Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Leelah Alcorn Reminded Us All The Only Rule Every Parent Needs To Follow

Leelah Alcorn (photo: Jezebel)

Love your children. No matter what.

It doesn't matter if your children are assholes. It doesn't matter if they don't fit the societal standard of beauty or perfection. It doesn't matter whether they are gay, straight, bisexual, going through a phase or discovering a part of themselves. It doesn't matter if they are Christians, Pagans, Atheists, Buddhists or any other religious view. It doesn't matter if they were born a boy and want to act and dress like a girl, or vice versa. It doesn't even matter if they are acting like little sh%ts or if nothing you say seems to sink in.

They're listening. They're learning. They're on a journey to discover who they are, and it's not our job to protect them from their own decisions and beliefs. It's our job to make sure they know they are loved and supported throughout this journey; to arm them with wisdom and instill in them a kind yet strong heart with which to travel down the road of life, even when your time to walk with them has ended. There is nothing that motivates, protects, and strengthens greater than a parent's love for their child. Give it to them freely and watch as it shelters them from the rain, influences good decision-making and creates a shield of confidence and assurance that is hard to penetrate. Your unconditional love is the best gift you can give them, and it's one that keeps on giving for the rest of their days.

Recently, a 17 year old transgender girl named Leelah Alcorn (born Joshua Alcorn) committed suicide because her parents failed to show her the one thing she needed most during her uncertain and possibly frightening period of transition and self-discovery - unconditional love.

Instead of standing by her and supporting her decisions, Leelah's parents (like far too many overzealous fundie Christian parents, including Jim-Bob and Michelle Duggar) sent her off to religiously-based "rehabilitation" programs, or as some call them, "pray away the gay" camps, as well as to Christian-centric psychologists who all based their teachings around the notion that being gay/transgender is a matter of choice, a sin, and an abomination. Some fundies will even beat children who go against what is traditionally taught in terms of each gender and their corresponding roles.

Despite overwhelming evidence that these practices are not only ineffective but cruel, an alarming amount of people send their kids away to programs like those, or they enforce their pious restrictions on their children in the privacy of their own home.

Perhaps one of the chiefest arguments that an intolerant parent will employ against a gay or transgender child is the following statement: 'God doesn't make mistakes'.

You could absolutely come back with "No, He doesn't. He gave you a child who had to work harder at finding him/herself, and tested you to see whether you would respond in love or hatred." Any religious parent that has been thusly tested and responds intolerantly has failed that test.

As for whether it's just a phase... it might be. Maybe it's not. It's not your place to determine. It's your place to be supportive and encouraging of healthy behavior and good self-esteem, and it's your place to accept them the way they are and the way they want to be. It's your place to love them, no matter what, whether or not you agree with their lifestyle choices.

I'm sure that if this was an actual conversation with a Christian zealot, they would respond to the former statement by claiming that homosexuals/transgenders are not worthy of God's love, so how can they be worthy of theirs?

Firstly, I'd have to tell them that not once did Jesus H. Christ (a.k.a. Buddy Christ, Jeebus, Yahweh or whatever the hell names that guy has been given over thousands of years) ever say anything directly about homosexuality or having an identification crisis. Men, mortal men wrote the only verbage in the Bible addressing the issue (it's barely mentioned at all), and that's hardly the word of God himself. I may be a witch, or "godless heathen" in fundie speak, but I've read the Bible in its entirety. Jesus and his wife seemed like pretty cool dudes. To my knowledge, Jesus is the only one that can really speak for God, right? Therefore, if Jesus taught you all to "love one another" and a passage written by men totally contradicts that, who are you going to believe? If you say you're going to believe the hateful passages, that's pretty much saying you would listen to a televangelist over Jesus. Really?

The point is, if they're not harming anyone, they are worthy of His love and yours, despite whatever you've been told. To be completely honest, if there existed a God that would condemn an otherwise good person with a kind and gentle heart to an eternity in hell because of who they chose to love or how they chose to dress, that's not a God I would want to bow down for.

Some would still argue that they are acting out of love when they send a child off to an institution designed to help them "pray/beat the gay away". They are looking out for their eternal soul, they'd declare, and they are only doing it out of love and concern for their salvation.

Somewhere in the Bible, it says (in so many words) to pretty much leave the judging up to God. Aside from completely flying in the face of that request, all you have now done when you send your child away to be "treated" for homosexuality or gender confusion is brought hell to them, making every day a waking nightmare filled with insecurites, poor self-image, isolation, discomfort, depression, or even death itself - as was the case with poor Leelah.

