As you may have already heard, a transgender teen was hit by a truck between on December 28th and left a suicide note on Tumblr. Leelah’s note is a clear example of how fundamental Christians can be inadvertent accomplices in widespread LGBTQ suicide.
Leelah Alcorn was the child of Christian parents who didn’t accept her transgender identity, saying “God doesn’t make mistakes.”
True, God doesn’t make mistakes, but that doesn’t mean Leelah was wrong. God made Leelah transgender.
It seems Leelah was sent to “conversion” therapy after she came out to her parents. She wrote:
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.
I agree Leelah needed to turn to God, but not in the way she thought the therapists meant. She needed God’s love, not God’s “help” to reverse her transgender identity.
When I first came out, God’s love kept me from harming myself. I, too, thought momentarily of suicide, thinking it would make things so much easier for me if I were dead. But it was God who slapped that idea out of my head before I could even really finish thinking it.
But Leelah did not know God’s love. In fact, she did not feel loved by anyone, especially her parents. They isolated her from her friends by making her transfer schools and taking away her phone and social media access. She wrote:
“I was completely alone for 5 months. No friends, no support, no love. Just my parent’s disappointment and the cruelty of loneliness.”
Even when she finally reconnected with her friends, their friendships were not enough. She believed that “they didn’t actually give a shit” about her. She needed much stronger love than they could give her.
As part of her suicide note, Leelah wrote, “I’m never going to have enough love to satisfy me.” She needed to know her parents loved her, which to her and most LGBTQ youth means acceptance. She needed a community that embraced her fully. And more than that, Leelah needed to know that God loved her.
God doesn’t make mistakes, but humans do. It was her therapist’s mistake to tell her she was wrong. It was her parents’ mistake to isolate her and not acknowledge her transgender identity. It was Leelah’s mistake to harm herself. Humans are not perfect. We all mess up, and sometimes our mistakes have severe consequences that we do not intend.
As Christians, we have a responsibility to spread the good news of God’s love for ALL people, especially vulnerable LGBTQ youth. We need to raise our voices over the noise of hate. We need to make it obvious that there is a positive alternative to the negative Christianity so well known to the LGBTQ community.
Let’s be the Christians Jesus calls us to be—welcoming the outcast and sharing with them the good news of God’s all-encompassing love.