Not trying to start a pile-on; but if you're posting a lot in this thread and encountering pushback, please consider that this may be one of the times when we all need to take a breath and sit back and try to listen to and follow the leadership of trans women, rather than just jumping in swinging with both arms.
posted by Juliet Banana at 8:16 AM on January 5, 2015 [10 favorites]




Reparative, a semi-autobiographical interactive fiction game about trans teens, reparative therapy, passing, transmisogyny, and gender affirmation. By mefi's own elephantsvanish.
posted by ActionPopulated at 1:40 PM on January 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


Jacqueline: Here's a list of trans resources in Virginia, in Richmond, another Virginia list, Charlottesville.

Consider reaching out to state, regional and national organizations, not just stuff in your immediate backyard, such as the National Centre for Transgender Equality, Trans Lifeline, Trans Student Educational Resources, TransYouth Family Allies, WPATH, Camp Aranu'tiq, Gender Specturm, GATE, or anything from this list. Also asking the gay community for trans related resources may not always be the most effective way to go, since there's been a history of a lack of awareness of trans issues from gay-rights organizations.

I'm sorry if this comes of as unkind, but I'm getting a strong feeling that you're being overly particular in the type and amount of effort you're willing to put in, as in "I WILL HELP TRANS PEOPLE! But only if they fit X, Y, and Z criteria, and have to be right in my neighbourhood, and have to openly advertise as a trans organization, and have to do exactly the kind of work I am thinking of doing, and have to cater to all my wishes. Also I searched once and couldn't find anything so I will assume none exists, because TOO HARD."
posted by divabat at 4:03 PM on January 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


And speaking as an employee at an LGBT non-profit, many of them can use money much more than your time. To would-be volunteers: It's totally OK to just write a check sometimes! It's often better! Just sign up for a recurring contribution and forget about it!
posted by klangklangston at 4:20 PM on January 5, 2015 [4 favorites]


divabat: Sorry if I'm coming across as so particular. That's not my intent. I'm just really frustrated trying to find some way I can help. (I have no money, so my time is all I've got to offer right now.) I really appreciate your effort to help me find a way to help.

...not just stuff in your immediate backyard...

My arthritis limits how far I can travel to volunteer -- while I can manage the occasional long drive by double-dosing on NSAIDs and Tylenol, my liver can't handle that as a regular thing and thus commuting 2 hours to Richmond or 1.5 hours to Charlottesville is out. So while I could do the occasional emergency pick up & transport from farther away, my range for a regular daily or weekly commitment is limited to the Lynchburg-Appomattox area.

Also I searched once and couldn't find anything so I will assume none exists, because TOO HARD.

I agree that I need to do more than just internet searches because if nothing else, this area seems to be running 10-20 years behind on internet adoption. So I'll pick up the phone and call those organizations you linked me (thanks!) in Richmond and Charlottesville and see if they know of any organizations (or people trying to start organizations) in the Lynchburg area. If such a group exists, maybe one of the first things I can help them with is setting up a website and social media presence. :)
posted by Jacqueline at 4:57 PM on January 5, 2015


Gotta agree with Dysk that critiquing the looks of trans women and pointing out physical traits that may be taken as "evidence" of their past is not helping.

Oh, I agree, and it's definitely not something I'd normally bring up. I'm only talking about it in the specific context of Leelah's suicide because in her own words, one of the main reasons she killed herself is that she believed she'd never be pretty enough to "pass" or be loved by a man.

My personal opinion is that everyone is worthy of love and respect regardless of their gender presentation and how well it does or does not conform to gender stereotypes. In an ideal world, enough people would feel that way that girls wouldn't worry about being pretty enough to be loved. But given that we don't live in that ideal world and girls clearly do worry about such things, how do we refute their erroneous belief that if they don't start hormone therapy before adulthood that they'll never be pretty enough and thus might as well give up on life?

Some of you seem entirely focused on propigating the message that a person's self worth and lovableness shouldn't depend on how they look, and that's great! It's an idea that needs to catch on in society at large, and not just for the benefit of trans* people. But for the girls who aren't receptive to that message, wouldn't having a backup message of "look at these gorgeous women -- they didn't start transitioning until adulthood" help save a few more lives? That's the only reason I bring up the physical appearance of role models like Laverne Cox -- the hope that seeing more trans women like her will give more trans girls hope. I'm sorry that wasn't clear in my earlier comments.

