Leelah Alcorn was born in November 1997, and given the name Joshua Ryan Alcorn. She eventually rejected this forename, and in her suicide note signed herself "(Leelah) Josh Alcorn". One of four children, she described herself as being raised in a strict Christian environment.
According to her suicide note, Leelah had felt "like a girl trapped in a boy's body" since she was four, and came to identify as a transgender female from the age of fourteen, when she became aware of the term. According to her note, she immediately informed her mother, who reacted "extremely negatively" by claiming that it was only a phase and that God had made her a male, so she could never be a woman. She stated that this made her hate herself, and that she developed a form of depression. Her mother sent her to Christian conversion therapists, but there "only got more Christians telling me that I was selfish and wrong and that I should look to God for help." Aged sixteen, she requested that she be allowed to undergo transition treatment, but was denied permission; "I felt hopeless, that I was just going to look like a man in drag for the rest of my life. On my 16th birthday, when I didn't receive consent from my parents to start transitioning, I cried myself to sleep."
Aged sixteen, Leelah publicly revealed her attraction to men; she believed that identifying as a gay male at that point would be a stepping stone to coming out as transgender at a later date. According to a childhood friend, Leelah received a positive reception from many at school, although her parents were appalled. In Leelah's words, "They felt like I was attacking their image, and that I was an embarrassment to them. They wanted me to be their perfect little straight Christian boy, and that's obviously not what I wanted." They removed her from Kings High School, and enrolled her as an eleventh grader at an online school, Ohio Virtual Academy. According to Leelah, her parents cut her off from the outside world for five months as they denied her access to social media and many forms of communication. She described this as a significant contributing factor towards her suicide. At the end of the school year, they returned her phone to her and allowed her to regain contact with her friends, although according to Leelah, by this time her relationship with many of them had become strained and she continued to feel isolated.
Two months prior to her death, Leelah sought out help on the social media website Reddit, asking users whether the treatment perpetrated by her parents was considered abuse. There, she revealed that while her parents never physically assaulted her, "they always talked to me in a very derogatory tone" and "would say things like 'You'll never be a real girl' or 'What're you going to do, fuck boys?' or 'God's going to send you straight to hell'. These all made me feel awful about myself, I was Christian at the time so I thought that God hated me and that I didn't deserve to be alive." Further, she explained, "I tried my absolute hardest to live up to their standards and be a straight male, but eventually I realized that I hated religion and my parents." On Reddit, Leelah also disclosed that she was prescribed excessive amounts of the anti-depressant Prozac, a drug which the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warns increases the risk of suicide when taken in sufficiently high doses. In concluding her post, she wrote, "Please help me, I don't know what I should do and I can't take much more of this."
On December 28, 2014, just before 2:30 am near the South Lebanon exit, Leelah was struck by a semi-trailer and died on the scene. Prior to her death, she had scheduled for her suicide note to be automatically posted on her Tumblr account at 5.30pm. In the note, she stated her intention to end her life, commenting:
"I have decided I've had enough. I'm never going to transition successfully, even when I move out. I'm never going to be happy with the way I look or sound. I'm never going to have enough friends to satisfy me. I'm never going to have enough love to satisfy me. I'm never going to find a man who loves me. I'm never going to be happy. Either I live the rest of my life as a lonely man who wishes he were a woman or I live my life as a lonelier woman who hates herself. There's no winning. There's no way out. I'm sad enough already, I don't need my life to get any worse. People say "it gets better" but that isn't true in my case. It gets worse. Each day I get worse. That's the gist of it, that's why I feel like killing myself. Sorry if that's not a good enough reason for you, it's good enough for me."
She expressed her wish that all of her possessions and money be donated to a trans advocacy charity, and called for gender issues to be taught in schools. The note ended with the statement: "My death needs to mean something. My death needs to 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." A second post appeared shortly after; titled "Sorry", it featured an apology to her close friends and siblings for the trauma that her suicide would put them through, but also contained a message to her parents: "Fuck you. You can't just control other people like that. That's messed up." Within 48 hours of it being posted, her suicide note had attracted 82,272 views, and by the morning of December 31 it had been reposted on Tumblr 200,000 times. The Boston Globe described it as a "passionate post", while the Daily Mail termed it "heartbreaking".
More candid posts from Leelah on Reddit about being transgender can be read on her Reddit profile page.
Leelah's story has struck a chord with many and various projects and petitions have already begun to circulate.
(Adapted from content on Wikipedia.)