Recommended: Cover-ups, Concern Trolls and Suicide

Important article by Arthur Chu: [Content Note: discusses harassment, family rejection of transgender teens, suicide, trans* erasure, and silencing tactics commonly used to stifle discussion of these matters ]

Cover-Ups and Concern Trolls: Actually, It’s About Ethics in Suicide Journalism

Leelah Alcorn’s message was sent, and heard, and things started changing. Until concern trolls like Sarah Ditum came along trying to cover it up again.

Summary: Sarah Ditum wrote a widely shared article expressing her concern that talking about Leelah’s suicide and the reasons she gave for killing herself are going to lead to copycat suicides so we should really stop with the criticism of her parents for sending her to conversion therapy and misgendering her in death. Chu notes that the way Ditum structures her argument mirrors exactly the same way that women and minorities who are harassed online are told to stop talking about it “for your own safety” because the attention will just encourage copycats. He points out that both forms of silencing arguments are eliding some key elements in their assumptions which are so counterfactual that their advice ends up absurdly ineffective, so much so that it appears wilfully obtuse at best and premeditated gaslighting at worst (an observation that reminded me of this post by Stephanie Zvan on how “Don’t Feed The Trolls” is Bad Science). Chu also links to previous writings from Ditum that have been notably trans-negative. Chu’s post is long and meaty and ranges from small details to a very big picture, so this summary doesn’t nearly do it justice. Read the whole thing.

The #RealLiveTransAdult hashtag for trans* visibility and outreach/hope for trans* teens was one of the positive responses to Leelah’s suicide note on Tumblr that asked the rest of us to #FixSociety so that future “transgender people aren’t treated the way I was, they’re treated like humans, with valid feelings and human rights”. There is also a change.org petition campaigning to finally have the long-discredited “conversion therapy” banned.

I riffed off Chu’s article with a longer post about #StandUpForLeelah and silencing tactics over at Hoyden About Town, too.


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8 comments for “Recommended: Cover-ups, Concern Trolls and Suicide

  1. January 5, 2015 at 6:06 pm

    As a preemptive measure against any silencers who might attempt to dominate this thread, all comments submitted on this post will be sent to the moderation queue for approval before publication. Thank you in advance for your patience while waiting for a moderator to be available to approve them.

  2. Donna L
    January 5, 2015 at 11:34 pm

    Thank you for this, and for your commenting rule. It’s very difficult to have a discussion of this when it’s constantly being derailed and undermined — as it has been at every thread about it on Jezebel — by members of the three main groups comprising what I think of as their own anti-trans Axis of Evil (TERFs, the religious right, and MRA/”skeptic” types).

    I have nothing but contempt for people like Sarah Ditum, and their crocodile tears. Which is probably an insult to crocodiles.

  3. AMM
    January 6, 2015 at 11:19 am

    Leelah’s death and the circumstances have really hit me in some place I didn’t know I had. My Logical Brain(tm) keeps saying, you didn’t even know her, so why all the emo now and not over all the people whose names you heard during TDOR? but my stomach keeps acting like it was my best friend who killed herself and not somebody I’d never heard of before last Friday.

    What I know (about myself) is that I went through several years as a child where it seemed like there was no one in the world who wasn’t out to make me feel like everything I did or was was bad, and I thought about suicide pretty much every day. So I get this “there but for the grace of …” feeling. I’m also struggling with figuring out whether I’m really trans or just being a drama queen.

    I keep finding myself compulsively reading posts on her and the discussion about her, even when I should be doing other things, and when I read anything that I construe as being less than sympathetic to her plight, I flip out. It’s not one of the more rational/sensible periods in my life.

    And, yeah, what DonnaL said about Ms. Ditum and her ilk.

    “Send not to ask for whom the bell tolls….”

  4. EG
    January 6, 2015 at 12:04 pm

    I just want to comment to say how horrific I find what Leelah was put through by her own parents. The level of rejection that she experienced from the people that she should have been able to depend on to love her–well. After finding the strength to tell them at such a young age. And the way parents have almost absolute power over their children when those children are minors, power that is all too often used to damage and even destroy the people most vulnerable. I know it’s feeble, but all I can say is no child of mine…no child of mine will ever feel this kind of rejection of zir essential self from me. Ever. I am so so sorry for what she suffered, and for what all trans children suffer.

  5. IrishUp
    January 7, 2015 at 2:08 pm

    My thoughts are with those who share community with Leelah, and mourn her loss.

    I hope this is an appropriate place to leave this link. A friend wrote it, and gave permission to share. It’s Some Advice to Allies, by Dr. Cary Gabriel Costello.

  6. Asia
    January 7, 2015 at 11:14 pm

    There really need to be better options for transgender youth. Her family’s neglect and refusal to accept reality directly led to her death. And so many people seem to think tolerance for intolerance is the answer. I don’t care about their religious convictions a child dead. We need solutions to lower the death rate.

  7. patrick
    January 8, 2015 at 5:07 pm

    I just googled Leelah Alcorn, and the third news link, and last link on the page, was to a daily caller article blaming teh gays obsession with suicide for her death. Which is really depressing to me.

    Chu is becoming my hero. Thanks for linking the article.

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