Petitioners Press to Put Leelah Alcorn on Transgender Teen's Tombstone
An online petition to put an Ohio transgender teen's chosen female name on her tombstone has gained 71,000 supporters, even as the teen's mother says she never heard of that name until after the child's death.
The teen's parents have said in limited media interviews that they loved and mourn their child, though they continue to refer to her using male birth name and male pronouns, practices that have angered activists.
Leelah Alcorn, who was born Joshua Alcorn, according to police, died Sunday after being hit by a tractor-trailer in a suburb of Cincinnati. Her death sparked outrage after a note she reportedly left behind claimed that her parents would not accept her as she was.
Officers from the Ohio Highway Patrol told ABC News they were investigating the death as a suicide.
They were also looking into the note left behind by the 17-year-old that had been scheduled to post on Tumblr after the teen died. In the note, Alcorn reportedly lashed out against her parents as well as society.
"The life I would've lived isn't worth living in," she wrote, "because I'm transgender."
She said that she felt like a girl trapped in a boy's body and that her family "wanted me to be their perfect little straight Christian boy."
Alcorn's mother, Carla Alcorn, posted on Facebook that Alcorn was killed while out for a walk, according to ABC News affiliate WCPO-TV, while making no mention of suicide.
"My sweet 16-year-old son, Joshua Ryan Alcorn went home to heaven this morning," wrote Carla Alcorn on Facebook, according to WCPO. "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."
Alcorn's parents did not respond to a request for comment from ABC News today, and reportedly declined to speak directly with WCPO.
However, the teen's father, Doug Alcorn, sent an email to the station.
"We love our son, Joshua, very much and are devastated by his death," the email said, according to WCPO. "We have no desire to enter into a political storm or debate with people who did not know him. We wish to grieve in private. We harbor no ill will towards anyone. … I simply do not wish our words to be used against us."
Carla Alcorn told CNN that she and her husband objected to their child living as a girl on religious grounds, "but we told him that we loved him unconditionally. We loved him no matter what. I loved my son. People need to know that I loved him. He was a good kid, a good boy."
She said her child only discussed being transgender with her once, that she declined a request for transition surgery because "we didn't have the money for anything like that," and that she never saw the name Leelah until the purported suicide note.
"He never said that name before," she told CNN.
However, after Alcorn's note went viral, transgender people began describing their lives using Twitter hashtag, #RealLiveTransAdult, for messages of hope, support, inspiration and offers of mentorship for trans teens.
Alcorn's death also grabbed the attention of celebrities and activists, some tweeting in memoriam, with support for the teen.
- rose mcgowan (@rosemcgowan) December 31, 2014
Others, meanwhile, were angry and critical of Alcorn's parents.
Dan Savage, the founder of It Gets Better, a video movement intended to inspire lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans teens facing harassment, argued on Twitter that her parents should be charged with child abuse.
#LeelahAlcorn's parents threw her in front of that truck. They should be ashamed-but 1st they need to be shamed. Charges should be brought.
- Dan Savage (@fakedansavage) December 31, 2014
In Alcorn's final post on her Tumblr, she wrote that she wanted her death to "mean something."
"The only way I will rest in peace is if one day transgender people aren't treated the way I was," she wrote in her note.
In her hometown of Kings Mill, Ohio, friends and supporters of Alcorn planned to hold a candlelight vigil Saturday.