Almost one year ago, transgender teen Leelah Alcorn took her life along a stretch of Interstate 71 near Kings Mill, Ohio. She left a handwritten suicide note for her parents, and one on Tumblr that went viral after her death, galvanizing the country around transgender issues and against the so-called conversion therapy Alcorn said she’d been subjected to.
On Friday, a tribute went up along I-71 that aims to honor the 17-year-old’s short life. Alcorn’s friends and supporters teamed up to participate in the state’s Adopt-a-Highway program, placing a sign reading “In memory of Leelah Alcorn” along the Ohio highway where Alcorn’s body was found, according to Cincinnati TV station WCPO.
The sign was placed on Friday, which also marked the international Transgender Day of Remembrance, which memorializes those lost to transphobic violence nationwide. Friends and community members plan maintain the two-mile stretch of highway, near the South Lebanon exit in Warren County, reports Cincinnati’s WLWT.
A Facebook community page called the “Leelah Alcorn Memorial Highway” explains the the thought behind the dedication:
“We are keeping her memory alive by adopting and maintaining the stretch of highway where she lost her life, in hopes of bringing to light the issues faced by transgender people and so that these tragedies can be brought to an end.”
— Leelah Alcorn Hwy (@leelahhighway) November 20, 2015
After Alcorn’s death, trans advocates and allies nationwide repeated the teen’s final call to “Fix society” that tells trans people they are broken, including the Christian counselor Alcorn was reportedly sent to by her parents. Calls to end the discredited, ineffective therapy ultimately found their way to the White House in the form of a We the People petition signed by more than 100,000 people. The Obama Administration responded, noting that “we share your concern” about conversion therapy, and shortly thereafter, the U.S. Surgeon General officially came out against the harmful therapy aimed at changing someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
At press time, conversion therapy is banned for use on minors in California, Oregon, Washington, D.C., New Jersey, and Illinois. This year, California Democratic Reps. Ted Lieu and Nancy Pelosi also introduced federal legislation that seeks to label all efforts to engage in the debunked therapy as fraud according to the Federal Trade Commission.
If you are a trans or gender-nonconforming person considering suicide, Trans Lifeline can be reached at 877-565-8860. LGBT youth (ages 24 and younger) can reach the Trevor Project Lifeline at 1-866-488-7386. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 can also be reached 24 hours a day by people of all ages and identities.