Yesterday, Terry posted the tragic story of Leelah Alcorn (below), a transgender teen who killed herself, leaving behind a digital suicide note urging parents never to tell their kids that it’s “just a phase” or “God doesn’t make mistakes.” Leelah also pointed out that her conservative Christian parents sent her to a Christian therapist, which didn’t help matters.
In situations like this, we’ve come to expect conservative Christians jumping into the fray to offer their thoughts, usually reinforcing the problem that led to the tragedy in the first place.
Cue Michael Brown of the homophobic Christian publication Charisma. After expressing his condolences over her loss (though he doesn’t hesitate to call her a “him”), Brown reminds everyone that people can be “cured” of their transgenderism and that sex changes don’t always solve the problem:
I personally know individuals who once identified as transgender and who no longer do, and they are so thankful to God that they found a better way. They emphatically discourage parents from affirming their children as transgender (while even more emphatically urging those parents to show unconditional love to their kids). Should we ignore what they have to say?…
Some of these individuals remained suicidal even after having sex-change surgery, and in some notable cases… some have committed suicide after coming out as the opposite of their biological sex.
Don’t their deaths count as much as the death of Joshua-Leelah?
Why are people so free to condemn Joshua’s parents when they wouldn’t dare criticize doctors who performed (or recommended) sex-change surgery on someone who then killed himself or herself, unhappy with their new identity? Shouldn’t all these suicides give us pause for thought?
… while the suicide of Joshua-Leelah is absolutely tragic, and while I understand the passion of those who want to ban so-called transgender conversion therapy, I respectfully submit that wisdom and compassion call for a better path, one that invests more time and energy into looking for the root causes of transgenderism…
Christ… yes, of course some people commit suicide after a sex change. No one’s suggesting that those deaths, too, aren’t tragic. If you’re transgender, a sex change isn’t going to solve everything. There’s a whole host of things you’re going to have to deal with regardless of your outward appearance.
But in this case, Leelah’s parents do bear a bulk of the responsibility for what happened. Like Brown and like the Christian therapist, they just assumed there was something wrong with their child because of her gender identity. So instead of helping her, they discouraged her from being true to herself. Living with the knowledge that you’re going to have to live a lie in front of your parents forever is a horrible burden for anyone to bear.
You can’t “discourage parents from affirming their children as transgender” while simultaneously telling them to love the children unconditionally. There’s an obvious contradiction there.
Just to be clear, I don’t think the problem is that Leelah’s parents didn’t love her. I think they were just ignorant about what their daughter was dealing with. Their ideas about what it means to be LGBT were likely reinforced by a church culture that believes every one of those letters is inherently immoral. And Brown’s article does nothing to fix that problem.