Leelah Alcorn never got to see 2015.
It was stolen from her.
This fresh, pristine moment in time that you’re experiencing right now, with all of its newness and possibility and promise? It’s one she didn’t have the chance to stand expectantly in.
The statistics will say that she left of own accord, choosing to depart prematurely, opting out of life.
On paper, she’ll look just like another number; one more depressed, confused, impulsive teen who in a moment of recklessness and emotion, simply took the easy way out.
We know differently.
We know that she lived for far too long with the kind of pain that a young heart should never, ever carry.
We know that her fragile will, finally broke beneath the weight of cruel jokes, and misguided religion, and fear, and silence, and hatred.
We know that she was a she, and that the world refused to really see her.
Better to be gone, than invisible, she must have felt.
Leelah didn’t end her life because she didn’t want to live. She ended it to escape the living Hell that we made for her.
She ran into the path of tractor-trailer, because it was the lesser of two terrible pains.
For her and so many transgender young people, as if feeling foreign in her own skin wasn’t bad enough, she was made to feel foreign in her home, and her church, and her school, and in the place and time she was born into.
She was a modern-day leper; called unclean, kept at a distance, taught to feel like less than, driven to desperation.
Leelah was a child of God, made an outcast by His kids, and I’m through letting us off the hook anymore.
I’m done with allowing violence in the name of Jesus; a violence that in no way resembles him.
I’m finished with stale, dusty, brittle justifications for hatred, disguised as religion.
This year, I’m calling out bigotry, and discrimination, and intolerance, even if they come dressed-up as faith.
I’m doing it because it’s 2015, and Leelah Alcorn isn’t here to see it. It’s a year she should have been around for. She deserved to be breathing-in its newness and possibility and promise. She deserved to become who she was created to be.
This “New Year” is one that far too many young people have had stolen from them, just because they are different; because they don’t fit in the narrow, tidy, “normal” that we’ve grown comfortable with. That should make us all very uncomfortable.
It makes me so uncomfortable, I could be sick.
And so, for every gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender child who never made it to 2015, I will live, and speak, and love; for every young person who is just different enough to be bullied to the point of leaving.
As a person of faith, I believe that is where Jesus calls me; to protect the vulnerable and harassed from those blind with self-righteousness.
I’ll stand between those hurting kids and the stone-throwers, and gladly bear upon my own shoulders, the ridicule, and anger, and hatred that they and others have endured; in the hope that at the end of this year, so many beautiful, original, innocent young lives will still be here to see the calendar change.
It’s 2015, and Leelah Alcorn isn’t here.
She should be.
May every child live to see the next new year.