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Students at commencement

Ministry in Context

In Memory of Leelah Alcorn: A Prayer by Luther Alumnus Asher O'Callaghan

For January, I would like to share a short prayer in memory of transgender teen, Leelah Alcorn. This prayer was developed by Luther alumnus, Asher O'Callaghan, as part of the liturgy at House for All Sinners and Saints in Denver, CO.

Leelah Alcorn was born in 1997 and given the name "Joshua." Throughout her adolescence, Leelah Alcorn felt that her female gender identity was not welcomed by her parents or faith community. In her last post to her Tumblr, Leelah wrote:

"When I was 14, I learned what transgender meant and cried of happiness. After 10 years of confusion I finally understood who I was. I immediately told my mom, and she reacted extremely negatively, telling me that it was a phase, that I would never truly be a girl, that God doesn't make mistakes, that I am wrong. If you are reading this, parents, please don't tell this to your kids. Even if you are Christian or are against transgender people, don't ever say that to someone, especially your kid. That won't do anything but make them hate them self [sic]. That's exactly what it did to me."

Shortly after publishing that post, Leelah committed suicide on December 28, 2014.

Leelah's final post included instructions that her possessions and money should be donated to an advocacy organization for transgender people, and that gender issues should be taught in schools.

After her death, Luther alumnus Asher O'Callaghan developed a special prayer in Leelah's memory. This prayer was included in the liturgy at Asher's home church, House for All Sinners and Saints in Denver, Colorado. We are honored to post it here in full.

God of unbounded love,

Our sexualities and our gender identities are a blessing and a gift. The desire You give us to express them is a blessing and a gift.

But for some of us it feels more like a curse and a burden.

Today we remember and grieve the loss Leelah Alcorn. Grant her all the peace and love she wasn't getting to experience here. Surround and comfort all who loved her. Give strength, power, and help to all who are living on the brink of despair.

Fix our society. Fix parents whose hearts cannot muster up unconditional love for their children. Fix Your Church so that we freely give ourselves away with the same love that You gave Yourself away with. Bring healing to all those who can scarcely believe in Your outrageous love because it so alien, so far off from their own life experiences.

Transform us according to Your love which shall not fail. 


We offer our thanks to Asher for his permission to include this prayer in our newsletter today. We also offer our thanks to Pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber for her inclusion of this prayer in her public memorial of Leelah's life. Last but not least, we credit the Tumblr artist Queer-Terror for their portrait of Leelah above (reproduced by permission).

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