An Oklahoma teen, Zach Harrington, 19, has committed suicide, barely one week after attending a local City Council meeting where a debate over whether or not the city would recognize October as LGBT History Month got "toxic," with many homophobic statements being thrown around in front of him.
A local paper has more on that city council meeting:
The entire process was an exercise in representative government, with both sides -- and those in between -- given their chance to speak their minds.
One man said he moved to Norman because he thought it was the kind of place that would never accept the GLBT community with open arms. A woman, who described herself as "bi-racial," said she was tired of the GLBT plight being compared to Civil Rights.
Some of those who opposed the proclamation claimed that members of the GLBT community would use it to infiltrate the public school system, essentially allowing the "gay lifestyle" to become a part of the curriculum.
Others claimed that council recognizing October as GLBT History Month was a waste of their time. Some members of the audience even suggested that any council members voting in favor of the proclamation may have trouble getting reelected.
Numerous residents also claimed the Bible was their guiding light, citing the ancient text as their primary reason for opposing the proclamation and the GLBT community in general.
And for those in attendance, it was hard to ignore the intolerant grumblings, the exasperated sighs and cold, hard stares that followed comments from supporters of the GLBT proclamation.
Even most council members admitted that a majority of the e-mails and phone calls they fielded regarding the proclamation were against it.
Harrington's family, who described him as a private young man who internalized his feelings and emotions, said it was this "toxic" environment at the Sept. 28 council meeting that may have pushed their gay son and brother over the edge.
Are we actually seeing more gay teens suicides or just more reporting of suicides that have been occurring all along? According to 2004 CDC numbers, around 1400 males and 340 females ages 15-19 committed suicide that year. That's several a week, and if LGBT teens have a higher suicide rate than the general population, what we're seeing now may not be any different than a few months ago other than the fact that the media has started caring.
Dave Reynolds, Senior Public Policy and Research Manager at The Trevor Project, told TowleRoad:
From what we know and can tell, there has not been an increase in suicide completions among lesbian, gay, bisexual transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) youth over the past few weeks. Sadly, there are likely this many deaths every week, but the media and the general populace are just starting to realize the depth of this public health and social justice issue.
I'm wondering about why this is, why the media just now is paying attention when they really couldn't have cared less as this was going on for decades. But I suppose the better question is why we accept the fact that an estimated 33,300 people commit suicide each year in the US.