Brad and Angelina via InquisitrLeelah Alcorn via Patheos
Josh Alcorn was assigned the male gender at birth but that never felt right, and when he was fourteen he learned what ‘transgender’ meant; he learned that maybe he wasn’t Josh, that maybe she was Leelah. And suddenly everything seemed right; right up until Leelah told her parents.
In a post to her Tumblr blog, Leelah wrote:
“After 10 years of confusion I finally understood who I was. I immediately told my mom, and she reacted extremely negatively, telling me that it was a phase, that I would never truly be a girl, that God doesn’t make mistakes, that I am wrong.”
Can you imagine telling your parent your deepest, darkest secret, one that will finally allow you to live in the light, and having them tell you that you’re wrong?
Leelah’s parents took her to a therapist, a Christian therapist; she says all they did was tell her she was selfish and, again, wrong; they told her to look to God for help. But Leelah knew God couldn’t help, so she waited; she was sixteen, and would wait until she was 18 and then leave home and live her life; at 18 she could begin transitioning.
Still, she rebelled in the only way she knew how: she came out at school as gay, hoping this would shock her parents into understanding who she was; it didn’t. While Leelah’s friends understood, and accepted her as a gay man, her parents grew angrier:
“They felt like I was attacking their image, and that I was an embarrassment to them. They wanted me to be their perfect little straight christian boy, and that’s obviously not what I wanted. So they took me out of public school, took away my laptop and phone, and forbid me of getting on any sort of social media, completely isolating me from my friends. This was probably the part of my life when I was the most depressed … I was completely alone for 5 months. No friends, no support, no love. Just my parent’s disappointment and the cruelty of loneliness.”
Finally, her parents relented — not in accepting their child was transgender, or even gay mind you — and let her have her phone back, let her have her social media back, let her have her friends back. But nothing else changed.
“After a summer of having almost no friends plus the weight of having to think about college, save money for moving out, keep my grades up, go to church each week and feel like shit because everyone there is against everything I live for, I have decided I’ve had enough. I’m never going to transition successfully, even when I move out. I’m never going to be happy with the way I look or sound. I’m never going to have enough friends to satisfy me. I’m never going to have enough love to satisfy me. I’m never going to find a man who loves me. I’m never going to be happy. 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. There’s no winning. There’s no way out. “
Leelah Alcorn stepped in front of a moving tractor trailer truck on southbound Interstate 71 in Union Township last Sunday morning. Now her parents have no child, whether boy or girl; all they have are the memories of an unhappy child, desperate to be heard, to be understood, to be loved; to be herself.
The story could end there, with my heart breaking at the idea of what was done to Leelah Alcorn in the name of God, but there’s another story, this time of a girl assigned the female gender at birth and how her, his, parents dealt with it.
Shiloh has never felt female, has always more identified with male gender, and when she told her mother how she felt, well, her mother said:
“She wants to be a boy. So we had to cut her hair. She likes to wear boys’ everything. She thinks she’s one of the brothers.”
Shiloh even asked to be called John, and her parents, and her family, call him that. His parents don’t know if this is a phase, if they have a daughter who is a tomboy, or a son who desperately wants to be himself, but what they do know is that they love their child, and will do whatever is necessary to make their child happy. They have not looked at Shiloh’s desire to dress and act like a boy as “just a phase.” Instead, the couple has embraced their child, and given her the opportunity to explore who she really is.
And that meant going out with Dad and the brothers one night when Mom was sick; John asked to wear a suit just like his brothers, and so he was given a suit. And all the pictures of John in that suit show a happy child, a contented child, a loved child. And John’s, or Shiloh’s, parents must be happy knowing that their child feels loved and accepted as Shiloh or John, with short hair or long hair, in a suit, or a dress, because, really, that’s what parents should be doing for their children.
At least that’s what Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are doing for John. They are letting their child explore gender, find himself, or herself, where he or she fits in, without fear of being unloved, unwanted.
I’d ask who the better parents are, but it’s very clear the better parents are the ones whose child is still here, walking a red carpet in a suit, and not walking in from of a semi-truck on the highway because her parents told her she was wrong.