TW……………. TW stands for “trigger warning” and as a rule of thumb, many transgender and gender non-conforming people, and people who’ve dealt with trauma, type those letters, or the full words, out of respect and empathy when communicating through social networking sites, chat rooms, or online discussion forums because the post that follows threatens to trigger a negative memory, reaction or feeling for the potential reader; therefore, giving the reader the option to continue or discontinue reading. This post will undoubtedly trigger negative energy in some folks because as I write these words there is a ball in my throat and tears in my eyes…
On Sunday, local Ohio news reported that around 2:20am a teenage boy was killed in an accident along Interstate 71 in Warren County. That afternoon, friends and family grieved as news spread of this tragedy and the teen’s mother announced to Facebook that her son was taking an early morning walk and was hit by a truck. On Monday, a previously scheduled blog post appeared on Tumblr that was written by this teen:
“If you are reading this, it means that I have committed suicide …Please don’t be sad, it’s for the better.”
The post goes on to say that this teen, who prefers the use of female pronouns and the name, Leelah, has known since age 4 that she was a girl “trapped in a boy’s body”. Leelah came out to her parents at age 14 and was met with negativity and rejection. In her final note, Leelah sends a message to all parents and says,
“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.”
In response to her parents’ rejection, her own depression, and the feelings of hopelessness, Leelah ended her pain by walking in front of a tractor trailer on the highway. I cry for Leelah. I cry for Leelah because the hatred and the rejection she experienced at the hands of the very people who gave her life is what ultimately contributed to her death. I cry for Leelah because she didn’t know another way. I cry for Leelah because she represents the nearly 50% of all transgender people who attempt suicide. I cry for Leelah because her parents used their Christian faith to justify not loving and affirming their child for who she was and, like many trans folks, this hits too close to home for me…
When I was 17, I was outed and my entire life changed. My grandmother informed me that I was not allowed to go back to the Southern Baptist church I grew up in and I was not allowed to go back home…unless of course I said that I was “straight”. The summer before my senior year, I slept in various places around town–I squatted, couch-surfed, and rode the city buses because I had no where else to go. I was an honor student and was looking forward to college, so I eventually made a deal with my grandmother to let me move back in so that I could finish school. The time spent back in my grandmother’s house as I finished high school was tumultuous at best.
I was exorcised. I was physically beaten. I was constantly told that I was going to hell. I was not permitted to be “gay” around my siblings and younger cousins–I cannot imagine how the elders in my family would’ve reacted if I had used or known the word “transgender” at the time. I was the subject of gossip for lesser-evolved family and church members. I never renounced my identity and claimed to be straight because I knew I’d be lying; however, after completing my first year of college, and feeling even more isolated, I decided to take my life. My soul was battered into submission. I believed that even if I died and went to hell, that the promise of hell was a sweet release from a life filled with so much torture. But I lived. I cry for Leelah because I lived and she didn’t.
Leelah’s final words are:
“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…Fix society. Please.”
May every person reading these words know that:
1. Rejecting, ridiculing, teasing and isolating LGBTQ people will not make them “straight” no more than conversion therapy cures people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer. These violent scare tactics are forms of bullying and terrorism. Terrorism is unacceptable and terrorizing a child is the worst thing you can do–especially if you are their parent.
2. Creation didn’t stop in Genesis. The realm of God is ever-expanding and therefore, we as humans must continue to evolve also. If we don’t continue to evolve spiritually, socially, emotionally, psychologically, and with regard to how we care for one another, we place ourselves in danger of extinction or extermination. We have a responsibility to one another and to our children to understand how to productively engage one another as members of the same diverse human family.
3. You will NOT go to hell for loving someone unconditionally and they will NOT go to hell for living authentically with confidence and a positive self-concept. On the other hand, you can experience hell on earth through feelings of rejection, isolation, and not feeling safe.
4. We all live on a spectrum. Some of us are female and some of us are male; some of us are ambiguous and some of us don’t conform to any particular gender at all. There is a large difference between gender identity and sexual orientation.
5. We are all born into this world seeking one thing: Love. May we find better ways to let our love for one another grow bigger than our hatred or fear of one another. Not all Christians are hateful, ignorant, or fearful of LGBTQ people. In fact, there are many LGBTQ Christians and supportive allies–even my Southern Baptist grandmother eventually came around before she died and was one of my biggest fans.
As my transgender brothers and sisters are crying out for human rights, crying out for social protection, crying out for sacred spaces to heal and be whole, crying out for marriage equality supporters to not forget them, I cry for Leelah. May every Christian feel convicted by the Spirit of God to look within and determine how you can contribute to the building up of every body because until all people are free, no one is truly free.
- Findings from the National Transgender Discrimination Survey
- Information on where to locate churches that are open to and affirming of LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer/questioning) people
- A contact form for all who wish to talk with me personally as a transgender pastor, or if you wish to invite me to speak to your church, school, or organization about being transgender
- My YouTube channel highlights my entire female to male transition process
- If you are thinking of killing or hurting yourself, Please call the Trevor Lifeline (866-488-7386) or click here
- Here is a report from the American Psychological Association defining related terms
- Here is a report from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) stating that Transgender is not a mental illness or disorder