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Transgender Ohio Teen Leelah Alcorn's Horrifying Suicide Offers Bitter Lesson: 'We Have To Do Better'

Leelah

After posting a heartbreaking suicide note online, a transgender Ohio teen took her own life early Sunday by walking in front of a semi truck on Interstate 71 near her home outside Cincinnati.  

Leelah Alcorn (above), 17, scheduled the note to be published on her Tumblr page, LazerPrincess, after her death. She wrote that she'd felt like "a girl trapped in a boy’s body" since she was 4, but didn't know it was possible for "a boy to become a girl" until 10 years later. 

When I was 14, I learned what transgender meant and cried of happiness. After 10 years of confusion I finally understood who I was. I immediately told my mom, and she reacted extremely negatively, telling me that it was a phase, that I would never truly be a girl, that God doesn’t make mistakes, that I am wrong. If you are reading this, parents, please don’t tell this to your kids. Even if you are Christian or are against transgender people don’t ever say that to someone, especially your kid. That won’t do anything but make them hate them self. That’s exactly what it did to me.

Leelah3Alcorn wrote that her parents took her to Christian therapists who told her she was "selfish and wrong and that I should look to God for help." After Alcorn's parents refused to allow her to begin transitioning when she turned 16, she decided to come out as gay — prompting them to remove her from public school and deprive her of her laptop and phone, leaving her "completely alone" for five months. 

When Alcorns' parents finally allowed her back online, she said she discovered that her friends "didn't actually give a shit about me" and "only liked me because they saw me five times a week." According to news reports, Alcorn was attending an online high school at the time of her death. 

Alcorn wrote that she decided to take her own life because she felt she would never be able to transition successfully, have enough friends or find love: 

Either I live the rest of my life as a lonely man who wishes he were a woman or I live my life as a lonelier woman who hates herself. There’s no winning. There’s no way out. I’m sad enough already, I don’t need my life to get any worse. People say “it gets better” but that isn’t true in my case. It gets worse. Each day I get worse.

Alcorn concluded the note by calling for people to donate to a transgender civil rights group: 

The only way I will rest in peace is if one day transgender people aren’t treated the way I was, they’re treated like humans, with valid feelings and human rights. Gender needs to be taught about in schools, the earlier the better. My death needs to mean something. My death needs to be counted in the number of transgender people who commit suicide this year. I want someone to look at that number and say “that’s fucked up” and fix it. Fix society. Please.

LeelahArtNot surprisingly, many of the news reports about Alcorn's death have misgendered her, but Cincinnatti.com provides a glimpse of her true nature: 

Abigail Jones met Alcorn last spring when Alcorn, a talented artist, applied to work as a caricaturist at Kings Island.

Alcorn’s work was the best of any new employee. They drew caricatures of each other and a friendship took root.

“She was super bubbly and upbeat with a really brash sense of humor; she could make anyone laugh,” said Jones, 17, of Milford.

Alcorn's mother, Carla, wrote Sunday on Facebook: "My sweet 16 year old son, Joshua Ryan Alcorn went home to heaven this morning. He was out for an early morning walk and was hit by a truck. Thank you for the messages and kindness and concern you have sent our way. Please continue to keep us in your prayers." 

A representative from Kings Local Schools, which Alcorn once attended, remembered her as "a sweet, talented, tender-hearted 17-year-old," according to WCPO-TV. The school district reportedly planned a moment of silence in Alcorn's honor at basketball games this week.

SeelbachBut the most fitting tribute came from Cincinnati City Councilman Chris Seelbach (right), who wrote on Facebook

It has come to light that this person likely committed suicide because she was transgender. 

While Cincinnati led the country this past year as the first city in the mid-west to include transgender inclusive health benefits and we have included gender identity or expression as a protected class for many years....the truth is....it is still extremely difficult to be a transgender young person in this country.

We have to do better. 


