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January 9, 2015

Three suicides, three too many

A trio of transgender people ended their own lives in December

Cincinnati--On December 28, a 16year old transgender girl walked onto I-71, where she was killed by a truck.

Two weeks earlier, a 24-year old transgender man jumped from a bridge in Pittsburgh, ending his life.

On December 23, a 22-year old transgender man was found in his sport utility vehicle in a suburb of Detroit. He had been missing for two weeks after leaving a note asking his roommate to watch his dog. Police believe it was also suicide.

Their names were Leelah Alcorn, Andi Woodhouse and Jay Ralko, and in at least two of their cases, the cause of death may be a lack of understanding.

Alcorn’s death, and the subsequent discovery of a suicide note on her-defunct Tumblr account, highlight a lack of understanding on the part of her parents, who refused to accept that their “Josh” was really “Leelah.” According to her note, her parents sent her to Christian therapists who were “very biased,” and had at times completely cut Alcorn off from social media and taken away her cell phone, leaving her feeling isolated and despondent.

Carla Alcorn, her mother, told CNN that her child had stopped talking about being transgender after only broaching the subject once.

Woodhouse’s death almost flew under the radar of LGBT advocates. The medical examiner and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette identified him as Amber Woodhouse, and the other media outlets in the area, going from the same official reports, also misgendered him. He was from Lebanon, Penn., in Pittsburgh temporarily, and almost completely alone, cut off from a supportive community that existed, but he might not have known how to find.

Ralko, at the very least, had a supportive family, although depression can strike in the warmest of family’s bosoms. When he went missing, his mother went to Equality Michigan for help finding him, setting up a Facebook page, “Please Help Find Jay Ralko,” and a central search headquarters in the community resource space at local nightclub Menjo’s.

The Williams Institute at the University of California Los Angeles School of Law notes that over 40 percent of transgender adults have attempted suicide. That number increases to just over half when looking solely at LGBT youth 24 years old and younger.

On Saturday, January 3, a vigil was held for Woodhouse at the point where he plunged off a bridge to the waiting freeway below. Organizers wanted to send the message to his family that there are people in Pittsburgh who are sorry he felt so alone, and also to tell other transgender people in the city that there is help.

A handful of vigils have already happened around Ohio for Alcorn, with at least two more to come: on January 10 at 7 pm in the Clifton Cultural Arts Center in Cincinnati and on Wednesday, January 17 at 6 pm at Eternal Joy MCC in Dayton.

“My death needs to mean something,” Alcorn wrote in her letter, included in full in this issue. “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.” she concludes. “Fix society. Please.









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