Parents of transgender teen who died speak out

Posted at 8:42 AM, Jan 02, 2015
and last updated 2015-01-02 08:42:15-05

The father of a transgender teen who killed herself earlier this week says he "loves his son" and the family is "devastated by his death.”

Leelah Alcorn, 17, committed suicide Sunday by walking into traffic on a busy interstate in Southwest Ohio. Leelah, born Josh, posted a suicide note outlining reasons why she took her own life.

Some of the reasons listed include allegations that her family didn't support her or her lifestyle.

WCPO in Cincinnati made several attempts to speak with her parents at their Kings Mills home. After an attempt Thursday, the girl’s father, Doug, sent WCPO an email with the subject line: “Joshua Alcorn and your visit this morning.”

Doug Alcorn's message reads in part:
“We love our son, Joshua, very much and are devastated by his death. We have no desire to enter into a political storm or debate with people who did not know him. We wish to grieve in private. We harbor no ill will towards anyone. ... I simply do not wish our words to be used against us.”

His comments came a day after his wife and Leelah’s mother, Carla, spoke to CNN.

"We don't support that, religiously,” she said, referring to Leelah’s transgender identity, "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."

Leelah's death and writings have garnered national attention and led to a conversation about the treatment of transgender people in the United States. It's also led to a renewed movement for greater tolerance and acceptance.

While supporters of the transgender and LBGTQ communities have been vocal since Leelah’s death, not much has been heard from the girl’s family.

In the suicide note she posted on the social media site Tumblr, Leelah blamed her death on the unwillingness of her parents to accept her true gender identity.

The publication "The Christian Chronicle" featured a photo of Alcorn family in a 2011 article that profiled their church, the Northeast Church of Christ. The headline reads, “Ohio Church’s Message: Families Matter to God.”

“In the 21st century, the Christian family finds itself under constant siege: Sexual images. Financial debt. Addictions. Busyness. A digital culture that devotes more attention to texting than the sacred text. What to do? With the theme 'Families Matter,' a recent area-wide conference on marriage and family tackled modern America’s uncomfortable realities,” the article begins.

The photo of the family used in the article was removed from the online version following Leelah's suicide.

WCPO attempted to contacted the publishers of "The Christian Chronicle" but no one was available. A voicemail message says they are closed until Jan. 5.

The pastor at the Northeast Church of Christ, Tim Tripp, said he's "not at liberty to discuss the individual, family or situation to which you refer." But the church is working with the family to help them through an "unimaginable tragedy and try to bring comfort and healing in a time of brokenness."

While the Alcorn family doesn’t intend to release information about funeral services for Leelah, several other groups have planned vigils for her.

The organization Support Marriage Equality Ohio will host a gathering at Kings High School, Leelah’s former school, at 5:30 p.m. Saturday.