Also, while I've been thinking about at it as a two-pronged attack, I can see how the second prong (look at these gorgeous trans women) could undermine the first (your appearance shouldn't matter). So I think I understand why a lot of you might want to avoid that tactic entirely. I'm just worried about how realistic it is to expect girls to stop caring about how they look, and how many will die while waiting for society to stop caring about how they look too? I don't know what the optimal strategy is here. :(
posted by Jacqueline at 5:52 PM on January 5, 2015


Jacqueline: she believed she'd never be pretty enough to "pass" or be loved by a man.

No no no no no no no no. No.

Passing and being pretty are two entirely different things. To be able to pass as female (really, read cis female in this context) is entirely separate to being pretty. One can definitely do the former without the latter (as I'm sure many cis girls would tell you) and the reverse is also true. To talk about being 'pretty enough to pass' eliminates the possibility of any expression of transness being pretty - after all, the prettier you get, the closer to passing as not-trans - and is hugely problematic.

But given that we don't live in that ideal world and girls clearly do worry about such things, how do we refute their erroneous belief that if they don't start hormone therapy before adulthood that they'll never be pretty enough and thus might as well give up on life?

How pretty is pretty enough? What level of prettiness is it erroneous to believe achievable (and for whom)? I'm not sure what you're trying to fight is a battle that one can win - the goal posts will simply move (and the further back they go, the more people become collateral damage in buying into a broken, distorted way of conceiving of the world).

There may be a time and a place for the sort of encouragement you wish to offer, but I think it's worth examining whether you, as a cis person, are best placed to provide it. There is really no good way you can attack the issue of trans women's appearance as an armchair analyst or advisor without it being a problem.

Again, I get that you mean well, I do, however (quoting Juliet Banana for truth):

Not trying to start a pile-on; but if you're posting a lot in this thread and encountering pushback, please consider that this may be one of the times when we all need to take a breath and sit back and try to listen to and follow the leadership of trans women, rather than just jumping in swinging with both arms.
posted by Dysk at 7:11 PM on January 5, 2015 [9 favorites]


There may be a time and a place for the sort of encouragement you wish to offer, but I think it's worth examining whether you, as a cis person, are best placed to provide it. There is really no good way you can attack the issue of trans women's appearance as an armchair analyst or advisor without it being a problem.

Very good point. I'll get off anything appearance-related then, since I don't have the perspective to be effective in that area, and instead put my focus back on figuring out how to campaign for trans* kids' rights to appropriate health care since that requires winning over other cis people. And on a local level, do whatever small things I can do to help individual trans* people leave abusive homes and relocate to more supportive communities.

I've also RSVPed for the local PFLAG meeting on Thursday night. I wrote the local chapter off a couple years ago as functioning primarily as a support group for parents instead of as an advocacy organization, but the character of a group can change a lot in a couple of years and it's time to check back in and see what they've been doing lately. Even if they're still not involved in activism, they might be able to refer me to other local groups or individuals who are.
posted by Jacqueline at 7:49 PM on January 5, 2015


byanyothername: "The Binaohan piece is incredibly powerful and the first thing I've read on this that resonates more than superficially with me. It touches on a LOT of points that many of us have to dance around (and she admits that she is in some ways still dancing around some things) for anyone to consider (and usually reject) listening to us."

Two points she made:

1) Leelah felt she would never be pretty enough. All I could think when I read this was WHAT A SHIT REASON TO KILL YOURSELF FUCK THE PATRIARCHY, and I think that's the reaction of a lot of women, cis or trans, but I think a lot of women didn't address this because -- well, as a cis woman, I didn't want to tell a trans woman how she ought to feel about female beauty standards. BUT SERIOUSLY, fuck the patriarchy! Lots of women, cis and trans, feel absolutely awful about their personal appearance, and THAT IS BULLSHIT, by which I do not mean to condemn women who feel bad (including myself) but the patriarchy that sets up this judgmental system of feeling bad. This was the very first thing I keyed on in her final post, but I didn't want to latch on to it and be too strident, because I don't want to tell other women (cis or trans) how to feel about their bodies, especially when that was complicated by issues of transitioning and puberty. But I suspect a LOT OF WOMEN have a LOT OF FEELINGS about the idea that Leelah wouldn't be pretty enough if she transitioned after puberty.