Supreme Court To Consider On Jan 9. Whether To Hear Challenges To Same-Sex Marriage Bans

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In the wake of the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals' decision earlier this year to uphold bans on same-sex marriage in Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee and Michigan, the United States Supreme Court has decided to consider hearing challenges to that ruling from marriage equality advocates during its closed doors conference on January 9th. At that same conference, the Court will also be considering a decision from a federal judge in Louisiana that let that state's ban on same-sex marriage stand. BuzzFeed's Chris Geidner reports: 

“The Tanco [Tennessee case] petition will be considered at the Court’s January 9 conference, along with … petitions filed by the plaintiffs in Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, and Louisiana,” National Center for Lesbian Rights spokesperson Erik Olvera told BuzzFeed News on Monday afternoon.

The plaintiffs and marriage equality advocates alike hope the petitions will provide the Supreme Court with the chance to take a case to resolve the issue nationally with a ruling that would apply across the country.

Although the justices denied petitions filed earlier in the year from other states, all were in cases in which the lower court had struck down the bans — and before there was a “circuit split,” a disagreement among the federal appeals court on the issue. All five petitions before the court now come from decisions upholding the various states’ bans.

In November, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, in a 2-1 decision, reversed the four district courts to have heard the cases out of Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee — sending the plaintiffs in the cases from all four states to the Supreme Court seeking an appeal. 

[…]

Kentucky, Michigan, and Ohio officials agreed that the Supreme Court should take a case and resolve the issue nationally; only Tennessee officials opposed Supreme Court review.

The American Civil Liberties Union and Jeffrey Fisher, from Stanford Law School, joined the Kentucky lawyers, led by Daniel Canon, in Monday’s reply brief, arguing, “For petitioners here – and for lesbian and gay couples and families across both the Sixth Circuit and the country – the harm and confusion that the circuit split has caused calls out for immediate review.”

You can read the Kentucky plaintiffs' reply below:

14-575 Plaintiffs' Reply by Equality Case Files


Ohio Judge Mistakenly Divorces Gay Couple

McCarthy

Despite the wave of marriage equality that has swept most of the nation in recent years, many gay couples are still unable to divorce. 

The issue is that many states have residency requirements for divorce. Same-sex couples who've traveled to other states to marry are unable to divorce because the marriages aren't recognized in their home states the same way that opposite-sex marriages would be.

Short of relocating to the state where they married for six months or a year to meet residency requirements, these couples have no legal means to dissolve their marriages — and are unable to access the remedies that come with divorce, such as community property, child custody and support, etc. Furthermore, if they try to remarry, they could be charged with bigamy.  

Recently, an Ohio lesbian couple apparently sought to get around this problem by simply listing one of the parties as the husband on a divorce petition. And it worked, at least initiallly, as the judge mistakenly granted it, according to a report from The Columbus Dispatch:  

An Athens County judge approved the county’s first same-sex divorce last week, but not intentionally.

Athens County Common Pleas Judge George McCarthy (above), who approved the divorce on Nov. 25, said the next day that he was unaware that both parties were women when he signed the judgment.

“Ohio goes through great pains to make things gender-neutral (in documents),” he said. ... 

He added that same-sex divorces exist in a kind of legal gray area for Ohio judges.

Divorce-application forms in Athens County include only columns for a husband and a wife. Erin O’Leary, a woman, was listed in the husband column. Brenda Mohney, who filed for the divorce, is listed in the wife column.

Judge McCarthy says he now plans to vacate the divorce, based on the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals' decision to uphold the state's marriage ban last month. Of course, same-sex couples have requested a review of that decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, which will consider whether to take up a Michigan case on Jan. 9, and with any luck it will be overturned next year.  

In the meantime, O'Leary and Mohney — along with countless other married same-sex couples living in non-marriage equality states who are unable to divorce — remain in legal limbo, denied the basic human dignity of getting on with their lives. 


Transgender Protections Added to Toledo Hate Crime Laws After Brutal Assault On Transgender Woman

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Toledo City Council voted 12-0 today to approve House Bill 300; a bill that expands upon Ohio's current hate crime laws to include crimes committed against people because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, or disabilities reports The Toledo Blade. The push for the new legislation comes a month after the brutal mid-day assault on notable Ohio transgender activist Candice Rose Milligan that left her with severe injuries including a broken jaw. Milligan, who still has her jaw wired shut from the attack, praised the council's decision in a public address yesterday.

