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Breaking: ELEVENTH September Anti-Gay Hate-Related Teen Suicide

by David Badash on October 11, 2010

in Bigotry Watch

Post image for Breaking: ELEVENTH September Anti-Gay Hate-Related Teen Suicide

After a very heated and public Norman, Oklahoma City Council meeting on September 28, during which the council debated a proclamation recognizing October as Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender History Month, nineteen-year old Zach Harrington took his own life. The proclamation passed by a 7 – 1 vote, but comments from Norman citizens were so hateful and divisive, the Harrington family says, their son succumbed to suicide.

A local news paper reports, “[t]he family of Zach Harrington said their son killed himself after attending the September 28 city council meeting.

“Zachary Harrington’s father said it wasn’t the meeting alone that drove his son to take his own life, but it certainly didn’t help. Van Harrington said his son, who was living in Arkansas, drove all the way to his hometown of Norman to see what the city council would do. What he and so many others got was a three-hour verbal debate on the gay lifestyle.

“Zach’s father said his son was a very private person who came out during high school. He said the Norman North graduate was bullied and harassed at school for being gay. Van Harrington said he feels a lack of acceptance from society and what he calls a “toxic meeting” last month is what finally pushed Zach over the edge.”

Citizen comments included,

“I also think it’s not dark thinking or bigoted thinking to have an opposition to this…But it’s clear thinking,” said one Norman resident during the meeting.”

“Recruiting children into these lifestyles will be very easy with this kind of open format,” said another resident during the city council meeting.”

For those of you who have been keeping up with the recent teen suicides as we at The New Civil Rights Movement have, you’ll know that we have identified what we believe to be ten — and now, with great sadness, eleven — teen suicides in the month of September, most if not all the result of anti-gay hatred and bullying.

You can watch the video of the city council meeting here.

Perhaps what makes this suicide especially sad for me is it is here we see the crossover of hate from the local school yard to the local city council. The bullies grew up and continued their pattern of hate and homophobia.

Is Zach Harrington’s suicide a result of this hate? You decide.

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{ 4 comments }

TanyaDomi October 11, 2010 at 10:03 pm

This is so terrible, so agonizing. I think the Surgeon General of the United States and the Center for Disease Control should declare a public health emergency and direct all state departments of health to report data on youth suicides for the past year. In addition, these state departments of health should be directed to conduct a survey and prepare a report on mental health issues related to LGBT youth discrimination and bullying in educational institutions K thru 12. I do not think it is feasible to think Congress could call immediate hearings in the middle of an election. But we don't need to wait for Congress on this urgent matter of public health.

NJinFlag October 12, 2010 at 9:36 pm

Great point. We need to focus on teaching respect and tolerance. This is basic human rights stuff, but somehow we've lost sight of this while focusing too much on political and religious debates. One good story that occurred last month involves a high school student who, with the help of the ACLU, got the school district to update its policy and add to the student handbook protection for LGBT students. For more on this story, see http://www.askthejudge.info/arizona-school-distri

mrsmileyface October 28, 2010 at 8:14 pm

Hi, I'm a teenager and member of the GSA at a school in Oakton, Virginia. Two years ago, I went to a school called "Lake Braddock Secondary School" which had over 4,000 students. My best friend from seventh grade, Connor Wilkinson, committed suicide within the first month of the school year. Although I knew he had been bullied, I hadn't seen this coming. Now at my school the other day, the GSA leaders made an announcement to the whole school about the September Teen Suicide problem. The had said that most teen suicides happen in September, and most of them happen around September 23rd. When I heard that, I nearly fainted. My friend, who took his life in eighth grade, killed himself on the exact day when teens are most likely to kill themselves. I doubt he knew about the significance of the day he took his life, but I wonder in the back of my head if he knew all along.

Although Connor was not gay or teased about being gay, he was pushed over the edge.

Looking back two years, I realize how fortunate I am to not have been in Connor's shoes.

Consider yourselves blessed.

mrsmileyface October 28, 2010 at 8:40 pm

Hi, I'm a teenager and member of the GSA at a school in Oakton, Virginia. Two years ago, I went to a school called "Lake Braddock Secondary School" which had over 4,000 students. My best friend from seventh grade, Connor Wilkinson, committed suicide within the first month of the school year. Although I knew he had been bullied, I hadn't seen this coming. Now at my school the other day, the GSA leaders made an announcement to the whole school about the September Teen Suicide problem. The had said that most teen suicides happen in September, and most of them happen around September 23rd. When I heard that, I nearly fainted. My friend, who took his life in eighth grade, killed himself on the exact day when teens are most likely to kill themselves. I doubt he knew about the significance of the day he took his life, but I wonder in the back of my head if he knew all along.

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