Gay Youth | Oklahoma

Gay Teen In Oklahoma Takes His Own Life

Sadly, yet another gay teen has taken his life, this time in Oklahoma. According to the Dallas Voice, 19-year-old Zach Harrington  "endured years of struggles due to his sexual orientation in high school" and took his life a week after he attended a "hate-filled recent City Council meeting" in his conservative small town of Norman.

 The Norman Transcript reports on the reaction from Harrington's family:

ZachNikki 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.”

Harrington’s father, Van, said he wasn’t sure why his son went to the meeting, especially after his experiences in Norman once he revealed that he was gay as a teenager. He said he feels his son may have glimpsed a hard reality at the Sept. 28 council meeting, a place where the same sentiments that quietly tormented him in high school were being shouted out and applauded by adults the same age as his own parents.

“I don’t think it was a place where he would hear something to make him feel more accepted by the community,” he said. “For somebody like Zach, it (the meeting) was probably very hard to sit through.”

“He feared for his safety on many occasions at (Norman North), and other people like him,” Van said. “Even though he was 6-4, he was passive and I’m sure being gay in that environment didn’t help.”

During rush hour on Friday, a flash mob consisting of hundreds of people staged a "Homophobia Kills" die-in inside of New York's Grand Central Station to call further attention to the recent national discussion on gay teen suicide. Watch a video of the demonstration, AFTER THE JUMP.


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  1. I grew up in a small, conservative, Indiana town and suffered from homophobia on a daily basis, but never once did I consider killing myself over other people's stupidity and ignorance. I would never allow someone to have that much power over myself.

    What has changed?

    The sentiment seems to be that none of these individuals who have committed suicide should bear any responsibility for, you know, killing themselves.

    Yes, the homophobia is awful, horrible, and deplorable - but at some point, don't we have to recognize that the "victims" themselves are the ones who were ultimately responsible for their own deaths?

    Posted by: taodon | Oct 11, 2010 7:43:18 AM

  2. Oh, go fuck yourself, Taodon. Some people are stronger, some people are weaker. But they all have the natural instinct to live. So they ARE victims - without the ridiculous quotes. It looks like you survived because you're a heartless bastard.

    Posted by: Eugene | Oct 11, 2010 8:02:55 AM

  3. I don't think a lot of you are truly concerned about gay suicides. I think you're just latching on to the issue du jour. Many of you are the type who would sooner spend a night cruising for sex than being activists for the gay rights notion.

    Don't tell me I'm wrong, I see it all the time. Whenever I go out socializing, I see men in gay bars talking about where to buy the flashiest leather vest to wear to the dance party.

    As for Zach Harrington, keep in mind that it's the quiet, reserved types who tend to internalize the hatred of others. If you don't have good friends on which to lean for support, it can be awfully claustrophobic and desperate.

    Posted by: jason | Oct 11, 2010 8:48:22 AM

  4. this being caused by politicians like paladino kern and many others who feel that hate speak is okay. america has become a hot bed for intolerance and hate. unfortunately this is spread by many churches and politicians playing to their audience. time to work to make these hate mongers pay for their hate vote them out of office and to the churches stop giving money, pray at home do you really need abig gaudy building to say what is in your heart

    Posted by: walter | Oct 11, 2010 9:27:59 AM

  5. I want to see a journalist interview Sally Kern or James Inhofe, and nail them for their past comments and ask them whether or not they feel their words may have contributed to this young man's sense of alienation and aloneness, and encouraged his suicidal feelings. Let 'em pontificate and show what insensitive assholes they are with this kid's body barely grown cold, so that people can see that these are the kind of schmucks we are electing to public office.

    Posted by: Dback | Oct 11, 2010 9:47:40 AM

  6. As long as this country tolerates hate speech, young people will internalize the attacks, lose all self-esteem, and kill themselves in their despair. Worse, hate speech incites ignorant thugs, who believe their violent attacks on gays are justified. This will not end until hate speech against gays becomes as unacceptable as hate speech against blacks, Jews, women, Hispanics, and every other oppressed community. We cannot outlaw free speech, but we can make hate speech less popular by adopting gay rights legislation and by passing and enforcing laws against hate crimes. When it's no longer acceptable, most morons will stop doing it, just as most morons stopped attacking blacks and using the n-word once civil rights and hate crime legislation made society's disapproval clear.

    Posted by: wimsy | Oct 11, 2010 9:59:13 AM

  7. I grew up in Stillwater, Oklahoma... the location of the OTHER big state university in Oklahoma. In the 80s and early 90s, Oklahoma was a pretty oppressive place to be for gay people. It still is. But imagine my surprise when I learned that Stillwater High School has a gay-straight alliance group these days. It's interesting how things can change over time. Sometimes those changes are for the better. It can even happen in uptight conservative Okie towns. So don't be so quick to write off whole swaths of America just yet. Yes, it's a very conservative place... right wing religiosity has always been the rule there, and likely always will be. But even conservative Christians can change over time... though it takes an awfully long while comparatively.

