Leelah’s Murder Is OUR Fault

Leelah Alcorn’s death was practically a murder. It shows how America’s legal system, which enshrines parental rights above children’s rights, has killed another young person.

More importantly though, we need to see that Leelah’s murder is our fault. We have not done enough, taught enough, said enough, or worked hard enough to stop this horror from happening. And it is a horror, and it was preventable.

Discrimination Against Youth

Leelah’s story shows us- yet again- the discrimination against youth that seems inherent in our society. The horribly preventable circumstance that led to Leelah’s death are unfortunately the norm for every single American youth today, regardless of how they identify. The fact that Leelah identified as trans exacerbated that reality for her. Follow me: Every single American youth today is targeted in the most malicious ways throughout society simply for being young. This is the case whether they are cis, straight or queer; wealthy, poor or working class; academically gifted, creatively driven or athletically poised. Youth are singularly denied their rights, oppressed for their identities, conscripted for their abilities, and completely downtrodden because of their because of their ages and our society. And its merely and entirely about their age.

Add distinguishing factors to their age such as race, gender identity, socio-economic class, and academic ability, and youth move from being “merely” enslaved to entirely oppressed. The enslaving factory of this adultocracy is so deeply entrenched that parents, teachers, youth workers and many many people who call themselves youth allies merely perpetuate it without ever knowing it. My book focuses on helping these individuals see beyond their own lenses and aspire to be something greater.

Personal Action

The most effective piece of this article focuses on you. Its what David Bond from The Trevor Project said at the end of the piece:

However, Bond told me, even just one supportive adult in a LGBT teen’s life decreases suicidal ideation. “Be consistent in that person’s life and check in in a genuine way – and don’t be afraid to ask if they’re thinking of killing themselves,” Bond advised would-be allies.

“There’s a misconception that if you ask the question you’re going to put the idea in someone’s head. But it’s more often a helpful question than a harmful one.”

Whatever the answer – and I believe more states banning so-called conversion therapy and easier legal and financial avenues for emancipation, especially for older teens, should be a big part of that – we need more action now.

“A year feels like forever when you’re young,” PFLAG’s Sanchez told me. It’s no longer good enough to remind LGBT kids that “it gets better”. We need to figure out more legal, safe alternatives for those who can’t wait that long.


Everyone of us can take action and do something about this, but we have to face the reality that everyone of us is responsible for Leelah’s death (and the unnoted deaths of so many other American youth) first, and then work from that place. THAT is the work to do, no matter who we are.

And none of that is meant to take away, minimize or otherwise continue the oppression of trans, cis, or anyone who identifies as “other” throughout society. Its meant to highlight the compounding factors that are attempting to decimate peoples’ senses of ability, possibility and hope. We can do better than mere survival, and Leelah’s story demonstrates another way that can happen. Each of us can take action.

Legal Action

America’s legal system must act to do several things:

  • Stop allowing abusive parents to kill youth;
  • Stop devious judges from profiteering off youth imprisonment;
  • Stop racist and classist educators from reinforcing the school-to-prison pipeline;
  • Stop social workers from placing youth in harms way;
  • Stop police from arbitrarily enforcing laws against youth;
  • Change laws to allow all youth everywhere to choose their living situations;
  • Develop a guaranteed income for all youth, everywhere;
  • Prevent youth oppression by acknowledging the full personhood of children and youth from birth.

When these things happen, horrific and preventable deaths like what happened to Leelah Alcorn will not happen again. But not before then. If you really want to change the situation, join the struggle to end discrimination against young people.

Thanks, Kate, for calling me to write about this.

Help Promote Ending Discrimination Against Young People!

You know I’m not the most famous person in the world, right?!?

I don’t have a publicist, and I want people to get a hold of my newest book, Ending Discrimination Against Young People. I need your help!

If you want to pitch in, you can help me by helping get the word out. The biggest help you can do is find one person who needs and wants Ending Discrimination Against Young People. Offer the book to that person, and then if you want to, repeat.


