Post submitted by Beth Sherouse, former ACLS Public Fellow, HRC Senior Content Manager

The LGBT community and our allies are reeling from the news of Leelah Alcorn’s death, a transgender teen who has died by suicide. While transgender children and youth are becoming more visible and finding more support and acceptance from their families and communities, this young woman felt rejected by her conservative Christian family who would not allow her to live openly as her affirmed gender and forced her to undergo conversion therapy.

Although familial rejection is a risk factor for suicide, youth suicide is a complex issue that rarely has only one cause. But stories like this are powerful reminders to our community about the wounds that rejection can inflict – as well as the protective potential of accepting families.

This tragedy also highlights the dangers of so-called “reparative” or conversion therapy, therapies based on the false and damaging idea that being gay or transgender is a mental illness and meant to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Such therapies are generally considered harmful to the patient’s mental health, and have been universally opposed by organizations like the American Psychological Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Psychiatric Association, the American Medical Association, and many other such organizations.

The social media response to this tragedy has also been powerful, including the trending of the twitter hashtag #RealLiveTransAdult, which encouraged transgender adults to share their stories of success and how they overcame the challenges of their teens.

  1. If you’re a youth and need to talk to someone, call The Trevor Project, which provides a 24-hour crisis hotline for youth, at 1-866-488-7386.
  2. If you’re a teacher or parent and want more information on how to create safe and welcoming schools for all children and families, visit http://www.welcomingschools.org
  3.  If you’re an ally and want to learn more about transgender advocacy, visit www.hrc.org/transgender, and also the sites of the National Center for Transgender Equality and the Transgender Law Center.
  4. If you are a youth-serving professional, please consider attending HRC Foundation’s 2nd annual Time to THRIVE conference -- promoting safety, inclusion and well-being for LGBTQ youth.

As we begin a New Year, let 2015 be a year when more LGBT people of all ages find acceptance and equality in their homes, states and communities.


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