President Obama just recognized Leelah Alcorn and made a huge statement for LGBTQ youth
The call for equal rights for LGBTQ individuals has gained major traction in the past year—with Laverne Cox on the cover of Time and same sex marriage legality in 37 states, just to name a few examples. Yesterday, even more amazing progress was made when two of America’s most powerful voices, President Obama and senior advisor Valerie Jarrett, released a joint statement denouncing the use of conversion, or “reparative,” therapy on gay and trans youth.
The statement appeared in response to a 120,000+ signature petition calling for the enactment of Leelah’s Law, a new policy that would ban LGBTQ conversion therapy, which was deemed “against fundamental principles of psychoanalytic treatment,” and harmful to the mental health of LGBTQ individuals in 1998 by the American Psychiatric Association.
The law draws its namesake from 17-year-old Leelah Alcorn, an Ohio trans teen who committed suicide in December 2014 following her conservative parent’s rejection of her gender identity. In her suicide note, posted on social media site Tumblr and since deleted at her parents’ request, Alcorn stated she had been sent to Christian therapists determined to fix her rather than treat her.
“The only way I will rest in peace is if one day transgender people aren’t treated the way I was,” Alcorn wrote. “[If] they’re treated like humans, with valid feelings and human rights.”
While President Obama’s statement does not mention any tangible change in national policy, he did voice his support for anti-conversion therapy laws already in place, like those in California, New Jersey, and Washington D.C., as well as those laws currently pending in another 18 states as of 2015.
“Tonight, somewhere in America, a young person, let’s say a young man, will struggle to fall to sleep, wrestling alone with a secret he’s held as long as he can remember,” President Obama wrote. “Soon, perhaps, he will decide it’s time to let that secret out. What happens next depends on him, his family, as well as his friends and his teachers and his community. But it also depends on us—on the kind of society we engender, the kind of future we build.”