Transgender community renews Leelah's call

Posted at 7:56 AM, Dec 28, 2015

CINCINNATI - One year ago, 17-year-old Leelah Alcorn took her own life, bringing the fight for transgender teens – the fight to "fix society," as she put it - to the national forefront.

Now, other transgender persons have taken up the cause.

"We're still absolutely heartbroken," Callie Wright said Monday to open a gathering of transgender persons at the Woodward Theater. They weren't just marking the anniversary, though. They were picking up the torch.

Emergency housing, access to medical care, drug and alcohol treatment and job training are just a few of the things the trans community is asking for.

And they agreed they have made some progress.

"Most of all, what we are experiencing now is a willingness of the citizens of the City of Cincinnati to look at us as human beings," Lindsey Deaton said.

The trans clinic at Cincinnati Children's Hospital reports clinic numbers have almost tripled since Leelah's death. They have added services, and a monthly support group 90 people strong.

Then there's the ban on conversion therapy, which seeks to prevent other trans teens from having the same troubling experience Leelah did before she took her life. It passed city council with sponsorship from council member Chris Seelbach.

Conversion therapy is a controversial treatment for gay people. Proponents believe that it can make gay people straight. Now, the city will fine anyone who performs the therapy $200 per day.

On Dec. 28, 2014, Leelah walked into traffic along Interstate 71 in Warren County and was struck by a truck.

A few days following the teen’s death, an alleged suicide note surfaced on the Internet in which she described experiencing isolation and depression once she identified herself as transgender two years prior.

Leelah's death has made issues surrounding transgender identities and teen suicide topics of conversation and reflection in the Tri-State in the months since.

Nearly a year later, friends and supporters worked with the Adopt-a-Highway program to adopt the stretch of freeway near Kings Mill where her body was found.

Wright hopes the awareness doesn't fade when the day ends.

"We grieve and mourn the loss, but this is for those still here. We need to show those still here before they end up in the news, before they become hashtags and memes ... Trans youth need to know that their lives matter while they're still living them," Wright said.