Father of Gay Teen Suicide Victim Urges Other to be Cautious with Words
By Rusty Surette, News 9
NORMAN, Oklahoma -- The father of an openly gay teenager who committed suicide urges others to be more cautious with their words.
Van Harrington's son, Zach, took his life last week after attending a heated city council meeting in Norman. The 19-year-old's father said the "toxic" meeting was filled with hateful and homophobic comments that likely pushed his son to the edge.
"There are hate words spoken by many people and they need to consider what they're doing to others and reconsider their thoughts," said Harrington.
Harrington's comments were made at an annual candlelight vigil in Edmond Tuesday night for National Coming Out Day. The event is hosted by the University of Central Oklahoma's Gay Alliance for Tolerance and Equality.
"We usually have around 30 people show up, but tonight we have more than 100," said GATE's President Brandon Robert White.
The increase in those attending the vigil is being attributed to the alarming rise in suicides among gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youth in America. There was also discussion on bullying and harassment issues among young GLBT.
"For the young people who are facing intolerance or bullying or hatred in any form we want them to know they are not alone and there really is reason to hang on," said Rev. Scott Hamilton of the Cimarron Alliance Foundation.
Studies show gay and lesbian teenagers are four times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers. Those rejected by their families are eight times more likely.
"We have children's lives at stake," said Maggie Zerger, founder of the local multimedia youth group "Laugh through the Drama."
"I think we can sit here and say 'What's the measure of the life of a man or a woman?' and I think it's really the legacy we leave behind and these children don't have a chance to leave their legacy or their contribution to this world. And that's a loss to everybody no matter what walk of life you belong to," said Zerger. "That's why I'm launching my project with assistance from the creators of the Anyone But Me Series."
Similar rallies are planned Wednesday night at OU campus and October 20 at Oklahoma City University.