On the morning of Dec. 28, 2014; 17-year-old transgender girl Leelah Alcorn walked onto Interstate 71, directly into oncoming traffic, and into the path of a semi truck, which killed her. Her suicide note, which she scheduled to go up later that morning, soon went viral.
According to her suicide note, her family reacted negatively to the revelation, first pulling her out of school and then forcing her into so-called conversion therapy, a widely debunked practice that promises to rid participants of same-sex attractions and, in Alcorn’s case, gender dysphoria. Not surprisingly, it didn’t work. In her suicide note, Alcorn wrote:
“My mom started taking me to a therapist, but would only take me to Christian therapists, (who were all very biased) so I never actually got the therapy I needed to cure me of my depression. I only got more Christians telling me that I was selfish and wrong, and that I should look to God for help”
Chris Fortin a 33-year-old gay man who runs a small company from his home near Cincinnati took Leelah Alcorn’s story to heart.
Shortly after her death, a small, handmade memorial to Leelah popped up along the highway on which she died. But it quickly started to fade away. That’s when Chris Fortin decided to make something permanent.
“I wanted something to remember her that was going to be state-sanctioned and legal,” Fortin told Identiies.Mic, “I said this needs to be official, this needs to be a project where we remember somebody who lost their life, but we also need to educate the public on transgender issues.”
Fortin then filed paperwork to adopt the stretch of highway where she died, a process that was free of charge as long as he committed to cleaning it.
“I felt like as a society we move on too quickly. We have so many options of news; we’re inundated with dings, texts, [and] we move on and forget,” said Forton, who also started a Facebook page about the highway dedication. “I didn’t want that to happen.”