Slower than you want, but faster than you think, we can help stop adultism and end discrimination. Here are some ways to help reach out for my awesome, powerful, strong book, Ending Discrimination Against Young People.

10 Steps to Promote Ending Discrimination Against Young People

1. Contribute to Facebook groups and Web forums—Every field has at least one or two facebook groups and web forums that people who should know about Ending Discrimination Against Young People read. Find and join these forums. Contribute to them freely. Give advice from the book and reach out. Put a link to http://adamfletcher.net in your signature line, or add the name of the book in your signature block.

2. Write a Blog—Writing about the book with helpful, inspirational information from it. Relate your experience and stories to the subjects in Ending Discrimination Against Young People. Aim to inspire people to buy the book, and share the link with them.

3. Write a Remarkable Review—Go to Amazon.com and write a review of the book. You can say things like: “I loved it! This book is amazing!”, and tell your story related to the book. Ending Discrimination Against Young People needs word-of-mouth publicity. Recommend it to your friends. They will recommend it to their friends. This is the best publicity the book can get.

4. Share Stuff from the Media Kit—My online media for the book kit includes

5. Share the Webpage—There’s a full webpage that includes:

  • A link to the Amazon page for your book, so people can buy the book online
  • Your media kit 
  • Book reviews and blurbs
  • My schedule of appearances, including bookstores, speaking engagements and conferences
  • Contact information.
6. Write Articles—Every field has websites and magazines that needs to share Ending Discrimination Against Young People. Find them and tell me about them. You can also write articles about the book for newsletters, websites, magazines, or eZines. Mention Ending Discrimination Against Young People in the article. In online articles, link the book title to its Amazon page so readers can click over and buy the book.

7. Help the Book Get 20 Amazon Reviews—Amazon.com reviews are amazingly effective. Everyone from book buyers to publishers reads them. Our goal is to get at least 20 reviews of Ending Discrimination Against Young People. Contact everyone you know and ask each of them if they would give the book an honest review. Let them know it can be brief. If they agree, let me know and I will send them either a PDF containing a table of contents, two sample chapters, and me bio.

8. Get the Book Mentioned in Email Blasts—Get Ending Discrimination Against Young People mentioned in your org’s large-volume emails. Review the book the email newsletter.

9. Make and Post Online Videos—Make a few 1 or 2 minute video reviewing and promoting Ending Discrimination Against Young People. Put the book title and URL on the bottom of the video screen and in the credits. Post your videos on several of the many video sharing sites including sites like blip.tv, jumpcut, ourmedia, Vimeo, vSocial and YouTube. Share the clips on your website, through your facebook or twitter page, and through emails to your friends and colleagues.
10. Ask for It—Go to your local bookstore and library and ask people to carry the book. Let them know you’re excited about it, share your copy with them, and ask them to carry it themselves. Tell them you’ll personally help others learn about it and send customers and users to them.

THANK YOU, THANK YOU for sharing Ending Discrimination Against Young People with your people. Let me know what I can do for YOU!
Written by Adam Fletcher, this article was originally posted to http://commonaction.blogspot.com. Learn more at adamfletcher.net!

Expanding Children’s Rights in the US

Bound up in this ongoing conversation about youth engagement is the question of who has the right to be heard. In the United States, there are two distinct conversations that happen regarding the rights of children and youth; one is protective (Children’s Defense Fund) and the other is liberatory (National Youth Rights Association).

Children’s Ombudsman Offices are independent, impartial public officials with authority and responsibility to receive, investigate or informally address complaints about government actions, and, when appropriate, make findings and recommendations, and publish reports. Their roles are almost wholly interpreted to be protective, with few reports indicating that they’ve done anything related to liberating young people.

Twenty-two states in the US have official children’s ombudsman offices that deal with children’s rights issues. Have you ever heard of these offices in Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Indiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Washington, California, Texas, Utah, Alaska, Arizona, Hawaii, Iowa, Nebraska, Arkansas, Kentucky, Illinois, Oklahoma, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Delaware, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, Montana, Ohio, South Carolina, or Virginia?

You can learn about these offices, including what they specifically do and how they operate, from this website.

