Friday, 2 January 2015

Thoughts on Leelah Alcorn

Trigger warning for suicide, transphobia.

You've likely read the story by now.  If you haven't then go on, I'll wait.

Sorted?  Okay.

She's not the first, she won't be the last.  It sounds awful to say it so starkly, but it's true.  Some years ago I used to talk trans kids her age away from the noose, and I got pretty close when I was her age too.  It's bizarrely normal.  40% attempt it now, but back in the day it used to be one in three.  It's actually gotten worse.  Here's the thing: I have a wonderfully supportive family.  I got to that crucial point because navigating life as trans at the age of seventeen is a weighty thing in our society, though a necessary thing as prohibiting young transition only increases the rate of suicide.  Besides transphobia there's paperwork, dealing with the medical establishment, legal bullshit, managing your own expectations and fears, learning to master yourself.

It could seem like a Darwinian process, but only at the extremes.  For the most part the difference between a cry for help and a corpse is the support given by family and friends.  This is highly anecdotal, I have no research to back this, only my own observations, but in the absence of severe mental illness or uncommon strength I've seen that survival at that age is almost entirely attributable to the prevailing of the weight of support over the weight of abuse, and that death at that age is almost entirely attributable to the inverse.  There are exceptions, of course.

For this reason I struggle to blame Leelah alone for her suicide.  From her writings it is plain that she received more abuse than support, and I cannot help but feel that those who committed the abuse are conspirators in her death.  Her parents and her church, the "Christian therapists" carrying on an archaic practice that ought to have never been legal.  It is no good arguing that her parents should not be subjected to aggro while they're mourning their daughter's death when they bloody well had a hand in it!

Also responsible are the likes of Ken Zucker and his ilk.  By arguing for "corrective therapy" he legitimises the idea that such therapy is possible or ethical.  It is neither, all it does is fuck people up, but it's easy to argue that such a therapy must be right if a doctor believes in it.  A few drops of her blood must be on his hands as well.

There is a proposal for Leelah's Law: a ban on conversion therapies.  I'm backing it 100%.  They've never been proven safe or effective, at best they teach victims "patients" to mask the behaviours which betray their inner feelings to the satisfaction of the man with the clipboard whilst doing irreparable psychological harm.

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