Winnipeggers hold vigil for Ohio transgender teen Leelah Alcorn

A group of Winnipeggers is gathering for a vigil at River Avenue and Osborne Street Friday at 4 p.m. to remember a transgender teen who walked into the path of a truck and died last weekend.

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. 1:52

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.

Alcorn went on to say in the note that schools need to do more to educate youth about gender, and that society needs to become more accepting.
Leelah Alcorn, a transgender teen girl from Ohio, walked into the path of a truck last weekend and died.

"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."

Winnipeg vigil

Alcorn’s death has sparked vigils around the world. The Winnipeg vigil took place at 4 p.m. Friday near the corner of River Avenue and Osborne Street.
A group of around 50 people gathered at the corner of River Avenue and Osborne Street Friday afternoon at a vigil for Leelah Alcorn, a 17-year-old transgender girl from Ohio who walked into the path of a truck and died last weekend. (Wendy Buelow/CBC)

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.”

Tutthill said Friday transgender people face serious mental health struggles.
Mike Tutthill, executive director of the Rainbow Resource Centre, said transgender youth are more likely than other youth to kill themselves or leave home to live on the streets. (CBC)

"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.


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