News broke — ironically, sadly — on the eve of Monday’s National Coming Out Day. A Norman, Oklahoma 19-year-old took his own life a week after attending a heated city council meeting in which members of the community debated a proclamation recognizing October as Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender History Month in the city.
In what’s suddenly become a high-profile national issue, Zach Harrington added his name to a tragically growing list of gay teen suicides that includes six other boys in the past month and a half. In that time we’ve grieved the loss of Asher Brown, 13; Seth Walsh, 13; Justin Aaberg, 15; Billy Lucas, 15; Tyler Climenti, 18; and Raymond Chase, 19.
According to this thorough report from the Norman Transcript, the “toxic” environment at the Sept. 28 council meeting “may have pushed [Harrington] over the edge.”
“Nikki Harrington, Zach’s older sister, said her brother likely took all of the negative things said about members of the GLBT community straight to heart.
‘When he was sitting there, I’m sure he was internalizing everything and analyzing everything … that’s the kind of person he was,” she said. “I’m sure he took it personally. Everything that was said.’”
There are only so many synonyms for tragic and sad. There’s no silver lining in this string of recent suicides, but we can only hope these stories fold themselves into the national debate on gay rights. When anti-gay rights politicians and activists insist on separate-but-equal and preach about lifestyle choices,” they’re telling kids their lives aren’t nearly as valuable as heterosexuals. And, ultimately, as we’ve seen now seven times, that kills. It kills and kills and kills.
Pro-civil rights activists staged a Homophobia Kills “Die-in” inside New York City’s Grand Central Terminal on Friday, October 8th. You can see the video of that protest below:
*READ MORE*: Our own blogger Blake Skjellerup, short track speed skater at the 2010 Winter Olympics and one of the few openly gay athletes in the world, wrote a post for us about how this is more about teaching diversity, tolerance and acceptance than it is an LGBT issue.
*HELP RESOURCES*: Columnist, author, pundit, activist and podcaster Dan Savage started the It Gets Better Project in light of the recent string of suicides. And The Trevor Project is a national 24-hour, toll free confidential suicide hotline for gay and questioning youth.