Fact Check

Death of Leelah Alcorn

A transgendered girl named Leelah Alcorn committed suicide and left a note explaining why on Tumblr.

Published Dec 30, 2014

Claim:   A transgender teenage girl, Leelah Alcorn, committed suicide and left a note explaining why on her Tumblr.


Example:   [Collected via e-mail, December 2014]

I read A suicide letter on Face Book supposedly from a 17 year old transgender named Josh Alcorn. Is this a factual story?


Origins:   On 29 December 2014, Cincinnati City Council member Chris Seelbach posted an image on Facebook of a transgender teen girl he identified as Leelah Alcorn, aged 17, and stated:

Some very sad news to share.

Yesterday, a 17 year old committed suicide by jumping in front of a semi on I-71 near the South Lebanon exit.

It has come to light that this person likely committed suicide because she was transgender.

While Cincinnati led the country this past year as the first city in the mid-west to include transgender inclusive health benefits and we have included gender identity or expression as a protected class for many years.... the truth is.... it is still extremely difficult to be a transgender young person in this country.

We have to do better.

By reading her letter, Leelah makes it clear she wants her death to, in some way, help "trans civil rights movements."

Please join me in making a donation (investment in our trans kids) right now to TransOhio.

Appended to the post was the full text of an apparent suicide note left by Leelah Alcorn. Its text was published to the teen's Tumblr account, and it appeared to have been scheduled by her to auto-post to the blog after a particular date and time. That post was followed by an additional note addressing individuals to whom Alcorn was close, and both were visible on her active Tumblr page on the night of 29 December 2014.

The note began:

If you are reading this, it means that I have committed suicide and obviously failed to delete this post from my queue.

Please don't be sad, it's for the better. The life I would've lived isn't worth living in ... because I'm transgender. I could go into detail explaining why I feel that way, but this note is probably going to be lengthy enough as it is. To put it simply, I feel like a girl trapped in a boy's body, and I've felt that way ever since I was 4. I never knew there was a word for that feeling, nor was it possible for a boy to become a girl, so I never told anyone and I just continued to do traditionally "boyish" things to try to fit in.

When I was 14, I learned what transgender meant and cried of happiness. After 10 years of confusion I finally understood who I was. I immediately told my mom, and she reacted extremely negatively, telling me that it was a phase, that I would never truly be a girl, that God doesn't make mistakes, that I am wrong. If you are reading this, parents, please don't tell this to your kids. Even if you are Christian or are against transgender people don't ever say that to someone, especially your kid. That won't do anything but make them hate them self. That's exactly what it did to me.

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.

When I was 16 I realized that my parents would never come around, and that I would have to wait until I was 18 to start any sort of transitioning treatment, which absolutely broke my heart. The longer you wait, the harder it is to transition. I felt hopeless, that I was just going to look like a man in drag for the rest of my life. On my 16th birthday, when I didn't receive consent from my parents to start transitioning, I cried myself to sleep.

I formed a sort of a "fuck you" attitude towards my parents and came out as gay at school, thinking that maybe if I eased into coming out as trans it would be less of a shock. Although the reaction from my friends was positive, my parents were pissed. They felt like I was attacking their image, and that I was an embarrassment to them. They wanted me to be their perfect little straight christian boy, and that's obviously not what I wanted.

So they took me out of public school, took away my laptop and phone, and forbid me of getting on any sort of social media, completely isolating me from my friends. This was probably the part of my life when I was the most depressed, and I'm surprised I didn't kill myself. I was completely alone for 5 months. No friends, no support, no love. Just my parent's disappointment and the cruelty of loneliness.

At the end of the school year, my parents finally came around and gave me my phone and let me back on social media. I was excited, I finally had my friends back. They were extremely excited to see me and talk to me, but only at first. Eventually they realized they didn't actually give a shit about me, and I felt even lonelier than I did before. The only friends I thought I had only liked me because they saw me five times a week.

After a summer of having almost no friends plus the weight of having to think about college, save money for moving out, keep my grades up, go to church each week and feel like shit because everyone there is against everything I live for, I have decided I've had enough. I'm never going to transition successfully, even when I move out. I'm never going to be happy with the way I look or sound. I'm never going to have enough friends to satisfy me. I'm never going to have enough love to satisfy me. I'm never going to find a man who loves me. I'm never going to be happy. 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. People say "it gets better" but that isn't true in my case. It gets worse. Each day I get worse.

That's the gist of it, that's why I feel like killing myself. Sorry if that's not a good enough reason for you, it's good enough for me. As for my will, I want 100% of the things that I legally own to be sold and the money (plus my money in the bank) to be given to trans civil rights movements and support groups, I don't give a shit which one. The only way I will rest in peace is if one day transgender people aren't treated the way I was, they're treated like humans, with valid feelings and human rights. Gender needs to be taught about in schools, the earlier the better. My death needs to mean something. 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. Fix society. Please.

(Leelah) Josh Alcorn

A local news outlet reported Alcorn was killed through being struck by a tractor-trailer:

Joshua Alcorn, 17, of Kings Mills, was in the road near the South Lebanon exit just before 2:30 a.m. when a tractor-trailer operated by Abdullahi Ahmed, 39, of Florence, hit the boy, according to police reports.

Alcorn was transported from the scene by the Warren County Coroner's Office.

Alcorn's mother acknowledged her death on Facebook, and a photograph of the teen used in news reports matches the physical appearance of the person shown in the picture displayed at the head of this page. The basic circumstances involving the teen, her name, and the details of her death line up with news coverage, and city council member Chris Seelbach later stated several friends of Leelah's and the teen's pastor confirmed she had published the Tumblr message reproduced above.

Last updated:   30 December 2014


    WCPO.   "Joshua Alcorn, Kings Mill Teen Killed on I-71, Remembered as 'Sweet, Talented'."

    28 December 2014.

    Cincinnati.com.   "Boy, 17, Hit and Killed by Semi on I-71."

    28 December 2014.

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.

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