Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

Ohio Transgender Teen Commits Suicide, Cites Religious Zealot Parents’ Attempt to Control Her Life

Leelah Alcorn, 17, took her own life by jumping in front of oncoming traffic on an Ohio Interstate Highway. Tumblr image.

Leelah Alcorn, 17, lazerprincess, took her own life by jumping in front of oncoming traffic on an Ohio Interstate Highway. Tumblr image.

Union Township, Ohio – A transgender teen girl chose to walk into the path of Interstate Highway traffic rather than face discrimination and harsh treatment for her gender expression. Cincinnati.com reports that Leelah Alcorn, 17, was struck and killed by an oncoming tractor-trailer truck at approximately 2:30 a.m. on Sunday, December 28, after leaving an extensive suicide note on her Tumblr account social media page. The driver of the truck, Abdullahi Ahmed, 39, was unhurt in the tragic incident that took place near the South Lebanon exit on I-71 because of his fastened seatbelt. Ms. Alcorn’s body was transported from the scene by the Warren County Coroner’s Office. Ohio Highway Patrol Officers are investigating what led Ms. Alcorn apparently to take her own life.

Ms. Alcorn whose account of rejection, alienation for her parents and school mates highlights the plight of transgender teens around the nation, left two notes on her blog, according to openly gay Cincinnati City Council man, Chris Seelbach : a suicide note, which may be read in its entirety on Councilman Seelbach’s Facebook Page here, and an apology note to the few friends Ms. Alcorn felt she still had at the time of her decision to take her own life. Ms. Alcorn, an M to F transgender youth whose chosen screen avatar was lazerprincess wrote that she had felt herself trapped in a male body since the age of four. In her suicide note which begins, “If you are reading this, it means that I have committed suicide and obviously failed to delete this post from my queue. Please don’t be sad, it’s for the better. The life I would’ve lived isn’t worth living in… because I’m transgender,” Leelah writes that her parents’ response to her discovery of her transgender identity contributed to a self-hatred that dogged her from age 14 until her death three years later. Her mother mandated that Leelah see conservative “Christian” therapists who only contributed to the burden of anger and depression.

The crisis apparently took place at the time of Leelah’s 16th birthday. She writes: “When I was 16 I realized that my parents would never come around, and that I would have to wait until I was 18 to start any sort of transitioning treatment, which absolutely broke my heart. The longer you wait, the harder it is to transition. 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.” In response to the inflexibility of her parents, Leelah came out as gay at school, believing that doing so would soften the effect of living into her true transgender persona. Her strict Christian parents responded by taking her out of public school, depriving her of any means of communicating with the outside world such as her cell phone and her laptop, and put her into virtual isolation for five months. “No friends, no support, no love,” Leelah wrote. “Just my parent’s disappointment and the cruelty of loneliness.” 

When she was finally allowed by her parents to communicate with others and see her one-time friends, Leelah relates that her excitement turned to deeper agony upon finding out that her classmates were little better than acquaintances who cared little for her true self. After a summer of depression, fearing the unknowns of college, grades, enforced attendance at a church where “everyone . . . is against everything I live for,” and what she believed to be the unreachability of transitioning, Leelah gave up hoping anything could get any better for her. “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, “ she wrote. “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,” she wrote in an exhausted, heartbreaking coda to her final testament, struggling to explain who she really was by striking out her male birth name in her parting salutation. “Sorry if that’s not a good enough reason for you, it’s good enough for me. As for my will, I want 100% of the things that I legally own to be sold and the money (plus my money in the bank) to be given to trans civil rights movements and support groups, I don’t give a shit which one. The only way I will rest in peace is if one day transgender people aren’t treated the way I was, they’re treated like humans, with valid feelings and human rights. Gender needs to be taught about in schools, the earlier the better. 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.”
“Goodbye,
“(Leelah) Josh Alcorn” 

Councilman Seelbach prefaced Leelah’s note with an appeal to his Facebook Friends to contribute what they could spare to TransOhio, so that in some measure, Leelah’s last wish that trans civil rights could somehow be advanced thanks to her having lived. Seelbach, the first openly gay Council Member to be elected in Cincinnati, writes: “While Cincinnati led the country this past year as the first city in the mid-west to include transgender inclusive health benefits and we have included gender identity or expression as a protected class for many years….the truth is….it is still extremely difficult to be a transgender young person in this country.
“We have to do better.” 