2) Desirability. I was on a committee to address STDs, particularly as it relates to sex ed in schools, and one of the issues the expert educators talked about was educating high school students for good relationships. One of the things (high-quality, evidence-based) sex ed does nowadays is talk to students about healthy relationships, often having adults in healthy relationships come in to talk to the kids about healthy relationships. The educator from Chicago talked to us about how it's important to talk to teens about relationships, but that most of this discussion is very heteronormative and the information that cis, hetero teenaged girls need to stay safe in relationships is VERY DIFFERENT from what trans or homosexual teenaged girls need. Men definitely prey on women in their teens and 20s, but cis, hetero girls face a totally different set of issues than trans girls or homosexual girls. This is COMPLETELY OBVIOUS once you give it 20 seconds of thought, but I simply hadn't considered how the "healthy relationships" parts of sex ed have to address the actual lived experience of teenagers of a variety of genders and sexualities before this educator brought it to my attention.

Trans women are at very high risk of relationship violence; it's unfortunately true. This should be something included in public school sex education, because many (even most) trans women will have to face rejection and violence because of their gender status. It sucks balls and isn't fair, but the fact that it isn't fair shouldn't stop us from attempting to fix the problem, as problems don't fix themselves.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:21 PM on January 5, 2015 [7 favorites]


Pretty much every anti-suicide service provider called to chew us out. Apparently, naming a law after a kid who committed suicide is pretty much a big sign that says, "Hey kids, want to be famous? Appreciated? Powerful? Kill yourself."

They're not entirely wrong -- suicides like Leelah's and the monks immolating themselves to protest China's occupation of Tibet are political acts and one of the few ways that otherwise powerless people can bring attention to a cause and motivate others to act. But I don't think the proper response to protest suicides is to sweep them under the rug to avoid suicide contagion, I think it's to FIX THINGS so that they're no longer so terrible that some people resort to such a drastic form of protest.
posted by Jacqueline at 8:36 PM on January 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


Passing and being pretty are two entirely different things. To be able to pass as female (really, read cis female in this context) is entirely separate to being pretty. One can definitely do the former without the latter (as I'm sure many cis girls would tell you) and the reverse is also true. To talk about being 'pretty enough to pass' eliminates the possibility of any expression of transness being pretty - after all, the prettier you get, the closer to passing as not-trans - and is hugely problematic.

This is great. Would it make sense to add a 'passing' != attractive topic to the trans*101 wiki?
posted by Golden Eternity at 9:59 PM on January 5, 2015


"They're not entirely wrong"

No, they're largely right (I got hired after the law had been named and passed, so only saw the backlash).

"But I don't think the proper response to protest suicides is to sweep them under the rug to avoid suicide contagion, I think it's to FIX THINGS so that they're no longer so terrible that some people resort to such a drastic form of protest."

Since that second part, fixing things, is a big part of the mission of the org I work for, and I didn't say anything about sweeping it under the rug, I'm not exactly sure if you're trying to agree with me or argue against something I didn't say.
posted by klangklangston at 10:28 PM on January 5, 2015


Sorry, wasn't arguing against you specifically, just against the general idea of not publicizing protest suicides.
posted by Jacqueline at 10:31 PM on January 5, 2015


Would it make sense to add a 'passing' != attractive topic to the trans*101 wiki?

Does it really need one? I mean, if you think medium hard about it, you realise that far and away most cis women pass as women, but not all cis women are normatively attractive. From there it's the barest leap to realising they're not the same thing.
posted by Dysk at 2:16 AM on January 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'll get off anything appearance-related then, since I don't have the perspective to be effective in that area, and instead put my focus back on figuring out how to campaign for trans* kids' rights to appropriate health care since that requires winning over other cis people.

I hate to be all "this is a bad idea", but it's a probably bad idea. The decision about whether it's a good idea or worth doing is really a decision that needs to be made by trans people or at least people deeply entrenched in the trans community. It's not just a matter of convincing cis people that something is a good idea, you have to do it in a way that doesn't blow up in trans people's faces and make it worse. That's not to say we should never stick our heads above the parapet, but, if you're risking backlash, trans folks need to be the ones to make that decision.

The biggest trans-related victory that occurred at the university while I was in grad school was insurance coverage for transition-related expenses on the undergrad insurance plan. There was a meeting where we debated the extent to which it could be safely mentioned in a press release. This was after the ink was dry. But there was a still a real risk someone would kick up enough fuss to make the university backtrack.
posted by hoyland at 5:35 AM on January 6, 2015 [3 favorites]


Does it really need one? I mean, if you think medium hard about it, you realise that far and away most cis women pass as women, but not all cis women are normatively attractive. From there it's the barest leap to realising they're not the same thing.

fwiw, I don't think just because something should be common sense that it follows most people have thought about it. Take for example I'm a Trans Woman and I'm Not Interested in Being One of the "Good Ones" which honestly just covers this "common sense" angle but was super, super helpful to me personally even so.
posted by odinsdream at 7:54 AM on January 6, 2015 [4 favorites]


CN Lester: The authenticity gap: Are trans people really ‘real’?
We need concrete action, going forward: an end to ‘conversion therapy’, proper support for trans victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse, proper care for homeless trans people, a joined-up activism that understands and acts on the many other oppressions trans people face.

