“My Death Needs to Mean Something!” – Leelah Alcorn
Five Facts You Need to Know – Leelah Alcorn
Suicide is never the answer! Her message could have been heard louder and longer had she been supported by her family with unconditional love and support. We could have used her voice, not her death by suicide.
My name is Jeff Yalden. I am a Suicide Prevention Trainer and Celebrity Teen & Family Life Coach having worked with families and teens for 23 years. Teen Suicide touches my heart because I was there at 16 years old and 21 years old. Today, I suffer from depression and anxiety and I am diagnosed with Bi-Polar Type 2 and PTSD. This is my work and my passion.
The point I want to make in this blog is about unconditional love and support in regards to Leelah and her needs not being met. I understand unconditional love. I also understand supporting your child under different circumstances. This particular issue is about how I feel when your child has emotional issues, is gay or lesbian, bisexual or transgender. In my professional opinion, the parents should have been open and understanding where their daughter needed their support and didn’t get it. Leelah needed the love and affection from her parents and family and if her parents and family chose their faith and their religious views over the needs of their daughter then they failed their daughter. That is the bottom line. I am saying “If”, because I don’t want to speculate any further about conversations within their walls of their home. In the end, this is very sad and unfortunate.
Being a teenager is hard enough. Growing up in today’s world where we are on and worried about being judged by our peers is hard enough. Having to be accepted and fit in is an everyday challenge. Then, having to grow up and dealing with everyday teenager stuff and NOT having the support of our family is unfathomable and ultimately is the cause of Leelah’s decision to end her life. Her cries for help weren’t answered and they weren’t taken seriously. Read her posts . . . (Here). This is what Leelah says. In regards to her family all I am reading is that they are still referring to their daughter as “He”, “Him”, and I don’t think they are respecting her wishes.
Read the latest article . . . (Here) – It’s more disturbing and speaks loudly about the challenges she faced. Again, I don’t know what the family knew or how deep her pain and needs for love and acceptance were.
She was only 17 years old. Born Joshua Alcorn, a boy and at the age of four, he felt he was a girl trapped in a boy’s body. Her cries for help weren’t supported by her devout Christian parents who forced her to go to conversion therapy, which seeks to change sexual orientation through counseling. This practice has been banned in two states on grounds it is medically unfounded and puts children in danger.
The argument on the internet now is whether or not the parents should be help responsible (Dan Savage) and charged. Could this suicide have been prevented if the parents were more open-minded? Sure, I think so! The message is greater than what will happen to the parents. The message needs to be heard by all parents and teens suffering emotionally and spiritually. Listen to your childs needs and desires. Open your heart to understanding that today’s teens and youth are different then when we as parents were growing up. Listen to them and understand them. Support them and embrace them in their journey.
(** Again, I am referring to this particular issue. Whereas, if your child is struggling with addiction to drugs or alcohol then I have a whole different take and belief as to the role of a parent and supporting their child. You can love them unconditionally, but to support them is going to be different. I am more tough love in this case. Another blog post about the difference in circumstances and the role of a parent in supporting and unconditionally loving their children.)
First and foremost, there is difference between unconditionally loving and supporting your child. To unconditionally love your child, but not support your child is not unconditionally loving your child. It is loving your child conditionally. To love your child unconditionally is to love and support your child, children, spouse, partner, or friend(s) for the person they are or choose to be. Think of it as how your dog loves you. Your dog doesn’t judge you. Your dog is always waiting to greet you. Your dog loves you more than your dog loves itself. You might not agree with the sexual orientation of your child or how they dress, but you support them unconditionally and lovingly accept them (period!) In my opinion, the parents didn’t do this and that is where I think they failed their daughter leading to her suicide.
In Leelah’s case, she was convinced for many years she was a girl living in a boy’s body. That should have been addressed – Meet her needs first before getting her to understand the families morals and values. As Dr. Stephen Covey says in his book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”
I don’t feel that scorning the parents is the answer. What does that do now? The parents are grieving and have to live with this the rest of their lives. Suicide may have freed Leelah from the pain, but now her pain is transferred to her parents and they have to live with their inner conscience of what they did right or did wrong as parents. They will pray and ask God for forgiveness as we should forgive them as quickly as society is judging them right now. This is a lesson for all parents in raising their children. Listen to the cries of your children. If you are not, you are failing your children.
The parents wanted Leelah to be the Joshua they named him at birth. They wanted their child to be the perfect straight Christian little boy they had hoped he’d be. Well, at age four Leelah was conflicted. She was a girl living in a boy’s body, she says. Why wasn’t her feelings and emotions respected? Why wasn’t this supported through counseling and help? Conversion therapy isn’t the answer to a young lady at in her preteen years to 17 years old. The parents failed by not listening to the cries of their daughter. Parents fail their children everyday by not listening to the cries of their children.
