A Chapel Hill teenager, Phaedra Ward, organized the candlelight vigil in memory of Leelah Alcorn, a 17-year-old transgender girl from Ohio who committed suicide Dec. 28.
In her suicide note, which was originally posted on her Tumblr and has been widely circulated on social media, Alcorn talked about the lack of acceptance she faced because of her gender identification, especially from her religious parents.
Ward and her mother, Stormie Kirk, wanted to raise awareness about creating safe spaces for trans people.
“When I heard about Leelah, I didn’t see anything happening really locally that I was aware of,” Ward said. “I really felt like we needed to do something here.”
Ward said transphobia is everywhere, even in Chapel Hill.
“I’ve seen some really rude things on Franklin Street, just random people yelling random things,” she said. “You see it everywhere and it’s really ingrained in our society.”
Kirk said it’s important for parents to support their children unconditionally.
“One of the things that’s great about being a parent is that it’s not all about what you have to teach your children; your children also have things to teach you,” she said. “Our children come from us but they are not us. Let them be who they are.”