We at the Unfinished Lives Project could not agree more with Councilman Seelbach. Transgender youth in America, especially M to F persons, face unimaginable hurdles in the quest to become who they truly are. Seldom are we invited into the long, punishing agony trans teens endure. Leelah Alcorn died because her parents, her school, her society, and the religious underpinnings of the social and moral system of this country are hostile to non-normative gender identity and variant gender expression. Though she was 17 when she stepped into the path of a hurtling semi truck, she was still a child: vulnerable, confused, and above all, wounded. She took her own life. But she cannot be held responsible for the act that took her life. That indictment falls on a culture and heterosexist system in which we all play a part. LGBTQ and Straight alike. Councilman Seelbach declares what we must all resolve to do. Better. So much better, for the multitudes of youth like Leelah Alcorn who deserve a fair chance at the pursuit of happiness in a land that professes to stand for justice. “We have to do better.” Yes. It’s a matter of life and death that we do. (Thanks to Carmen Saenz, Waco, TX activist, for drawing our attention to this story.)

Rest peacefully, lazerprincess, dear sister.

For any Transgender Young Person struggling with life, and in need of a friendly, non-judgmental voice of help and encouragement, we recommend the Trevor Lifeline, a 24/7 phone service where a real person will answer your call, listen sincerely, and offer real assistance. Free call, 1-866-488-7386. Call. Text. Now. 

December 30, 2014 Posted by | Anti-LGBT hate crime, Councilman Chris Seelbach, gender identity/expression, Gender Variant Youth, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, LGBT teen suicide prevention, LGBTQ, LGBTQ suicide, Ohio, religious intolerance, Reparative Therapy, transgender persons, TransOhio, transphobia, Trevor Project | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Why is Larry King Put On Trial for His Own Murder? Get the Full Story

Larry King (Newsweek graphic from "Young, Gay and Murdered")

Chatsworth, California – Larry King was murdered in cold blood in his first period computer classroom.  As he unsuspectingly worked on a paper on World War II, his middle school classmate, Brandon McInerney, allegedly moved up behind him and shot him in the back of the head before the unbelieving eyes of dozens of students and Ms. Joy Boldrin, his teacher. Then McInerney, who had been a party to harassing Larry for months about his gender non-conformity, pointed the .22 pistol again and delivered a coup de grace to Larry’s ravaged head.  In his landmark book,Unfinished Lives: Reviving the Memories of LGBTQ Hate Crimes Victims (Resource Publications 2011) , Dr. Stephen Sprinkle treats the King/McInerney story at length, exploring the backgrounds and struggles of both teenagers. In the chapter, “Baby Boys, You Stay On My Mind,” Sprinkle sets Larry’s murder in the context of other assassinations of femininely presenting boys of color throughout the United States in early 2008.  Larry King fought back with the only power he had: his camp persona.  Half African-American, he was small, gracile, and not nearly as strong as the gang of boys, the “Young Marines,” surrounding Brandon McInerney. Larry learned to flirt in order to push back against his harassers. By the time of his murder, Larry was a five-year veteran of bullying in schools. McInerney, though slightly younger than Larry, was cultivating a “cool” image with middle school girls–an image aided by his overt harassment of Larry, “the little fag.” Underneath the surface of McInerney’s “cool,” though, was a budding white supremacist, whose confused masculinity chose violence as a way to silence the boy who turned the tables on him. Almost from the moment Larry’s murder hit the newswire, journalists started digging for dirt on the young gender outlaw.  Newsweek’s infamous article by Ramin Satoodeh labeled Larry a sexual aggressor in a blaze of controversial hot type. The Gun Lobby sprang into action to defend handguns. Larry’s partisans struck out at McInerney’s character, too. As Sprinkle details the journalistic feeding frenzy in the days following the murder, “these two boys were both abused by a media establishment determined to give a voracious public the news it was hungry to have: digestible pictures of a victim and his alleged killer to feed the insatiable American fascination with teen-on-teen violence.” 

Opening arguments in the McInerney trial, now taking place after three years of legal wrangling over Brandon’s status as a juvenile or an adult, and a critical change of trial venue, are busy following the lead of the media. Larry is being portrayed as a maladjusted predator (at 15? How is this possible?), and McInerney is being painted as a first-degree murderer who planned homicide in large part because of his homophobia and transphobia. The defense is indulging in a what amounts to the gay panic defense that has been discredited in courtrooms throughout the nation. Behind the defense strategy is the amazing idea that any expression of sexuality on the part of a gender non-conforming person makes violence legitimate in response. Just as Sprinkle surmised, the trial is going to turn on whether Larry King can be put on the stand as the chief malefactor instead of the defendant. As Sprinkle says, “There is a stark difference between the boys that no media wizard can resolve.  While Brandon remains alive and able to defend himself against the negative portrayals of his identity, Larry King cannot. He lost his voice in death” (Unfinished Lives, p. 284).

