Young Transgender Woman's Suicide Highlights Issues Faced By Many Transgender Youth
In the last days of 2014, an emotionally-charged note from a young transgender woman appeared on the social networking site Tumblr.
Leelah Alcorn, a 17-year-old young woman in Ohio, wrote that she suffered from severe depression; her parents didn’t accept her and Christian conversion therapy didn’t work.
She scheduled the note to appear just as she committed suicide on December 28. Within three days, the note had been reposted on Tumblr 200,000 times.
Las Vegas Christian therapist Jim Jobin took to Tumblr himself to weigh in on the subject, and his beliefs run counter to some of his contemporaries.
Jobin told KNPR’s State of Nevada that he posted the blog to explain Gender Dysphoria from a mental health perspective.
The definition of Gender Dysphoria has changed, he said. Jobin said it is no longer listed as a disease but refers to someone who has a “clinical significant amount of distress about his or hers natal gender and has a desire to become a different gender.”
Jobin said that he was disturbed that some people were using Leelah Alcorn as a martyr for a bigger cause. He doesn’t want her death to be celebrated and doesn’t want other LGBTQ youth to get a message that suicide is an option.
He also was unhappy to see that some people viewed her death as an assault on their moral values.
“Her death was not a point in a political game. It wasn’t a shot fired in a culture war,” Jobin said.
Jobin said that based on Alcorn’s blog post the counselors she saw were not putting her needs above their own opinions. Jobin believes that should be the primary concern for a therapist.
“My goal is not to convince them that they shouldn’t be feeling these things or there is one right way to go. My goal is to enter their struggle and monitor for things like depression and anxiety,” he said.
He said therapists shouldn’t try to ‘cure’ someone with Gender Dysphoria, but should help them understand what they’re feeling. Jobin, who is also a pastor, believes it is part of being Christian.
“I think the best version of Christianity is actually when we’re the most like Jesus. And I don’t see Jesus standing there throwing rocks at you for being different. I see Jesus as the person standing between you and the rock throwers,” Jobin said.
Jeremy Wallace told KNPR’s State of Nevada that his faith in God is what helped him transition and become the man he always felt he was.
Wallace was born female but said he felt like nothing in his life ever fit. He struggled with those feelings for years and couldn’t even express his feelings to therapists.
“There were times when I thought I was crazy,” Wallace said. “I thought I was the only one. How can I say to this professional, ‘I’m not a girl’?”
Wallace said that although no therapist told him he was crazy, no one said he wasn’t.
Finally, when he was in his 30s, Wallace decided his life was now at a crossroads and it was a matter of life or death.
“It was really I’m going to continue to live my life as a transgender man or I was going to take my life,” Wallace said.
Jobin pointed to Wallace’s experience as one of hope. He wants all transgender youth to remember that it does get better.
“It gets better sometimes because it can’t get worse,” Jobin said.
Wallace began his transition when he was 36 years old and told his family when he was 37. He said he is lucky and thankful that his family responded with love and support.
When asked how parents of transgender children should respond, both Wallace and Jobin counsel parents to focus on love.
“Just love your kid. It’s your kid don’t’ forget that,” Wallace said, “It’s a gift to be there for the first time that they’re actually happy and comfortable their own skin.”
He said people don’t have to love what their child is going through or love that they’re going to transition but they should stay focused on loving that child.
“Whether that child is going to be a boy or a girl, they are always going to be your child,” Jobin said.
In Leelah Alcorn’s suicide note she said she wanted her death to matter, Wallace said it does but that is only part of the story.
“I don’t want anyone’s death to matter. It’s their life that matters. It’s not ‘going to matter’ It does matter,” Wallace said.
Copyright 2015 KNPR-FM. To see more, visit http://www.knpr.org/.
Jim Jobin, Christian psychotherapist; Jeremy Wallace, entrepreneur and author