More than 300 people marched through downtown Washington on Saturday to honor a transgender Ohio teenager who committed suicide late last month.
American University student Jes Grobman; Rev. Wendy Moen of First Trinity Lutheran Church and Lourdes Ashley Hunter, co-founder of the Trans Women of Color Collective, are among those who spoke on the steps of the Carnegie Library in Mount Vernon Square during a pre-march rally. They proceeded to march to the Justice Department where they read a list of demands that include a federal ban on so-called conversion therapy to minors.
“Leelah [Alcorn]’s death is extremely tragic,” Grobman, who identifies as a gender queer trans person, told the Washington Blade before speaking at the rally. “As a trans person I feel very emotionally connected to it in the fact that in an easily different set of circumstances it could have been me.”
A tractor-trailer truck struck and killed Alcorn, 17, on an interstate outside of Cincinnati on Dec. 28.
Alcorn wrote in her suicide note that her mother took her to Christian therapists who were “all very biased” after she came out as trans when she was 14.
Alcorn said she thought coming out as gay would be “less of a shock” to her parents. The trans teen wrote they instead withdrew her from school, took away her laptop and phone and did not allow her to see her friends.
“My death needs to mean something,” said Alcorn in her suicide note, which she posted to her Tumblr page.
Grobman read a portion of the note during the rally.
“Her note was more than just a description of a girl who was driven to feel like life was so helpless that she couldn’t live on,” said Grobman. “Her suicide note was a plea. It was a call to action. It was begging us to come out here and to fix society, to make her death mean something. And that’s why we are out here.”
Scarlet Tatro of Baltimore held a sign during the rally that called for an end to “conversion therapy.”
She told the Blade she was “pissed” and “cried a lot” when she learned about how Alcorn’s parents treated her.
“Reading Leelah’s (suicide) note was kind of like the tipping point,” said Tatro.
A 2010 study from the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National LGBTQ Task Force notes that 41 percent of trans people have attempted suicide. A report the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights released last month indicates trans women are among those most likely to lose their lives to anti-LGBT violence.
Hunter during the rally noted 12 trans women of color were “brutally murdered” in the U.S. in 2014. These include Kandy Hall and Mia Henderson who were killed last summer in Baltimore.
A Maryland man on Friday pleaded guilty to stabbing a trans teenager on a Metro train in July 2014.
“There’s nothing wrong with us,” said Hunter. “What is wrong is society’s depraved indifference, willful ignorance, complicity and an active engagement in the systems that deny trans people our humanity and our right to life.”