I would like to see these offices, along with state-level Children’s Cabinets and local and state Youth Councils, assume leadership towards promoting youth voice, youth engagement, youth leadership, and youth empowerment across the country, and that includes children, too.

This would create relevant, meaningful opportunities for young people of all ages to engage in democracy. It would also catalyze vibrant conversations in many places where discussions about children’s rights, youth rights, and civic engagement are dead.

What is ahead? Expanding children’s rights in the United States may be the next route to take.

Written by Adam Fletcher, this article was originally posted to http://commonaction.blogspot.com. Learn more at adamfletcher.net!

Hearing Children’s Voices

In Washington, DC this week I had an excellent conversation with a child development worker named Ashley Keenan who works with the Parent Support Network of Rhode Island. Her work focuses on engaging children’s voices and creating opportunities for them to become meaningfully involved in Systems of Care, specifically for kids under 8.

What spectacular work! Listening to her stories I was inspired, causing me to remember the excitement I felt when my daughter was very, very young (she is 5 now). I love the prospect of engaging really young children and changing the roles adults have always assigned them. Especially because we have an increasing amoung of research focused on this that clearly illustrates the benefits of age-appropriate decision-making on children’s growth and evolution. Its so exciting!

As I became I parent and have experienced the awesomeness of my daughter’s growth over these last years I have come to believe there is no age more relevant for fostering lifelong commitment to Youth Voice than the youngest years. These people—infants, toddles, pre-schoolers and kindergarteners—will become the parents, teachers, youth workers, childcare providers, police, politicians, social workers, policy-makers, secretaries, ambassadors, and every single other position in our society. More importantly, though, is to recognize that no matter what age a child is, they are a full, real, and complete human being right now.

It seems weird but necessary to remind you that every single person in our world has been a child. How that childhood is experienced and expressed varies according to cultural, economical, ethnic, educational, and other backgrounds that inform young people as they grow up. But regardless of our backgrounds, all of us need to have opportunities to use our voices when we’re this young. All of us.

I see it in the actions of the mom sitting in front of me on the airplane as she plays with her baby boy. He’s a happy, giggling guy and she’s asking him questions, acknowledging his language as valid even though nobody beyond him and her understand it. I hear it from my daughter when she comes home from school so happy because her teacher asked her to pick which book the class got to read aloud today. This voice might be a simple question about which clothes or food, but repeated throughout the day in a variety of forms these questions become a force for significant learning within a young person’s life. I see these choices and hear these voices in dozens of small acts everyday that I’m with young people, the youngest of people, and I am honestly excited every time, and it gives me hope.

3 Steps to Engage Children’s Voices

Here are three simple steps all people everywhere, no matter what our role, our location, or our goals, can take to engage children’s voices right now:
  1. Expand Your Understanding. Before you read any further, understand that all children have valid perspectives, ideas, beliefs, and opinions right now, no matter what their age. The youngest among us has a voice, and adults can, should, and must learn how to deliberately, consciously, and consistently engage with their voices. That’s our work.
  2. Get On Their Level. Stop talking baby talk and being overly simplistic with children. Instead, get on their level in an authentic way that actively shows you genuinely want to engage with them. No matter whether their voices have ever been purposefully engaged before, if you get on their level in a true way, all children will respond to you in turn.
  3. Recognize Their Differences. All young people have different voices, different needs, and different realities. There may be patterns that emerge when they share children’s voice, but that doesn’t mean that you should generalize. Instead, recognize their differences by responding accordingly, appropriately, and conscientiously. Every single time.

Those are the actions, the gestures, the interactions and opportunities we need to educate people about. While some of them come naturally, intrinsically, to moms and dads and grandparents and loving, kind, caring adults throughout the lives of children, many of these skills and abilities are learned and need to be nurtured throughout adulthood. We need to work to ensure all young people have safe and supportive and empowering lives while they’re young. We need to make sure the adults who surround them have capable as well.

Only then can we actually engage very young children, and then we’ll be able to develop and sustain a lifetime continuum of youth engagement.