Students gather to discuss death of Leelah Alcorn
Seventeen-year-old transgender girl Leelah Alcorn stepped in front of a tractor trailer, committing suicide on Dec. 28, 2014. When her posthumous Tumblr note published hours later, it went viral and gained national media attention. Tumblr has recently deleted the original post.
Suicides like Alcorn’s aren’t surprising to members of the University of Oregon’s LGBTQA* community, but they are sobering.
“When you look at the statistics, over 40 percent of trans people will attempt suicide in their life,” Elle Mallon said, a student and a gender and sexuality diversity advocate on campus.
Mallon said that what makes Alcorn’s suicide different was her call to action at the end of her suicide note.
“I’m glad it got a lot of news attention, but I’m also sad that it had to get this far,” Amber Potratz said, a LGBTQA* intern and Theta Pi Sigma pledge.
The LGBTQA* Alliance and Theta Pi Sigma at UO held a rally on Wednesday, Jan. 7 in the EMU Amphitheater in Alcorn’s honor. In response to Alcorn’s wishes, the rally had a call to action following the open microphone concerning what can be done on campus to improve and support transgender lives.
“We decided to hold a rally to give people who feel really upset about Leelah Alcorn some productive directions to go with their energy,” Mallon said.
The rally began with an introduction by Mallon, and then the microphone was open for anyone who wanted to speak out.
“Now is not the time for mourning. Now is the time for action,” Mallon said.
About 50 students attended the event.
The attendees were a mixed demographic, according to Potratz, from people who are just now realizing that this is a major problem to people who are heavily involved in queer organizations on campus.
She added that she hopes the rally affects peoples’ views on transgender rights and sparks conversation on campus.
“This is a big step forward in getting people to see trans people as people,” LGBTQA* Community liaison Adrion Trujillo said. “We’re coming together in strength and solidarity for trans women.”
Although he is not a transgender woman, he said his queer experience was very similar to Leelah Alcorn’s.
“I know what it’s like to grow up with parents who say they love you, but they don’t accept you for whatever reason. For me, at least, this is just one more example of what we need to change and what we need to fix in order to make this a more inclusive community,” he said.
This will include discussion relating to different projects that the LGBTQA* is hosting in the hopes of improving transgender lives on campus.
“Our campus fails trans people and fails to be a safe space for trans people,” Mallon said, hoping that the rally will influence improvements.
One of these improvements is advocating to have a member of administration specifically to represent transgender students on-campus. Another is The Bathroom Project, an attempt to get administration to create more gender-inclusive bathrooms.
Representatives will also be tabling for different queer organizations by the Duck Store on Thursday to raise more awareness.
“Yes, Leelah is dead, but this is not the end of the discussion,” Potratz said. “The doors have been opened, and now it’s time for people to stand up for trans rights and trans lives.”
Fraternity and Sorority Life reporter Lauren Garetto contributed to this story.
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