But, to achieve that, we need a change in attitudes. Some people are already there. Some people are changing. But until full and total belief in trans people’s lived truth is a popular position, we need to keep asking:

Do you really believe that a trans person is as authentically human, as truthful about themselves, as deserving of belief, protection and respect as you are?

And if not – what are you going to do to get to that place of belief?

Advocate.com: PHOTOS: Hundreds Mourn Leelah Alcorn in Vigils Worldwide
A crowd of 300-400 people gathered at a Friday vigil in Columbus (above) to mourn the teen's passing and call for an end to so-called transgender conversion therapy that attempts to dissuade people from being trans.

Feministe's tigtog, criticizing Ditum's piece:
I’ve never understood how anyone can conclude that it’s possible to create positive change without discussing the negative norms that need changing. The oft-heard assertion that critical examination of societal factors contributing to personal tragedies is some form of political exploitation simply never rings true to me. It always seems that what’s really going on is that they don’t think the norms truly need to change, but they don’t want to admit it.
posted by Corinth at 12:31 PM on January 6, 2015 [4 favorites]


Ray Toro of the band My Chemical Romance released a song dedicated to Leelah, "For The Lost And Brave."
posted by Corinth at 1:19 PM on January 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


Sorry, wasn't arguing against you specifically, just against the general idea of not publicizing protest suicides.

Well, the problem isn't confined to "protest" suicides. There are well-documented "epidemics" of suicide, where having a publicized suicide somewhere increases the chances that there will be others in the same area/at the same school.
posted by OmieWise at 12:50 PM on January 7, 2015


Laverne Cox is on The View discussing Leelah, and her own [Cox's] suicide attempt at 11 years old. I am feeling tearful, not just because Cox is tearful herself, but because she has so much empathy and compassion, even about not demonizing the parents, and how everyone is suffering over Leelah's loss. Her grace and eloquence are inspirational.

I am just so freakin' impressed by Cox right now.

Apropos of nothing except, I guess, my own shallowness, and I apologize if this out of line considering the tragic event we are discussing, but I also keep getting distracted by how truly stunning Laverne Cox is in the gorgeous green dress she is wearing today. I want that dress so bad!
posted by misha at 8:40 AM on January 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


I'm pretty sure I could be chained to a rock getting my innards pecked out at my mother's funeral and if Laverne Cox walked by I'd still think "Dang, what a gorgeous goddess."
posted by Juliet Banana at 8:58 AM on January 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


Laverne Cox is the best.

It looks like there's a ~2 day delay for recent episodes to be posted to The View's website, so I assume we'll be able to see this episode this weekend or early next week?
posted by Jacqueline at 11:19 AM on January 8, 2015


Laverne Cox is the best.

Yeah, I have tremendous respect for her ability to be calm and kind and rational and thoughtful on the fly in situations where, if I were in her position, I would have totally flown off the handle.
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 12:54 PM on January 8, 2015 [2 favorites]




(Off topic, but what the fuck is with huffpo bouncing their share shit? It's too fucking distracting for me to be able to read anything, and this is the first time I've seen it but I almost never go there. Is it always like that?)
posted by klangklangston at 3:22 PM on January 8, 2015


I don't know, I found it through my RSS reader and just grabbed the URL to share here. I checked this one and it sucks too thanks to an autoplay video. Sorry in advance!

Leelah Alcorn's Death Inspires Fastest Growing Change.Org Petition Of 2014
posted by Corinth at 3:27 PM on January 8, 2015


Unfortunately, this month's local PFLAG meeting was cancelled due to the extreme cold, so I was unable to go as planned.

BUT the good news is that before it was cancelled, a lady posted to the local PFLAG chapter's FB group asking for a ride, and I offered to give her a ride, and then we FB-friended each other, and then I discovered via her FB that she is a trans* woman. And then via her FB I found a local LGBTQ FB group that she's an admin of and joined that. So I've FINALLY found SOME sort of connection the local LGBTQ community after 3+ years of sporadic searching and failing to find anything.

