Soyer: End transgender shaming


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Seventeen-year-old transgender person Leelah Alcorn, born Joshua, committed suicide Dec. 28, 2014, citing her parents’ unaccepting views as a reason for her action in a suicide note. This note, which she posted on her Tumblr blog, soon went viral. This event has sparked a worldwide movement to honor Alcorn by pushing for a more accepting view of transgender people.

In particular, a petition has been started on Change.org to introduce a law that would ban conversion therapy nationwide. Conversion therapy is a treatment that is aimed to change someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity. As of right now, every major medical organization in the United States has issued statements denouncing the practice as unsuccessful and harmful.

However, only New Jersey and California have laws against it.

According to her suicide note, Alcorn’s parents had made her attend conversion therapy. However, since the note has gone viral, Tim Tripp, the minister involved in counseling the Alcorns, denies ever having used conversion therapy. Regardless of whether Alcorn received conversion therapy, now is as good a time as ever to outlaw it.

Another effect of the wide media coverage Alcorn’s life and death has received is that many people have taken this as an opportunity to talk about their beliefs that homosexuality is a sin. The failure of their argument is not in what the Bible says on homosexuality but that sexual orientation and gender identity are two completely different things, something people need to begin to understand.

Someone who is born with male genitalia can identify as female and be interested in females. Those that aren’t aware of these facts need to stop conflating sexual orientation and identity.

Alcorn’s suicide note ended by saying “My death needs to mean something. … Fix society. Please.” Even as a single person in this giant world, someone can still make a difference. Start by being aware of transgender people and the struggles they live through on a daily basis. Stop making fun of people just because their appearance doesn’t fit into one of the narrow categories. Even if a transgender person does not overhear remarks, you are contributing to a culture of nonacceptance and fear, one that contributed to Alcorn’s death. You wouldn’t make a racist joke when around other people in public (well, at least I should hope you would not), so why make a joke about something else people have no choice over? And if you believe people do have a choice as to what gender they identify as, that is still no reason to shame something about someone that is not harming anyone else.

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