LGBT Pride Month: Spotlight on the Strength of Transgender People

The politics of the “in crowd” is a common tale for many adolescents. Books and movies are riddled with plot lines involving characters who devise strategies to become popular. Wanting to fit in, having a sense of belonging – these are common goals for all of us.

Leelah Alcorn and Conversion Therapy

Leelah Alcorn

Leelah Alcorn
(Photo credit Wikipedia)

On December 28, 2014, 17 year-old Leelah Alcorn committed suicide. Her suicide note was posted on Tumblr just a few hours later. In her note, she explains her battle with depression, and how she had to go through conversion therapy. The note also contained a call to action for society to teach gender issues in school. She encouraged people to “fix society,” noting she wanted to be counted amongst the transgender people who commit suicide. “My death needs to mean something,” she wrote. An out pouring of love and support for Leelah quickly followed online.

Alcorn’s call to action inspired a movement to outlaw the use of conversion therapy on minors, a practice which targets people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and gender nonconforming. The thought process behind this type of therapy is to “cure” someone of homosexuality or gender dysphoria. While professional organizations have spoken out against the practice of conversion therapy, stating that it can lead to anxiety, depression, and even suicidal thoughts, the therapy is still in practice. The law to forbid the practice with minors has become known as Leelah’s law, and it has the support of the Obama Administration.

Caitlyn Jenner and Transgender News

Caitlyn Jenner introduced herself to the world in grandiose fashion on the cover of Vanity Fair. This sparked an online movement, #MyVanityFairCover, which is meant to highlight diversity within the transgender community.

On July 15, 2015, Jenner will be presented with the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the annual ESPY Awards. The accolade is given each year to recognize athletes’ courageous endeavors beyond sports. There has been criticism of ESPN’s decision to award Jenner. Some critics simply do not understand the struggle that Jenner has felt her entire life; some simply do not agree with the decision. There has been even more discussion on the thought that the award may be disingenuous and only granted in an attempt to boost ratings for the awards show. Either way, a national conversation has been started.

Due to the recent heavy media coverage regarding transgender issues, predictions are being made that gender identification will become a big topic during the 2016 presidential election. As more public figures speak about their own journeys, and as more attention is brought to the transgender community, political figures will be expected to weigh in.

Historically all-women’s colleges are reevaluating admissions policies in order to adapt to current cultural shifts. Last week, Barnard College voted to accept college applications from transgender women. This makes them the last of the Seven Sisters colleges to make such changes. Each college has a different policy and not all are completely inclusive, but this change is a step in a new direction.

The want to belong in society is universal. From participating on a sports team, to acting in a play, to getting the dream job, to feeling free to be who you are – the goal is all the same: acceptance.

Share your own stories for LGBT Pride Month in June. We want to continue the conversation about people who battle with feeling accepted in society.

About Kimberly Knowles

Kimberly Knowles has a BS in Communication and post graduate education in event management, editing, and publishing. She enjoys writing, reading, and scrapbooking, believing that preserving photos and mementos is a great way to share memories. She currently resides in Tallahassee, Florida.

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