Winnipeggers hold vigil for Ohio transgender teen Leelah Alcorn
Leelah Alcorn, 17, walked into the path of a moving truck and died last weekend
A group of Winnipeggers is gathering for a vigil Friday afternoon to remember a transgender teen who walked into the path of a truck and died last weekend.
Leelah Alcorn, a 17-year-old from Ohio, left a note detailing her struggles as a transgender girl.
"The life I would've lived isn't worth living, because I'm transgender," she said in the note.
"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," reads a passage from Alcorn's note.
"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 ... fix it. Fix society. Please."
Jessica Stefanik, the organizer of the vigil, said there is one way to prevent future cases like Alcorn's from happening.
"Have an open mind, that's the biggest part of it, have an open mind," said Stefanik. "Maybe it doesn't make sense to you, but it's part of someone's life and you should respect that, as much as they should respect that you don't get that."
Around 50 people were present for the vigil.
Suicide among trans youth high
“When I read the details of this story, unfortunately they weren’t surprising,” said Mike Tutthill, executive director of the Rainbow Resource Centre. “We know that suicide among trans youth is high.”
"The health outcomes for our community, generally for LGBT people, are quite grim compared to the rest of society,” said Tutthill. “A lot of that is just based on homophobia and transphobia."
The RRC provides counselling to help make gender transition easier.
“For anyone in our community, it really comes to an understanding that the problem is not you, the problem is what society's expectations are of you and trying to overcome that to be your real self and a whole person,” said Tutthill.
Tutthill said more people are now identifying as transgender at a younger age.
"So there's lot of trans-children, maybe they're as young as 4 or 5 years old that are identifying as trans and so, and just saying that they're not fitting into the body that they were born into."
He said it isn’t uncommon for trans youth to leave home and live on the streets.
“We know that kids who don’t have the support at home are more likely to commit suicide, but to also leave home as well,” said Tutthill. “The numbers of kids in the streets that are LGBT are quite staggering."
Alcorn lacked resources, says transgender man
Theo DeSilva, who came out as a transgender man two years ago, said he was impacted by Alcorn’s death.
“It hit really close to home, because a lot of what she was feeling I felt and I still deal with sometimes,” said DeSilva.
He started taking hormones to transition from female to male last year.
DeSilva said his parents have been supportive, something Alcorn claimed she did not have.
“If she would have had the proper resources, she would have been OK, and that's what made me really, really angry,” said DeSilva.
Alcorn blamed her parents for not supporting her and letting her be who she felt she was.
Tutthill said people experiencing suicidal thoughts should call the Klinic Community Health Centre 24-hour help line (1-877-435-7170) or the Rainbow Resource Centre (1-204-474-0212) for counselling.
The centre also offers counselling via Skype and by phone for people outside of Winnipeg.