- The Washington Times - Friday, January 2, 2015

Transgender and gay rights advocates are calling for vigils to be held this weekend in honor of a teen who committed suicide after his family opposed his desire to transition to a girl.

“2015 begins with a heavy heart. And a renewed commitment,” Kate Kendell, executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, tweeted Friday.

The center is joining others in mourning the death of Leelah Alcorn — known by most people as Josh — who died Dec. 28.

In a suicide note posted to Tumblr, the 17-year-old crossed out his male name and wrote “Leelah.”

“My death needs to mean something,” the teen wrote before going to a road near the family’s home in Kings Mill, Ohio, and stepping in front of a tractor-trailer.

News reports and Twitter feeds say there will be vigils Friday night in Cleveland as well as in Columbus and Portland, Oregon. Vigils are also reported to be organized in Cincinnati; Orlando, Florida; in the United Kingdom and Canada; and online on a Facebook page called “Online Vigil for Leelah Alcorn.”

Twitter feeds include #StandUp4Leelah, #LeelahAlcorn and #transyouthmatter.

The Alcorn parents have told reporters that their family hasn’t planned their own memorial for their child for fear of protests.

Carla Alcorn told CNN this week that Josh was loved “unconditionally,” but she and her husband did not believe he was transgender. She said he only talked about it once and she never heard the name “Leelah” until she saw the suicide note.

Many gay rights groups have criticized the Alcorns for not accepting their teen’s statements about being transgender and wanting to transition physically to a female — and instead sent him to Christian counselors for “conversion” therapy.

In his suicide note, Josh said he had been put on the antidepressant Prozac “for about a year,” and was currently taking 60 milligrams “every morning.”

The teen said he disliked the “very biased” Christian counselors who failed to “cure me of my depression”; all he heard from Christians was “I was selfish and wrong and that I should look to God for help.”

Gay rights groups denounce “conversion” therapy as ineffective and harmful — especially for minors — and the National Center for Lesbian Rights has launched a campaign called #BornPerfect to outlaw such practices.

• Cheryl Wetzstein can be reached at cwetzstein@washingtontimes.com.

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