I wrote the following in January, after the death of Leelah Alcorn, the young person who took her life by stepping in front of a truck. She despaired because her parents refused to see anything but the child who was identified as male at birth. If you are not familiar with her: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_of_Leelah_Alcorn.
There was to be a vigil for her in Indianapolis and, though I would never speak at it, the writer in me had to compose what I would have said. After my post on Thursday, “I Am a Real Person,” I finally found a good time to use this.
I hope this demonstrates the tragedy of so many young people and the need for education and compassion. Remember, 41% of the gender dysphoric and transgender will attempt suicide, where the number is 2-4% in the general population.
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The impetus for this service was Leelah’s tragedy, but this vigil really is not for Leelah and, therefore, my encouragement is not for her, but for you.
This is not for Leelah, because, sadly, we can no longer help Leelah. We cannot help the dead. We cannot dry their tears, or mend their hearts, or hold them close until the pain subsides.
We cannot affirm their personhood, show them hope for a bright future, or walk side by side to fight the good fight.
We cannot fight for the rights of the dead, because they no longer can enjoy the rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Leelah was pushed from the pursuit of happiness into the corner of grief. Her liberty was forcibly stolen as she was imprisoned by the expectations of others. Her life was robbed of her as she was led into the valley of the shadow of death.
Therefore, this is for every person who is alive, who is being bullied, who is being mistreated, who is being made to feel afraid and ashamed and abused, who is not being heard, being helped, being upheld.
This is for every person who does not make the supposed grade of his peers, of her friends, of family and government and workplace and sports team and you name it.
Yes, Leelah Alcorn needed our help, but so do countless others who are stuck between the rock and hard place of so many of life’s craggy conundrums.
We must speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves. Now, however, I am not talking about the Leelah Alcorns, who can no longer enjoy the good we might do, the justice we strive to achieve, the way of hope we shall strive to pave. It does no good to speak for the dead, for we can no longer help the dead. Look around at the living; it is they who need us to speak.
We must speak, but we must never be guilty of what we never want from others. Let us be the ones who model the Golden Rule. Let us be the ones who take the high road, whose words and actions prove who we are, that we only want to do good for all people.
Let us never be the ones to lash out. Let us never be the ones who fight back with words and actions that only serve to make more regrettable headlines.
Let us not bring more heat, but cast a brighter light.
If people insist on hating us, then let them hate us because we are so stinking nice to them. If anyone continues to dwell in ignorance, let it be because they refused to listen. If anyone will not work with us to create a peaceful world, with safe neighborhoods, where understanding and hope abounds, let it be because they would not take our hand when we held it out to them.
There is no Gospel that we can proclaim to Leelah, for she can no longer hear the good news which brings hope to the hurting, which is a balm to those who have been battered, which leads the lost to a place of love. Leelah has been removed from this vale of tears and, we pray, she is at rest, dwelling in peace.
It is we who cannot rest until there is peace—peace for us and peace for all. Justice for us and justice for all. Hope for us and hope for all. A safe world for us and a safe world for all. The Golden Rule lived for us and the Golden Rule lived for all.
A world where no one would ever begin to give the first moment’s consideration to treating another person any differently, any less, any worse than that person would have him or her treat her or him.
A world in which I want to live, and be free, and pursue happiness, and so do you, and so does the person who, right now, thinks he is my most bitter opponent, for whom it is my job to be the most winsome person on the face of the earth, that I might win him over. If I do, hooray! If I do not, I cannot be faulted, because I always cast a brighter light.
I commend you to the spirit of kindness, the spirit of patience, the spirit of harmony, the spirit of education, that we might be known for who we are:
We are them. They are us. We are in this together.
Let’s be in this together.
Shall we do this for Leelah? Of course, for Leelah. But, infinitely more, that we never need to learn the name of another Leelah, because she will be just another teenage girl who is way more concerned with the things with which a seventeen-year-old should be concerned—learning about herself and what provides her with the satisfaction of accomplishment, getting into the college of her choice or the job which interests her, and giggling with her girlfriends the way young people should giggle.
The church of my youth was fond of a hymn which you might know. “Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.”
Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me. With you. With all.