The Ohio Bill That Could Kill Trans Children

On December 28th, 2015, shortly after posting a suicide note on her Tumblr, a transgender girl named Leelah Alcorn stepped out in front of a moving truck in Cincinnati, Ohio.

“After 10 years of confusion I finally understood who I was,” reads her note, “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.” Her note goes on to detail the pain of being forced to inhabit a gender that didn’t fit her, finally concluding, “[T]he only way I will rest in peace is if one day transgender people aren't treated the way I was.”

On July 4th, 2018, TIME magazine reports, two Republican Ohio lawmakers introduced a bill, entitled the Parents’ Rights Bill, that would force teachers and healthcare providers to out trans children to the children’s parents, at the risk of facing a fourth-degree felony if they fail to comply.

This has massive implications for the lives of transgender children in Ohio. Already 64% of LGBTQ+ teens in the state have heard negative comments about their sexual orientation or gender identity from their family. This creates an unsafe and potentially dangerous environment for those teens who are out, and those who are not may be staying in the closet for precisely that reason: safety.

In 2018, safety can still be incredibly hard to come by for all in the LGBTQ+ community, but particularly for trans people. A 2014 study found that the average lifespan of a trans person is somewhere between 30 and 35 years—approximately 40 years less than the rest of the country. More than half a lifetime is being taken away from the 1.4 million trans people in the U.S.—statistically speaking, we are being cut down before the next generation of trans people has the chance to grow. Our elders are dying before they have a chance to become elderly.

Safety, when taken in this context, is therefore still a huge issue for trans people in the United States. The proponents of this bill, Reps. Thomas Brinkman and Paul Zeltwanger, claim that “parents have a fundamental right to decide what is best for their children”—but with parents who refuse to acknowledge their child’s identity, or attempt to convert their child to a gender that is not theirs, or even kick their child out of the house, that is rendered tragically untrue for trans children. Even for straight and cisgender kids, parents can be wrong on a number of issues—but when the idea of gender identity is introduced, this lack of support can become extremely dangerous. Transgender children may not be safe at home—and forcing teachers, healthcare providers, and therapists to report any sign of gender dysphoria to potentially unsupportive parents could take away any semblance of safety they might still have.

Transgender children deserve better than to live in constant fear of being exposed, or in a constant battle against their parents for their very existence. For Leelah Alcorn herself, it is too late—her parents engraved her headstone with her deadname, refusing to acknowledge that her death was a suicide.

With other trans children in Ohio potentially facing the same fate, however, the choice becomes clear: support trans children by standing against the Parents’ Rights bill. Do it for Leelah Alcorn, and for all the other trans children and teens who will never know justice. Stand for the right of trans children to live without fearing for their lives. Maybe then, as Leelah wished, trans people will be treated differently than she was.

Maybe then, she will be able to know peace.