Unfinished Lives recounts in a chapter-length format the backstory of this, the most-publicized anti-LGBTQ hate crime murder since the slaying of Matthew Shepard in 1998. The book also tells the stories of thirteen other gay, lesbian, and transgender lives in these United States cut brutally short by unreasoning violence.  Unfinished Lives will be an indispensable resource for anyone wanting to understand the McInerney murder trial for what it really is.  To explore or purchase the book, go to http://www.amazon.com/Unfinished-Lives-Reviving-Memories-Victims/dp/1608998118/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1310064063&sr=1-1 or to https://wipfandstock.com/store/Unfinished_Lives_Reviving_the_Memories_of_LGBTQ_Hate_Crimes_Victims

July 7, 2011 Posted by | African Americans, Anglo Americans, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Blame the victim, Bullying in schools, California, Character assassination, Execution, gay bashing, gay panic defense, gay teens, gender identity/expression, Gender Variant Youth, GLBTQ, gun violence, harassment, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Law and Order, Lesbian women, LGBTQ, Media Issues, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Remembrances, Slurs and epithets, Social Justice Advocacy, trans-panic defense, transgender persons, transphobia | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Teenager Goes On Trial for 1st Degree Murder of Gay Classmate–Finally

Brandon McInerney (l), Lawrence Fobes "Larry" King (r)

San Fernando Valley, California – The notorious execution-style murder of a 15-year-old, mixed race, gender variant student in his computer classroom made national headlines in February 2008–because his alleged murderer was barely 14.  There has been no doubt about the facts of the case. Brandon McInerney allegedly shot his gender non-conforming classmate, Lawrence Fobes “Larry” King in the back of the head while his teacher and dozens of his horrified classmates looked on in disbelief. McInerney had breathed threats against King to other students prior to the shooting, and showed apparent premeditation by bringing his grandfather’s .22 pistol to the E.O. Green Middle School classroom.  What has always been in dispute since the earliest reports of this heinous murder are the circumstances and state of mind that brought McInerney to the point of cold blooded murder.  Students reported that Larry King, who was living at a specialized home for abused and abandoned youth, was blatantly non-conforming in matters of gender and sexual performance.  King dressed in feminine clothing, wore high heels, and used makeup.  He answered the bullying culture of Southern California middle schools with what some have called defiance and others have named authenticity.  Larry King was “out,” and students in the Oxnard school he attended had problems with it.  None had a stronger aversion to King’s being and style than young Brandon McInerney, who displayed irritation and anger around King, and later, when King apparently developed something of a personal attraction to him, decided that extreme violence was the only answer to his rage and fear.  EDGE now reports that opening statements in the long-delayed trial of McInerney began Tuesday in a San Fernando Valley courtroom, rather than in Ventura County where the murder took place three years ago.  McInerney’s attorneys delayed and argued that their client was a juvenile, that the judge was biased, and that McInerney could not get a fair trial in Ventura County.  The defense team failed to keep their client out of court as an adult, and to force the judge to recuse himself or be removed.  But they did convince the court to move the venue of the trial, and by a battery of stalling tactics, to postpone the trial as long as possible so that memories of King’s murder would have the chance to fade.

National media debated the wisdom of trying a 14-year-old from a broken home as an adult, even though California law clearly mandated that a 14-year-old should stand trial as an adult in cases of murder.  Though the Golden State has some of the most progressive laws in the nation protecting LGBTQ residents, the atmosphere in schools throughout the state never has caught up with enlightened legal culture.  Bullying of gender variant youth in elementary, middle, and high schools in California is as rampant as anywhere in the nation, as highly publicized cases like the King-McInerney case demonstrate. King was permitted to come out and live fully as a youth in gender transition. While some gender variant students adopted a cautious demeanor in school, King used his budding femininity as a badge of honor.  Whether he had a genuine crush on McInerney during the Valentine season, or whether his actions and words were meant to make his classmate uncomfortable, we cannot really know. But the brute facts remain.  King is dead. McInerney, who life has been forever changed by this murder, is still alive.

The case will be watched closely by legal experts and LGBTQ youth advocates throughout the United States. If the prosecution succeeds in making the 1st degree murder charge stick, McInerney could serve time in prison until his fifties. If the defense succeeds in minimizing the murder of Larry King, it will be because of a likely combination of delay, genuine reluctance to convict because of the youth of the defendant, and a well-orchestrated defamation of a slain little person with a big gender variant profile, as the Los Angeles Times is already reporting from attorney arguments on the first day of this landmark trial. Unfinished Lives Blog will follow the events of this courtroom drama closely.

July 6, 2011 Posted by | African Americans, Anglo Americans, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Blame the victim, Bullying in schools, California, Character assassination, death threats, gay bashing, gay panic defense, gay teens, gender identity/expression, Gender Variant Youth, GLBTQ, gun violence, harassment, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Law and Order, LGBTQ, Media Issues, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, School and church shootings, Social Justice Advocacy, trans-panic defense, transgender persons, transphobia | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

   

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