The mother of a transgender teenager who died of a suspected suicide on Sunday has broken her silence, telling CNN that while she and her husband had a religious objection to their child’s wish to live as a girl, they “loved him no matter what.”
Carla Alcorn, the mother of Josh Alcorn, who went by the name “Leelah,” said she wanted to make one point very clear: that she truly loved her child.
“We loved him no matter what. I loved my son. People need to know that I loved him,” she said. “He was a good kid, a good boy.”
The teen’s father, Doug Alcorn, issued a separate statement to WCPO-TV Thursday, saying the family does not wish to take part in debates surrounding the death.
“We love our son, Joshua, very much and are devastated by his death. We have no desire to enter into a political storm or debate with people who did not know him,” he said. “We wish to grieve in private. We harbor no ill will towards anyone. … I simply do not wish our words to be used against us.”
In a Facebook message posted Sunday that WCPO-TV attributed to Carla Alcorn, the mother wrote: “My sweet 16-year-old son, Joshua Ryan Alcorn went home to heaven this morning. He was out for an early morning walk and was hit by a truck. Thank you for the messages and kindness and concern you have sent our way. Please continue to keep us in your prayers.”
But officials with the Ohio State Highway Patrol are investigating the incident, in which Leelah Alcorn was struck by a tractor trailer Sunday morning near Cincinnati, as a suicide.
The teen purportedly published a public suicide note on Tumblr sometime before her death, detailing her struggles to get her Christian family to accept her gender identity. The post began to go viral on Monday, according to CNN.
The text of the Tumblr post asked readers not to be said and claimed that life wasn’t worth living, as Alcorn felt like “a girl trapped in a boy’s body” and had felt that way since the age of 4.
“I never knew there was a word for that feeling, nor was it possible for a boy to become a girl, so I never told anyone and I just continued to do traditionally ‘boyish’ things to try to fit in,” the post said.
While Alcorn’s parents have faced scrutiny over their opposition to the teen’s gender identity, Carla Alcorn told CNN that the suicide letter was the first time she had heard or read the name Leelah and that she had only spoken with her child once about the issue.
“He just quit talking about it [being transgender],” she said, claiming that Leelah suffered from depression. “He never said that name before.”
The teen’s suicide note addressed her mother’s purported reaction to hearing that she was transgender.
“After 10 years of confusion I finally understood who I was. 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,” Alcorn wrote, going on to claim that this made her hate herself. “If you are reading this, parents, please don’t tell this to your kids.”
From there, the teen said she was sent to Christian counselors who reinforced her parents’ views on gender. In the end, Alcorn decided that ending her life was her only option, according to the letter.
“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,” the note read. “My death needs to mean something. My death needs to be counted in the number of transgender people who commit suicide this year.”
The Tumblr account said to belong to the teen is no longer active.
One of Alcorn’s childhood friends, Chris Davis, told WCPO-TV that the teen’s parents didn’t approve of an announcement Alcorn made on Facebook last year saying that she was interested in boys.
“One day he finally posted on Facebook, ‘Hey, I’m coming out. This is me. This is who I am.’ Everybody was like, ‘Yeah man, this is great,'” Davis said. “He came to school and everyone gave him massive support.”
Critics have expressed anger at Carla and Doug Alcorn for continuing to use male pronouns in the wake of their child’s death, as an ongoing conversation about transgender rights — and her parents’ purported treatment of the issue — continues on Twitter, among other social media outlets.