The apparent suicide of a 17-year-old Warren County youth has prompted a renewed discussion about issues faced by transgender people in society.
Police identified Joshua Alcorn of Kings Mills as the pedestrian who was struck dead by a semitrailer on southbound Interstate 71 near South Lebanon around 2:20 a.m. on Sunday.
But Alcorn left a suicide note on an online blog in which she wrote about her struggle with growing up transgender and said she considered herself female and called herself by the name Leelah.
In two of Alcorn’s final posts on the blog, she wrote a “Suicide Note” and “Sorry Note.” Alcorn wrote in her blog that she realized at the age of 4 she felt like a girl trapped in a boy’s body.
“I’m never going to be happy,” Alcorn wrote. “Either I live the rest of my life as a lonely man who wishes he were a woman or I live my life as a lonelier woman who hates herself. There’s no winning. There’s no way out. I’m sad enough already, I don’t need my life to get any worse.”
Suicide is the second leading cause of death - after motor vehicle accidents - for all people ages 15 to 24 years old, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youths are four times more likely to attempt suicide than their straight peers,” according to David W. Bond, vice president of programs for the TREVOR Project, a national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to LGBT and “questioning” people.
“The unfortunate truth is that this is a daily occurrence,” said Bond. “Leelah’s death and her very public suicide note have been reposted so much it’s really garnered a high level of emotional response.”
Cincinnati Councilman Chris Seelbach — the city’s first openly gay council member — first shared Alcorn’s online blog Monday on Facebook, where it has since been shared more than 12,000 times.
Transgender youth are more likely to consider suicide because of the high degree of discrimination, prejudice, rejection and hatred they encounter, Bond said.
“It’s harder for them to find supportive adults who encourage them to be their true selves,” he said.
As of Wednesday, the Warren County coroner’s office was awaiting toxicology reports before making a formal ruling on Alcorn’s death, but Doyle Burke, the chief deputy coroner, said it would almost certainly be a ruled a suicide.
“There’s nothing to indicate it’s not,” he said Wednesday.
Burke said Alcorn’s death was the second he has handled involving a transgender person in the last two months.
On Nov. 10, a 46-year-old man living who lived in Liberty Twp. with his wife and children, was found dead in an apartment in Lebanon, Burke said. The man had been living part of the time as a woman for about eight years and two years ago had decided to undergo a sex change. He had recently grown depressed before he committed suicide, Burke said.
“It’s a tragedy in any light when a 17-year-old feels they’ve got to take their own life,” Burke said.
Alcorn’s apparent suicide would be at least the third teen-LGBT suicide in the area since the September, according to Kevin Mabrey, chairman of The GLSEN Greater Dayton Chapter. Mabrey declined to provide additional details about the other cases, other than to say both occurred in the 19-county area in which his chapter offers services.
“There are resources available to these youths,” said Mabrey, whose chapter offers programs in schools.
Mabrey said transgender youths are sometimes unable to take advantage of programs or support networks designed to help them. In some cases when there are disputes with family members, they leave home.
“I see it every day,” he said. “They are going couch to couch. They have nowhere to go.”
Transgender people, he said, deal with a range of issues.
“They are going through isolation, fear, non-understanding of their peers. Rejection, confusion,” he said.
Carla Wood Alcorn, the mother of the latest victim, confirmed her child wrote on the blog to our news partners WCPO 9 On Your Side.
“My sweet 16-year-old son, Joshua Ryan Alcorn went home to heaven this morning,” Carla Wood Alcorn wrote in a post on Facebook, which has since been made private. “He was out for an early morning walk and was hit by a truck. Thank you for the messages and kindness and concern you have sent our way. Please continue to keep us in your prayers.”
In the blog, Alcorn says her parents would not acknowledge that she was transgender and took her to Christian therapists who did not treat his depression. Disagreements between the three also led Alcorn’s family to pull her out from public school, according to the online forum.
Alcorn’s family asked for privacy through a statement made by the Kings Local School District, where Alcorn was a former student. Most recently, however, Alcorn was enrolled at the Ohio Virtual Academy for 11th grade.
“It is always very tragic when a young person loses their life before their time,” the statement read. “Our hearts and thoughts are with the Alcorn family and the entire Kings Community as we work through the grieving process.”
Friend and neighbor Chris Davis said Alcorn announced on Facebook that he was transgender.
“Everybody was like, ‘yeah, man, that’s great,’” Davis said of friends. “He came to school and everybody gave him massive support.”
Alcorn also asked that all of his belongings and any money in her bank account be given to benefit transgender civil rights organizations.
“The only way I will rest in peace is if one day transgender people aren’t treated way I was,” Alcorn wrote.