When you bring a child into this world, you enter into a sort of contract with the universe. You promise to love and care for your child for as long as humanly possible. This love isn't dependent upon anything the child may or may not do in their lifetime, as a parent it is your job to love your child and accept them for whoever they are.
Aaron from The Daddy Files made an excellent post about the parents of Leelah Alcorn and how they allowed religion to cloud their unconditional love for their child which ended up forcing Leelah to resort to suicide. I had thought about writing about Leelah but couldn't really think of anything to say that others hadn't already said themselves. Reading Aaron's piece made me realize that it doesn't matter that what I'm trying to say is the same thing as everyone else. What matters is that I'm saying it and getting this message out into the open. People need to hear the message and let it sink in so that we don't have another child that takes their life or runs away from home because of parents that just didn't get it. So, here are my feelings on the matter...
Leelah Alcorn, if you weren't already aware, was a transgender teenager who commited suicide because she couldn't come to grips with how the world treated her. I use "the world" because there were other people besides her parents who kept her down in society, but in Leelah's world, her parents were the main instigators. Leelah always knew she was a woman, even though she was born into a man's body. When she decided to tell her mother about this, the mother absolutely flipped out and cited religious doctrine, broke Leelah's trust and told her father, and ultimately shut Leelah down. This confrontation with her mother would kick into motion a series of unfortunate events which would ultimately end with Leelah commiting suicide. There are many things that played a role in Leelah's decision, but from her suicide note and previous blog posts we know that her interactions with her parents was the largest among them.
Leelah's parents used religion as their reason for coming down hard on her decision to live as a woman. God made everyone special and he doesn't make mistakes like putting a female gendered persona into a man's body. The Alcorn's decided that their belief in a deity trumped their earthly love for their child. If you know me personally, you know that I am an atheist. I grew up Catholic but lost my faith in my early 20's and have lived as a godless heathen since then. I look at the Alcorn's decision to shun their child as one of the single most despicable things I have ever seen a parent do short of the horror stories you hear about torture and murder. This was torture though, let's be honest. Leelah had to live knowing her parents didn't respect or approve of her decision. This psychological torture stemming from a belief in a religion that just won't modernize caused two parents to lose something they should have held dear above all else. The mother is now going on national TV to plead her case but everything she says falls on deaf ears for me. I'm sorry, as a parent I can't respect what you did and I hope you feel horrible about it for the rest of your life.
As I said when I started this post, as parents we must love our children unconditionally. There are no stipulations that have to be met, this love must come freely. I have a 14 months old son and if in the future he told me he was gay or that he felt he was a woman living in a man's body, that wouldn't affect my love of him (or her) in the slightest. I would be incredibly happy that he chose to trust my love of him enough to come out to me and help him in any way I could to tell others or keep it quiet, his decision. If my son asks for a Barbie doll growing up, I'm not going to chastise him for wanting something that isn't manly, I'll buy him one. This is my job as a parent. I am here to raise my child to become the best person he can become regardless of any personal creeds or religious beliefs (or lack thereof.)
I wish that I could say this is the last we're going to hear of a child who commits suicide or runs away because of awful parenting. I would be incredibly naive to think that and in today's society, it's just going to happen. What we need are more parents to promote unconditional love of their children and acceptance of ideas they may not share or feel completely comfortable with. Hell, my son may turn out to be a Trekkie, but that doesn't mean I'll love him any less (...really son? The Star Wars nursery didn't do it for you?) With enough outrage over this incident, maybe, just maybe a parent out there who clings too close to ancient religious beliefs or bigoted worldviews will question whether they are unconditionally loving their child. If we can help just one child receive the unconditional love from their parents that they deserve, then that is something positive we need to work towards. Always love your children unconditionally, even if you don't agree with the lifestyle. That's your job as a parent and if you're reading a parenting blog like mine, then you take that job very seriously. Don't mess it up.