In the scope of social issues in today’s society, the conversation regarding LGBTQIA youths has taken precedence. Over the course of the past few years, the news of teen suicide has sadly become common — too many teens, feeling bullied because of their sexual orientation or gender identity by peers or parents, resort to suicide as a way to escape their harsh reality.
The most recent of those is that of Leelah Alcorn. When the 17 year-old Ohio native, born Josh Ryan Alcorn on November 15, 1997, came out as transgender, her parents refused to support her. Carla and Doug Alcorn used their religion to defend their stance and said in a statement to CNN that they “loved him no matter what” and that “he was a good kid, a good boy,” thereby refusing to call Leelah by the name and gender she preferred.
The heartache that Leelah experienced as a result of her parents’ conditional love led her to post a note to her Tumblr page the night before she committed suicide, explaining her parents’ negative reaction that led to her depression. Leelah’s Tumblr page has since been deactivated.
Leelah’s death and her parents’ inability to support her comes at an interesting time in our social history. Late last year, Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt’s eldest biological child, Shiloh, who was born female, chose to accompany her family in a suit matching those of her adopted older brothers at the premiere of Jolie’s new film “Unbroken.”
The action did not come as a surprise, as the Jolie-Pitts have been open about Shiloh’s interest in all things masculine, with Pitt commenting that Shiloh preferred to be called John in an interview with Oprah in 2008. Jolie and Pitt have supported Shiloh and their decision to self-identify. In a statement in “Vanity Fair” in 2010, Jolie remarked that Shiloh had been exploring her gender from the age of three.
The Jolie-Pitts’ decision to support Shiloh through the understanding and development of her identity has created a model for other parents, and rightfully so. It is only right that a family who has worked so diligently to evoke social change supports their child through such an important period of development. Jolie has worked in over thirty countries to help refugees and internally-displaced persons and the Maddox Jolie-Pitt Foundation works to remedy humanitarian crises around the world.
In the wake of Leelah Alcorn’s tragic death and the Jolie-Pitt family’s public support, it’s important to take both the positive and negative sides into perspective. Leelah’s death will not be forgotten, and the changing landscape of the Jolie-Pitt family only propels the fight for equality for members of the LGBTQIA community.
The two stories, although at completely different ends of the social spectrum, juxtapose each other and allow the conversation to progress. Hopefully, as time goes on, we as a society will hear less about those oppressed by loved ones until they are pushed to the brink and more about those who are allowed to explore every aspect of themselves as they grow.
This is the opinion of Julia Marzovilla, a freshman English major from New York City, New York. Tweet comments to @juliakaterina or email firstname.lastname@example.org.