Many of us have parents who seem over-controlling – they want us to behave a certain way or achieve certain standards. But don’t parents just want the best for us? The vast majority of parents would say yes, because they love us. And after all, parents have more experience and have formed their own beliefs that they want to pass down to their kids.
However, there are situations in which parents and children are in such discourse that it leads to tension, and in the most extreme situations, death. On Dec. 28, Leelah Alcorn, a transgender girl from Lebanon, Ohio, had reached a breaking point and committed suicide. Alcorn’s parents were strict Christians, and they refused to acknowledge her transsexuality because it didn’t comply with their religious beliefs. Outspoken critics immediately lashed out against her parents and denounced their strict Christian beliefs, to the point of even sending them death threats.
It is easy for outsiders to pinpoint the blame of Leelah’s death on her parents, especially since Leelah’s post explaining her suicide was extremely critical of her parents for their lack of acceptance. However, though Leelah’s parents did not provide any of the support she needed, we cannot blame her parents for having a viewpoint others don’t agree with. If we do, we risk doing the same thing we find so despicable in others – taking away someone’s right to live as the people they are.
It is vital that we do not denounce other people because of their differences. Although we do not have to agree with the way Leelah’s parents raised her, nobody knows the full story – we only know what was made public. The pain and sorrow her parents must feel from the death of their child is still very real, and we tend to forget that as we point an accusatory finger in their direction. It is difficult to believe that any parents would wish for their child’s death because of transsexuality, and it is similarly ridiculous to want those parents dead simply for their religious beliefs.
The widespread criticism of Leelah’s parents is only one example in which someone’s death led to cries of action and finger-pointing from the public: Matthew Shepard, Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown. But in all these cases, while there are Facebook rants galore, a grieving mother and father simply want their child alive again. The untimely death of someone, no matter his or her defining characteristic, is something that should be mourned, as well as examined as to discover why the death occurred.
As explained in her suicide note, Leelah pleaded to “fix society” through greater acceptance of transgenders, not hate and conflict. Her death should not fuel the fires of intolerance, but rather, serve as a wake-up call for people to come closer to one another and feel compassion and acceptance for all people, no matter their differences.
When people view death only as an opportunity to create judgements, accusations and violence, that is when people have truly died in vain. Acceptance and positive change, not hate and pointed fingers, are what should be taken away from the tragic events in our society that move us most.