The tragedy of Joshua/Leelah Alcorn's suicide

Matt C. Abbott
© Matt C. Abbott
January 2, 2015
Reproduced with Permission

'New year, new struggle!' - Saint Josemaria Escriva (1972)

From The Boston Globe (Dec. 31, 2014):

Early Sunday, 17-year-old Leelah Alcorn died after being hit by a tractor-trailer while walking along a stretch of Interstate 71 near her Ohio hometown.

The death was eventually ruled a suicide after a pair of social media posts, which the Kings Mill woman posted on the blogging site Tumblr, garnered notice and served as a flashpoint for transgender progress in 2014.

The teenage years are certainly difficult (at least, they were for me) for a variety of reasons, especially in our present culture. The suicide of Joshua - his birth name - Alcorn, who obviously struggled with his sexual identity, is indeed a tragic occurrence. Theologically speaking, all such struggles are the indirect result of original sin .

It's unfortunate, but not surprising, that Alcorn's suicide is being portrayed in the mainstream and social media as "a flashpoint for transgender progress."

I asked Father Richard Perozich, pastor of Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in San Diego - who's had considerable experience with counseling and providing spiritual direction to those who struggle with same-sex attraction - to comment on this story.

Father Perozich's response is as follows:

Suicide is a tragic response to severe mental anguish. The anguish that suicide causes other people lingers long afterward. My prayers are with Joshua's parents as well as with Joshua.

Depression and mental anguish have numerous causes, some biological, some psychological or emotional traumas based on the perceptions of the individual who suffers them. Often that individual's response is to blame out: parents, society, the doctors, anyone who does not accept so easily the facile solution proposed by the one who suffers the anguish.

Gender dysphoria, dissatisfaction with the gender God has given to a person at birth, is one expression of an unconscious attempt to deal with some mental or psychological anguish. Responsible psychology and psychiatric practitioners are frustrated in their attempts to study and share research in these areas by a political movement whose ascendancy in western culture has legalized sexual disorders as normal behavior, frustrating and penalizing disagreement with the assertions of those with urges to use sexuality to try to satisfy needs of safety, belonging, acceptance, and integration into society of their behaviors and lifestyles.

Despite society's growing tolerance of these sexual behaviors, the underlying anguish and pain seem to remain. Government studies of obesity in women who have sex with women (WSW), STDs in men who have sex with men (MSM), high incidences of substance abuse, suicide in persons with non-traditional sexual urges, all show that the conspiracy of factors of the underlying pain have yet to be identified and addressed in a way to help an individual come to real inner peace, rather than a momentary fix through a sexual encounter or an attempt to appear to others as a person other than one's birth gender.

The political insistence of the 'right of the individual to self-determination,' to remove all language that might frustrate the anguished person's attempt to determine identity, sexual practice, or societal acceptance, continues the pain in the individual.

A person is an integration of the biological, psychological, social, ethical, moral, emotional, and spiritual being, all of which need to be nourished with truth that is discovered in faith and science without the interference of politics.

It appears from the article that Joshua had loving parents who did all they could for him. The political adaptations of the article removing all masculine pronouns, referring to the boy as a girl, are symptomatic of the problem politics causes. Joshua appears to blame those who did not accept his solution to his feelings as the culprits, and that if only they did understand him and accept him as he 'is,' others like him would not die.

Joshua certainly could have found acceptance among established groups and communities in the United States. It may have relieved his anguish for the moment, but not the underlying pain that was soothed for a brief moment when he appeared as a girl to himself and to others.

The suicide claim has been a political tactic of those with sexual urges outside of man and woman marriage for many years now. Despite the political tolerance, the anguish continues. Until the politics retreats and allows truth in faith and science to love the person without agreeing with their decisions, and to seek real solutions other than the mere expression of such urges, the tragedies will continue.

If blame is to be placed, it is on those who encourage the behavior rather than a true love for the person suffering and allowing that person real treatment of the underlying causes of their pain.