Picture 15Toledo Councilman Jack Ford and three other council members are also credited for their adamant backing of the bill, which only received one hearing on the floor at the time of Milligan's attack. Milligan faced her attacker, 20-year-old Christopher Temple, in court on Nov. 20. Temple is charged with robbery to inflict, attempt to inflict, or threaten serious physical harm on another. David Crafts, the executive director of Equality Toledo, praised Toledo police's handling of the case thus far.

Said Craft:

"We know she was targeted based on her transgender status and her gender expression, and we have no question about that. We also know that Toledo Police have procedures they must follow in order to classify cases, and they are doing the best they can to make sure this is classified appropriately."

Temple, and two other men, attacked Milligan in broad daylight in Toledo last month, hurling homophobic and transphobic slurs and epithets toward her before slamming her onto the ground. Toledo police are still searching for Temple's two accomplices in the attack.


ACLU and Lambda Legal Ask Supreme Court to Review 6th Circuit Ruling Upholding Gay Marriage Bans

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As expected, the ACLU and Lambda Legal have filed a petition asking the U.S. Supreme Court to take up the Sixth Circuit's anti-equality ruling that upheld gay marriage bans in Ohio, Michigan, Tennessee, and Kentucky. 

Said Susan Sommer, Director of Constitutional Litigation for Lambda Legal via press release:

We have reached a tipping point, and the lives of thousands of same-sex spouses and their families hang in the balance. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling shines a spotlight on our divided country, where married same-sex couples are either respected or discriminated against, depending on where they live or even where they travel. As we have learned from other historic cases like Loving v. Virginia and Lawrence v. Texas, there comes a time when the U.S. Supreme Court weighs in, and provides the answer,--on the question of marriage for same-sex couples we believe that time has come.

Read the petition below via Equality Case Files:


Man Arrested And Charged With Brutal Assault Of Transgender Toledo Woman

Transgender attack

Toledo's Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center released 33-year-old transgender Ohio resident Candice Rose Milligan Thursday after a brutal midday attack from three men left her with a broken mandible and head injuries. Milligan, a prominent transgender activist, underwent two surgeries and had her jaw wired shut; she is currently heavily medicated. Milligan was walking 13th Street and Madison Avenue when the three men accosted her on Monday afternoon.

The Toledo Blade reports:

Ms. Milligan was walking on Madison when three men approached her, made derogatory comments, and then one of the men punched Ms. Milligan in the face, mouth, and head, according to a Toledo police report. Once Ms. Milligan was on the ground, the other men kicked and punched her. One of them grabbed a cell phone from Ms. Milligan’s hand and then fled.

Police said they arrived to find Ms. Milligan with a large bump on her forehead and her mouth bleeding. Nearby witnesses were able to provide police with vague suspect descriptions.

Toledo police have arrested and charged 20-year-old Christopher Temple with robbery, attempt to inflict, or threaten serious physical harm on another; Temple has yet to divulge the names of the other two associated with the attack.

The National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund issued a statement on Thursday calling for statewide nondiscrimination protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people. 

Said Rev. Darlene Nipper, the deputy executive director for the National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund,  in a statement:

“We are outraged with the continued anti-transgender violence taking place across the country. The recent brutal attack against a transgender community activist underscores the need for strong nondiscrimination laws to prevent violent anti-LGBTQ hate crimes. Our thoughts and prayers are with Candice, her friends, and family. We hope for a quick and healthy recovery. We will continue to monitor the situation in Toledo as we call on the local authorities to use every tool in their power to bring justice to Candice and the transgender community.”
 
The Blade also reports that Toledo Councilman Jack Ford is calling for an immediate amendment to Ohio's hate crime laws to include gender identity and expression as a protected class after Milligan's attack. A bill that will amend the current law to include these protections, House Bill 300, is currently pending in the the state legislature, but has only received a single hearing on the floor thus far. Ford and three fellow councilmen are calling for the U.S. Justice Department to conduct an official investigation on the attack.
 
Since the attack, gofundme and TransOhio have been raising funds to pay for Milligan's medical bills.

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