Unfortunately, as per my new trans lady FB friend, the nearest trans* related organization is 60+ miles / ~75 minutes drive away. But I let her know of my eagerness to volunteer to help with a more local effort (and of my extensive experience with fundraising, event planning, political campaigning, and general organizing/business stuff), so if she or one of her local trans* friends decide to start something local then I will be ALL OVER THAT in a supporting role. (And thanks to all y'all in this and other threads, I know now that I should wait for a project led by a trans* person and then restrict myself to a behind-the-scenes role -- I understand that as a cis/het person that it's not my place to lead here.)

I still need to followup on calling the organizations that divabat linked for me but I think that I should put that off until after I've recovered from my probable impending gallbladder removal surgery and subsequent physical therapy to recover from being mostly bedridden for the past 3.5+ years, since I'm not currently healthy enough to do anything that isn't local (<20 miles) or doesn't require more effort than arguing with assholes on the internet.

So thanks y'all for motivating me to get off my butt and try harder to find the local LGBTQ community despite my initial results of (as divabat put it) "Also I searched once and couldn't find anything so I will assume none exists, because TOO HARD."
posted by Jacqueline at 6:02 PM on January 9, 2015 [4 favorites]




It looks like there's a ~2 day delay for recent episodes to be posted to The View's website, so I assume we'll be able to see this episode this weekend or early next week?

Towleroad posted clips from the program today.
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 3:55 PM on January 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


"Transparent" just won the Golden Globe for best TV comedy/musical/etc. and the creator/producer dedicated it to Leelah Alcorn.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:46 PM on January 11, 2015 [3 favorites]




"Transparent" just won the Golden Globe for best TV comedy/musical/etc. and the creator/producer dedicated it to Leelah Alcorn.

I also gathered from her speech that she has a parent who is trans (that sounded vaguely familiar, so maybe I'd already read that), which I think redeemed (that's harsher than I intend, I think) the speech a bit. I was ready to cringe all over the place when Jeffrey Tambor won, but I think he did a good job signalling that he understood the weird position he's in where people will confuse him winning a Golden Globe with meaningful progress.
posted by hoyland at 5:29 AM on January 12, 2015


#JamForLeelah is a month long trans positive game jam to raise awareness on LGBTIQ issues, specifically trans youth issues and Leelah's Law as well as an attempt to raise money for the Transgender Human Rights Institute.

I have personally clashed with the woman behind the THRI before and would not support the org even now that she's stepped down in disgrace. I wanted to mention the game jam, but I'm also attempting to contact them to suggest they find another beneficiary.
posted by Corinth at 5:30 PM on January 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


"Transparent" just won the Golden Globe for best TV comedy/musical/etc. and the creator/producer dedicated it to Leelah Alcorn.

It's a very very good show! I binge-watched the first season last week. Anyone who has Amazon Prime (which everyone should have, it's an awesome deal, go get it) can watch it for free.

It's not just for trans* people (I'm cisgender) nor outreach to the clueless (thanks to MetaFilter I'm now much more trans*-savvy than the average person so I didn't really learn anything new) -- it's compelling as a family dramedy even aside from the trans* angle.

The Fanfare threads are here. And it's been renewed for a second season!
posted by Jacqueline at 5:40 PM on January 12, 2015




Hey, so the Transgender Housing Network never posted my aforementioned offer of emergency pickup and transport in Virginia -- they also didn't get back to me as to why or in response to my query as to how else I might help, but I'm assuming that it's because my offer doesn't fall into the Need Couch / Have Couch focus of their site?

I guess I'll just contact the Virginian "Have Couch" people directly and let them know that if someone contacts them needing a place to stay but with no way to get there that they can pass my contact info along. Also, does anyone know how to monitor just one tag on a Tumblr site? Ideally, I'd love it if I could somehow get an email every time there's a new post to the Virginia directory section, since I'm not a regular Tumblr user.

In other news, it looks like the local trans lady I met via her ride request to the (since cancelled) PFLAG meeting will be meeting up with me this weekend to discuss what, if anything, she wants to do/start around here for support, advocacy, etc., and how I can help her with that. She also asked me if I had any HR experience (I do have a little) and whether I could help her figure out some things about presenting as female at work -- I told her I was no expert, but I have a few self help books for women on style and workplace etiquette (left over from my own "how to be a grown up" self-education) that I'll be lending her.
posted by Jacqueline at 1:21 PM on January 15, 2015




#JamForLeelah starts in about 2.5 hours, and I wanted to note that they've switched away from the THRI.
posted by Corinth at 5:22 PM on January 17, 2015 [1 favorite]




well shit
posted by Jacqueline at 1:36 AM on January 18, 2015




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