I was heartbroken when I heard the recent news about Leelah Alcorn and Andi Woodhouse. These are only two of many similar, painful stories of attempted and completed suicides within the transgender community. As a transgender individual, I want better for our community. I want better for us–I want us to feel loved and supported by our friends, families, neighbors, classmates, and colleagues.
There has always been immense stigma surrounding being transgender in the United States. People such as Leelah and Andi show how such pain can affect someone’s life in a deep, personal–and many times overwhelming–way. Many individuals within the transgender community, especially transgender youth, struggle with their mental health. Many of us feel alone and hopeless in a world that we find too often tries to hurt, degrade, and break transgender individuals. Despite the hatred we often face, we must remind ourselves that we can persevere and overcome this hatred and mistreatment.
In her suicide note, Leelah made a clear point of wanting better for her community. “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.” We can do better. We need to do better. Not only for Leelah so that her wishes are not in vain–but for ourselves and for transgender individuals everywhere.
In response to Leelah’s suicide, #RealLiveTransAdult has emerged. I love that there are countless people out there who want to show transgender youth that life can be wonderful. It can be extremely inspirational to see older transgender people thriving and living fulfilling lives. It shows that finding happiness as who you are–whoever you may be–is not impossible. #RealLiveTransAdult is one way to prove that to the transgender community. While a hashtag is not going to fix everything, it is making a point to the transgender community. It is making the point that you are not alone. That you are never alone. That life is worth living.
However, I am a #RealLiveTransYouth. I have overcome mental illness numerous times and found happiness and joy in my life. True, life may not always be perfect, but I have found friends and a support system that make the rough patches worth it. In my experience, the biggest hurdle I faced while healing from my mental illnesses was first deciding that I wanted to get better. Once I made that decision, the healing process took time and work but the effort I put it was one of the greatest choices I have ever made because of the rewards that came with it. There is no easy remedy for mental illness, but you can get better. If you are a young trans person who is struggling with suicidal thoughts or any kind of mental illness, please reach out for help.
I love you. So many people love you. We care about you, and we want you to be happy. You deserve to be happy.
Our thoughts go out to Andi’s and Leelah’s loved ones, and to everyone and anyone who has lost a loved one to suicide.
If you are struggling or are in a crisis, please reach out for help. Below is a list of resources that can provide support.
National Crisis Hotlines