Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
Thursday, May 30
The Indiana Daily Student

Dozens gather to mourn trans teen

Members of the Prism Youth Community share a moment of silence by candlelight thrusday during the vigil held in memory of transgender teen, Leelah Alcorn, at Rachel's Cafe

Nearly 200 miles from Kings Mills, Ohio, home of deceased transgender teen Leelah Alcorn, dozens of people crowded together last night in Rachel’s Café to give meaning to her death.

Alcorn, 17, committed suicide after her coming out as transgender ostracized her from her family and people she believed were friends.

Jean Capler, president of FairTalk in Bloomington, was the first speaker at the vigil.

“It hurts that we’ve lost another human being because she was so alienated and taught to loathe herself,” Capler said. “Her loss is our loss.”

Capler’s audience was captive and diverse.

Some people wore name tags with their preferred pronouns. Some people were older than 50, others were closer to 12. Suits and beanies stood side-by-side. Identity, though celebrated, meshed into unity as people turned to one another, lit candles and stood silently together.

Although unified in purpose, some people suggested different approaches for change.

One speaker spoke about living as a transgender individual. “We are always on the defensive,” the individual said. “There are literally people trying to kill us. There’s going to be a moment of silence and I think that’s appropriate. But what if there was a moment of rage?”

Rachael Jones, the cafe’s owner, also stepped on stage to share her story after she was finished making drinks.

Jones, 55, said that she grew up when being transgender was considered categorically as being as a disorder. She said that after losing her ex-wife and living in fear for so long, she learned that she was often more afraid than she needed to be.

“So many of my fears have been unfounded,” Jones said. “Be who you are and know that many of your fears will go away.”

After speaking, she stepped off the stage and resumed her position behind the bar. When she wasn’t making drinks, she listened attentively to each speaker.

Part of the audience’s diversity lay in the number of organizations represented in evening. More than a dozen groups, both local and reaching as far as Indianapolis, came in solidarity and offered services. Some of the groups were religious.

Rev. Friar Daniel Kostakis came with business cards for Bloomington Inclusive Mass, a progressive church movement that identifies with Roman Catholic ?traditions.

“We hope to be a light, to bridge the divide,” Kostakis said. “We offer communion and sacraments to ?everyone.”

Kostakis said he started the church two years ago. He said that he started with a group of four people, but has seen it grow to about 20.

“I want to say it’s been overwhelmingly positive in Bloomington, but I have been called a faggot walking down the street,” Kostakis said.

Martinsville’s City Hill church was represented by Jennifer Williams. Williams, who said she is a lesbian, is one of four pastors at the church.

“We felt it very important that there are Christians who came,” Williams said. “If God really is love, that does not exclude the ?homosexual community.”

Williams is the only ?female pastor.

Williams said she felt hopeful about the direction society is taking.

As the event came to a close, attendees embraced each other, some in tears. Younger attendees held hands and danced as adults talked.

Mary Balle, a parent, was the last speaker of the evening.

Balle said she knew that raising a transgender child would be difficult. But she said she was going to be supportive of any direction that her child’s gender would take.

“I’m not just about making a death mean something,” Balle said. “Let’s make our lives mean ?something.”

Get stories like this in your inbox
Subscribe