Read Leelah's last words and understand that this is what you're doing to your child when you try to fight them about something like this. This is akin to peeking inside your child's mind the moment you tell them that being gay is "unnatural", wanting to change genders is a sin, or that "God doesn't make mistakes":

"If you are reading this, it means that I have committed suicide and obviously failed to delete this post from my queue.

Please don't be sad, it's for the better. The life I would've lived isn't worth living in… because I'm transgender. I could go into detail explaining why I feel that way, but this note is probably going to be lengthy enough as it is. To put it simply, I feel like a girl trapped in a boy's body, and I've felt that way ever since I was 4. I never knew there was a word for that feeling, nor was it possible for a boy to become a girl, so I never told anyone and I just continued to do traditionally "boyish" things to try to fit in.

When I was 14, I learned what transgender meant and cried of happiness. 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. If you are reading this, parents, please don't tell this to your kids. Even if you are Christian or are against transgender people don't ever say that to someone, especially your kid. That won't do anything but make them hate them self. That's exactly what it did to me.

My mom started taking me to a therapist, but would only take me to christian therapists, (who were all very biased) so I never actually got the therapy I needed to cure me of my depression. I only got more christians telling me that I was selfish and wrong and that I should look to God for help.

When I was 16 I realized that my parents would never come around, and that I would have to wait until I was 18 to start any sort of transitioning treatment, which absolutely broke my heart. The longer you wait, the harder it is to transition. I felt hopeless, that I was just going to look like a man in drag for the rest of my life. On my 16th birthday, when I didn't receive consent from my parents to start transitioning, I cried myself to sleep.

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. I'm sad enough already, I don't need my life to get any worse. People say "it gets better" but that isn't true in my case. It gets worse. Each day I get worse.

That's the gist of it, that's why I feel like killing myself. Sorry if that's not a good enough reason for you, it's good enough for me. As for my will, I want 100% of the things that I legally own to be sold and the money (plus my money in the bank) to be given to trans civil rights movements and support groups, I don't give a shit which one. 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. 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 fucked up" and fix it. Fix society. Please."

Can you imagine having to live with yourself knowing that you were the root cause of their decision to take their own life? All because you broke the cardinal rule of parenting and chose outdated religious texts written by past civilizations that added to the Bible as they saw fit to help keep a handle on societies that were ruled by it, over just simply loving your child unconditionally? Could you go on knowing that all you needed to do to keep your beloved child here with you in this life was just to love them and tell them that you would always do so, no matter what?

To make matters worse, his mother referred to Leelah as her "son, Joshua" in a Facebook post regarding his death. It's as close as that mother will get to slapping her child in the face.

From Leelah's Tumblr.

In an age such as ours, when information flows freely in abundance and more people are mindful and respectful of different cultures and lifestyles than ever before, there is no excuse for this still to be happening.

Sadly, desperate fundamentalists and separatist Christians are lashing out in the face of the death of their former way of life, becoming louder and more hateful in their speech against safe abortion, gay/lesbian/transgender individuals, and any religion that isn't a denomination of Christianity. They sense that the general population is becoming more tolerant and accepting every day, and that infuriates them.

People like the Duggar family, Ann Coulter, sniveling Tea(bagger) Party Republicans and Bible-thumpers across the Midwest are working harder than ever to fight back against progress, lest they lose the only life they've ever known. They have no reason to fear progress or change of this sort, and yet they do... so much so that all the aforementioned people have donated thousands of dollars in support of discriminatory legislation and pro-lifer agendas, as well as putting money behind only the most pious nutbag conservative politicians so those laws can pass unhindered. The Duggar family has already succeeded in aiding the passage of a bill that was so broadly worded, it essentially makes it legal for EMT workers to deny assistance to people whose lifestyle choices conflict with their own. Michelle Duggars infamous robocall pleaded with listeners to regard transgender people as "predators" and not allow them the basic human right of using a public restroom.

Though they don't reflect the majority, they are becoming increasingly bold and are constantly gaining stronger footholds and bigger soap-boxes from which to spew their hate-fueled fear mongering tripe. As an unintended side effect, all of this exposure for them is gaining these groups new devotees, and encouraging parents - like Leelah's mother - to treat their children in this way. The result is nothing but pain for all who get sucked in, and all who have to deal with it.

So please, please remember; regardless of what religion you follow, no matter your personal tastes or opinions, there is ONE and ONE THING ONLY that you need to do to be a good parent.

Love your children. No matter what.

Do that, and you and your children can weather any storm. Don't, and suffer the same heartbreak that those who loved this beautiful girl will now have to live with until the end of time.

RIP Leelah. I hope your story will influence more parents to hug their kids a little tighter each day.

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