We often think of the concept of a mother’s love as being an immutable force of nature that no earthly power could overcome, and yet, we know that to be entirely untrue in many cases.
Just this week, trans teen Leelah Alcorn killed herself as a response to her extremely Christian parents’ disregard for her gender identity.
She walked onto the highway and was fatally hit by a truck (which is a really mean way to kill yourself by the way) because she felt that there was no recourse and no hope.
In her suicide note, she says that, in addition to sending to her transphobic Christian therapists who failed to treat her depression and asserted that she was “selfish” and “wrong,” they also pulled her out of school, and cut off contact from her entire social group, the only support network she had. Despite the fact that she was less than a year from legal majority, she had no concept of what her life could be as a grown woman. In part, I’m sure, because of her parents hateful and isolationist tactics.
And any parent can do this to any of their children at any time for any reason.
We exist in a situation where children belong to their parents for such an incredibly long period of their lives. In America, children can be on their parent’s health insurance until the age of 25. And yes, you can get your own health insurance earlier than that, I got mine at 18 because my abusive mother tried to withhold access to care for my endometriosis in order to keep me from leaving.
But 25 is an involuntary cut-off for a lot of shitty calculators. College benefits for under 25s are based on parental income, regardless of parental involvement. If you’re trying to rent a car in America under the age of 25, you might as well ride a dick all the way home for all the extra money you’ll be paying the one car rental place that will serve you. There are even some (small and completely irrational) camps that argue the age of majority should be changed to 25.
Because this generation faces the consequences of the
gutted recovering economy, more and more young people rely on their parents for food and housing well into legal adulthood, even as they put themselves into crippling long-term debt in order to obtain a university degree, the cost of which is fast becoming inversely proportional to it’s overall value. In her suicide note, Leelah talks about the struggle to earn and save enough money to leave the house, as well as the pressure to attend college as two of the factors that contributed to her desperation.
Her parents controlled every aspect of her life from her education to her healthcare, to her interaction with media. Because of this total control, they were able to cripple her support structure, deny her access to proper care, and isolate her ability to conceive of a greater world. If she’d been given the agency to procure any of these things for herself, she might be alive today.
Theoretically, a child can work for financial independence. Theoretically she can emancipate herself. Theoretically, she can find her own healthcare. But we live in a country that increasingly makes total parental dependence not just the norm but the requirement for social and economic success, and this is massively unhealthy. We need to make a space in our national consciousness for children like Leelah for whom parents are not a refuge, but a nightmare.
Part of my own story is that, thanks to a community youth work program in my home town, and thanks to the free check ups and medication from Planned Parenthood, I was able to earn enough money to stay healthy and relatively safe, both while I was living at home, and after I moved out. If these resources hadn’t been made available and accessible, my choices would have been very limited. Thoughts of suicide were a regular part of my entire childhood. It was only the ability to take control of my own life and get my needs met on my own that saved me.
Assuming that parents have the best interests of their children at heart is literally killing them. We need to accept this and put structures in place for kids who have to look out for themselves. Because ignoring the problem obviously isn’t working.
Young people need better access to safe employment, better access to confidential medical and psychological care, and to have a say in their educational choices. Without these opportunities, we’re leaving them in the cold to suffer alone.