From the January-February 2015 issue of News & Letters
by Dee Perkins
The late December suicide of 17-year-old Transgender youth Leelah Alcorn has shaken the public with an intimate glimpse into the torment of gender dysphoria in a too frequently uncomprehending world. In the suicide note she posted to Tumblr, the Ohio youth recounted that she “cried of happiness” when she found a term for who she was, Transgender, something she’d felt since she was four. Her parents treated her to so-called Christian conversion-therapy and the teen despaired of not receiving hormone therapy before completing puberty. Leelah concluded her note, “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….Fix society. Please.”
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On Nov. 15 writer, activist, and Transgender pioneer Leslie Feinberg died at age 65 of complications from decades-old tick-borne infections. Author of the 1993 award-winning coming-of-age novel Stone Butch Blues, which was groundbreaking as a tale of gender complexity, Feinberg complicated notions of gender, preferring the gender-neutral pronoun ze over she and he and hir over her and his. A creative and tireless activist, she organized against anti-Black racism in Atlanta and Boston, for Palestinian sovereignty, for AIDS patients in the early days of the epidemic, and for women’s reproductive rights. She rejected the state’s right or authority to confer family, underscoring the individual’s title to define family and loved ones, citing Marx, who wrote that in order for the individual’s relationship to the world to be a human one, only love can be exchanged for love. Feinberg is survived by hir spouse Minnie Bruce Pratt and extended family of choice.
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Russia has denied driver’s licenses to Transgender people. In its unrelenting campaign against LGBT people, the “On Road Safety” law signed by Prime Minister Medvedev on Dec. 29, outlines medical conditions, including mental and behavioral disorders—in which it counts, against all credible medical conclusions, Transgender identity—that disqualify individuals from driving.