Using death to send a message is never the answer. The message is heard for a few weeks, but then life resumes and suddenly we will speak less and less about transgender and the loss of Leelah. There is help and there is hope. Suicide is preventable and doesn’t ever need to be the final decision. It takes courage and time. Things change over time. Everything changes over time – depression, people, things, places, life. Leelah needed love and support. She needed to be heard and not judged. Leelah needed acceptance and understanding, she needed love and support. She needed this from her family. Millions of teenagers struggle everyday in their walk through life with who they are and who they’re becoming. Society doesn’t make it easy for anyone. Everything is watched and talked about. Social media puts people on 24 hours a day and 7 days a week.
In short, this suicide could have been prevented if:
- The parents were open to who their daughter was and respected her emotions and feelings
- Her parents supported her and learned more about why she felt this way
- Leelah chose to get help with her own emotions and feelings by asking to see a professional therapist
- The family chose to see a therapist together
- Society wasn’t so judgemental
- People would stop thinking it’s their way or no way
- People would become more open-minded and accepting
- We would judge less and forgive more
- The right people had the courage to help Leelah speak to the right (professional) people
- She felt loved and not judged
Where does God and our faith come in to this?
Pope Francis has started to ease up on the Bible’s teachings. Here is just one article about Pope Francis . . . (Read). Many of people in the Churches pulpit are gay or lesbian and they’ve become accepted. So, who am I to judge? In the end, I personally have to answer to God when He calls my name.
You are going to judge me here. I know and that is fine. I accept it.
I work with youth and families. I stand strong on who I am as a man and my morals and values. I go to Church, I pray, and I am learning to read the bible. This is what I do and I don’t expect my neighbor to do the same, but I still love and respect my neighbor for who they are. My family has their beliefs and they all walk in their faith at their pace. Whom am I to change that? I can only inspire and influence by my actions and how I live. Understand, I am not perfect. Who is?
When it comes to working with youth, teens, education, and families I have a completely different take on faith, religion, and spirituality. I try and teach young people to have courage through life’s battles and self respect to make good choices. My audience is usually teens searching for answers to life’s questions. I meet my audience at their level and where they are in life. I don’t expect my 16 year old daughter to love Jesus as I do. I can encourage the House of God, the Bible, and Prayer, but at 16 years old I know hormones and changes are more powerful than the mind wanting to know Jesus. You can disagree all you want, but I will not challenge you on how you raise your children. What works for you in your house is your business. What works for me within my four walls works for me and I am constantly open to learn and change.
In time, I know my influence and how I live my life will speak volumes. The message will be received when the student is ready. Like leading a horse to water, right?
To my kids, I will support them unconditionally. Circumstances will certainly play a role in how I support them and the support I show. Some things are completely unacceptable and my support will be “TOUGH LOVE.” I’ve been there and I’ll do it again. My children and your children may not understand “Tough Love”, but I promise, someday they will and they will “Thank You” for it.
Our children make choices in life. This is the experience and the lessons they learn as they grow up. Personally, I want them to have a passion and enthusiasm everyday and to live life with morals and values as I try and teach them. I have my set of morals and values and my living them I hope will influence them as they figure out their own. I want them to do what is right. I will show them what is right. What is right for me doesn’t always make sense to a teen all the time. They don’t understand life yet. They’re figuring it out and I want to to figure it out through successes and failures, good times and bad times. My parents supported me and I know many times they were left shaking their heads. They loved me through tough times and supported me through many of the tough times, but they also left me to figure it out because they didn’t support a decision I was making. They gave me tough love at times and I am grateful they did.
In the end, Leelah chose to end her life. This is what I am saddened about. It doesn’t ever have to end like this for anyone. There is help and people should have been more open to encouraging the help, rather than judging her for who she felt she was. Many people are at fault for the end result. Not just the parents.
The ultimate responsibility lies on Leelah because she knew what she was doing. She could have gotten help rather than taking the cowardly way out leaving us all to pick up the pieces.
The Video: “My Death Needs to Mean Something!”
Jeff Yalden is a Teen Suicide Prevention Trainer and Expert. For 23 years, Jeff has worked with teens and parents across the globe. As a Youth Motivational Speaker, Jeff specializes in high school assemblies, parent and community programs teaching teens about life and supporting parents in their understanding of today’s teens. Please visit Jeff Yalden at www.JeffYalden.com for more information. Also, follow Jeff on Social Media – @JeffYalden
Mental Health Professionals, Schools, Parents, and Communities – Watch Jeff’s Message – 4 Tips To Prevent Teen Suicide