Mother of transgender teen: "We told him that we loved him unconditionally"

Local teen's death sparks worldwide transgender discussion
Published: Dec. 28, 2014 at 6:36 PM EST|Updated: Jan. 2, 2015 at 10:09 PM EST
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Joshua Alcorn (photo: Kings High School)
Joshua Alcorn (photo: Kings High School)

UNION TOWNSHIP, OH (FOX19) - Editor's note: FOX19 NOW typically does not report on suicides. However, this particular incident has unique circumstances that brought to light an issue that has spawned worldwide discussion.

The mother of a Warren County teenager whose suicide sparked an international transgender discussion told CNN this week the family loved Joshua Alcorn unconditionally.

"We don't support that, religiously," Carla Alcorn told CNN Wednesday, "But we told him that we loved him unconditionally. We loved him no matter what. I loved my son. People need to know that I loved him. He was a good kid, a good boy."

The 17-year-old died on Interstate 71 Sunday after being struck by a truck in the southbound lanes near the South Lebanon exit. Alcorn was pronounced dead at the scene.

Final results will be released once toxicology results are back, but the Warren County Coroner's Office considers it a likely suicide.

The teen, who identifies as Leelah, walked three or four miles from home onto the highway after reportedly posting an online suicide note blaming her parents for not accepting her choice and details living as a transgender person.

"I feel like a girl trapped in a boy's body, and I've felt that way ever since I was 4," the post reads.

Leelah's death has sparked an emotional worldwide debate across social media. The hashtag #RealLifeTransAdult began trending on Facebook and Twitter as transgender adults shared their experience with teens, telling them not to give up and that things will get better.

"If you're a trans teen and think there's no future, I came out at 36 and I never thought my life could be this great #RealLiveTransAdult" one tweet read from @HLeeHurley.

In her interview with CNN, Carla Alcorn referred to her child as a son and said he was depressed and given medication by counselors and a psychiatrist.

She said there has not been a service for Alcorn because people have threatened to protest. She also told CNN her child came to her only once to say he was a transgender and she never heard the name Leelah until she read the suicide note.

"He never said that name before," she told CNN.

"It is time for all of us regardless of our sexual orientation to stand together to remember someone we lost," wrote Adam Hoover from Support Marriage Equality in Ohio in a Facebook posting announcing the vigil. "Every time I see someone claim their life, I get upset. Acceptance should not be something granted to few. Acceptance should be given to everyone, we are a diverse world of people." 

Josh Wagoner with the local chapter of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network says several young people struggle with this same issue.

"When I heard about Leelah I was, and am, really troubled that someone so close to us felt so alone," he said. "A person who is trans is always experiencing a difference around, not just their orientation, who they love, who they're attracted to, but also who they are."

"It's horrible that people think that that's the only option they have," added Nicki Sullivan.

Nicki Sullivan knows all too well what it's like to raise a transgender child. Earlier this year, amid controversy, Sullivan made public her 7 year olds identity is now female, despite being born male. She says her daughter Ella is happier now, but it still presents challenges.

"It's always emotional though because she comes home from school crying, comes home from school excited. You never know I guess what exactly is going to happen that day," said Sullivan.

The Greater Cincinnati Youth Group meets every week to engage young people struggling with these same issues and Wagoner encourages anyone who needs help to start here.

"When middle school age and high school age come to that they really get the sense that there are people who are a lot like them," said Wagoner.

There are local and national resources for anyone struggling with suicidal thoughts or depression: 

Trevor's Project: 1-866-488-7386

GLSEN Greater Cincinnati Youth Group: 866-934-9119

Heartland Trans Wellness: 513-549-4447

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