The devout Christian mother of a transgender teenager who took her own life is refusing to acknowledge her child’s gender identity.
Carla Alcorn, from Cincinnati, Ohio, repeatedly referred to her daughter as a boy in an interview with CNN, saying that “we don’t support that, religiously”.
Leelah Alcorn, who was born with the name Joshua, walked in front of an oncoming truck and was crushed to death on Sunday morning.
Leelah Alcorn in a photo she posted on her Tumblr page
She left behind a suicide note on her Tumblr blog, in which she said she had been forced by parents to undergo conversion therapy, which seeks to change sexual orientation through counselling. The practice has been banned in two states on grounds it is medically unfounded and puts children in danger.
Her mother told CNN: “We don’t support that, religiously. But we told him that we loved him unconditionally. We loved him no matter what. I loved my son. People need to know that I loved him. He was a good kid, a good boy.”
Following her daughter’s death, Mrs Alcorn wrote a Facebook post, which has since been deleted, in tribute to her “sweet son”. Screen shots of the post show that it said: “My sweet 16-year-old son, Joshua Ryan Alcorn, went home to heaven this morning, He was out for an early morning walk and was hit by a truck. Thanks you for the messages and kindness and concern you have sent our way. Please continue to keep us in your prayers.”
The seeming ignorance of her daughter’s situation came despite the fact Leelah had left a message condemning her parents’ behaviour. In a separate post on her blog, posted after the suicide note, Leelah wrote: “Mom and dad: F**k you. You can’t just control other people like that. That’s messed up.”
This was accompanied by messages of love towards her siblings.
However, Mrs Alcorn claimed that her daughter was depressed and had never told her how she was really feeling. “He just quit talking about it (being transgender),” she said, adding that she had never heard the name Leelah.
But she did say her daughter had asked her for permission to undergo transition surgery. Mrs Alcorn said she had refused for financial reasons.
She added that she was concerned by the backlash against her and her husband, which had rendered the couple too frightened to hold a memorial service for their child.
A number of vigils are to be held around Cincinnati in memory of Leelah. Meanwhile a Facebook group called Justice for Leelah Alcorn has garnered over 27,000 likes and a change.org petition to have Leelah written on her tombstone has amassed over 65,000 signatures.
Transgender teenager Leelah Alcorn
In her suicide note Alcorn said she had felt “like a girl trapped in a boy’s body” since the age of four and had “cried of happiness” when she first came across the term transgender.
But she said she began to feel hopeless after realising her parents “would never come around” and allow her to transition.
“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,” she wrote.
“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 f**ked up’ and fix it. Fix society.”