Just after Christmas, on Dec. 27, a transgender teenage girl named Leelah Alcorn took her own life, after posting a heartbreaking suicide note.
She was just 17.
It's hard to contextualize the tragedy as anything but terrible and completely preventable. Leelah said in her note that she faced an unwelcoming family who couldn't deal with the fact that she was trans, who forced her to undergo "conversion therapy" and other abusive treatments, the primary reason for her suicide.
To honor Leelah and raise awareness for the conversion therapy — a controversial form of "therapy" that attempts to make LGBT children somehow not LGBT anymore — Matt Boucher and Kara Jayne decided to host a charity game jam in her name.
"The idea to create a game jam came from the place most ideas on the the Internet come from," Boucher told Polygon. "An offhand remark that leads to a conversation, that leads to, in this case, a game jam. In this case a user I follow on Twitter had made a tweet that Leelah had been into gamedev. I asked if anybody had considered a game jam in honor of Leelah and we went from there."
Starting on Jan. 17 and running for one month, participants are encouraged to create small games that explore trans issues. Boucher told us about the jam's goals. "The first is to raise awareness of the Leelah's law petition to ban conversion therapy in the United States," he said. "We truly believe that conversion therapy is a form of child abuse that should not be legal, period, and we hope that by linking to the petition on the game download pages we can get people to take a second and sign it."
There's also a fundraising component of the jam. Every developer will have the opportunity to put a "donate what you want" section in their game, to raise money for charities including the Transgender Law Center, Camp Aranu'tiq, and the Sylvia Rivera Law Project.
Anyone can participate, so long as their project fits one of the following requirements.
Be primarily centered around trans issues, or other issues related to gender identity. This can be anything from having a trans protagonist to a game about growing up trans or navigating gender identity issues. Please be respectful, as anything that is purposefully disrespectful to the LGBTIQ community, or specifically the trans community, will be removed without hesitation.
Use inspiration from Leelah's art/music/ideas to primarily create a game, whilst still attempting to raise awareness about trans youth issues and trans representation in the execution of that idea.
Be inspired by Leelah's interests as expressed on her Tumblr: e.g. sailor moon, female empowerment, fashion, anime, gaming, etc., whilst still attempting to raise awareness about trans youth issues and trans representation in the execution of that idea.
The jam will run until Feb. 17. All entries should be submitted to the jam's page starting on Jan. 17.