    I guess what I'm trying to articulate here is that while there are many bigoted voices coming from churches and religious folk in Oklahoma (as well as non-religious folk), there are also many kind, decent, hard-working people who believe in equal human dignity for all people. The voices of these people have become louder and more influential in recent years, even in Oklahoma. That scares the bigots... and so when they get the chance to air their dirty laundry in public, they grab that chance and run with it. The result is the craziness in the video clip, and it's always horrible to see it when it flares up like that. And so I understand from personal experience the stress of living through an Oklahoma shitstorm. Some folks are sadly just a bit more fragile than others, and growing up gay in such a place requires an emotional toughness that is very difficult for some folks to develop. My gay friends who didn't leave the state have started to show the effects of that... I can spot a gay Oklahoman at a thousand paces.

    I'm rambling. Maybe because it's a personal thing for me... I have a lot of feelings about this all at once. What it all comes down to is that we need to keep our outreach efforts going strong, even after this ceases to be the "cause du jour". Kids like Zach need to hear that there are ways out of the dark place in which they find themselves.

    Posted by: The Milkman | Oct 11, 2010 11:06:12 AM

  8. I recommend all gay people, please go buy a gun, learn how to use it properly, and use it if you need to defend you self.
    If every gay person was armed, they would think twice about harm.

    Posted by: Austin Rozzell | Oct 11, 2010 11:54:40 AM

  9. Austin, I agree... but a gun wouldn't have helped in this case.

    Posted by: The Milkman | Oct 11, 2010 12:07:09 PM

  10. Fuck "America's Heartland". Fuck the South.

    The rest of the country is sick of these people's shit. We're sick of sending them all our tax money. We're sick of carrying their sorry, stupid asses through life and then getting this kind of shit in return.

    The rest of the United States should simply cut those states OFF. Let them drift away and rot. Wall them off from the rest of the country. Let them go pray to the Bipolar Sky Daddy for the means to survive, while all the smart people flee to the US and Canada.

    Fuck them.

    Posted by: One of the CA 36,000 | Oct 11, 2010 12:28:52 PM

  11. Eugene, you're lashing out at me because I hold an opinion you don't share. That's fine. It is also, ironic.

    Posted by: taodon | Oct 11, 2010 12:30:30 PM

  12. WHAT!? Why Why WHY are these beautiful souls allowing these bastards to drive them to suicide! WTF.

    Posted by: Charles | Oct 11, 2010 12:50:32 PM

  13. I think these kids are killing themselves because they're mentally ill and that they would have probably killed themselves regardless of their orientation. The gay community turning these suicides into a trendy epidemic is certainly politically savvy (because who's going to ignore a bunch of dead kids, right) but it's morally questionable at best.

    Posted by: Anthony | Oct 11, 2010 1:18:28 PM

  14. Anthony, you asshole. Yes, these kids are mentally ill. They are severely depressed to the point of not seeing any way out but suicide. The reason they are depressed? The omnipresent homophobia in our society. They are constantly being told that they are freaks, they are less than, they are perverted, they are flawed, they are diseased, they are hell bound. If they don't have any support to drown out the negativity, or if the people they trust the most to protect them (their parents) are joining in the gay bashing, they feel they have no choice but to end their lives.
    They would not have killed themselves if they were straight or IF WE LIVED IN A COUNTRY THAT DIDN'T BULLY LGBT CHILDREN AND ADULTS. You are the one who is morally questionable. No, strike that. No question that you are morally void.

    Posted by: StillmarriedinCA | Oct 11, 2010 1:35:04 PM

  15. Why is everything we do as gay men a product of our being gay? Suicide is incomprehensible and breaks a family's heart, but straight people kill themselves too. Killing yourself is not a healthy reaction to a city council meeting. We desperately need mental health care in the United States.

    Posted by: Dylan | Oct 11, 2010 1:46:04 PM

  16. "Eugene, you're lashing out at me because I hold an opinion you don't share. That's fine. It is also, ironic."

    Taodon, it's only ironic if you believe that homophobia is a legitimate "opinion".

    Posted by: Eugene | Oct 11, 2010 1:57:28 PM

  17. This is yet another sad event to hear about. I grew up in Tulsa, the 2nd largest city in Okla, and where there were small accepting communities, there were also hate communities. To me, sexual orientation has nothing to do with god or what he thinks, it has to do with biological attraction theories. You cannot help who you love, and I don't think people should be socially judged for that. America the free? I will believe it when I see it.

    Posted by: Casey | Oct 11, 2010 2:07:26 PM

  18. again - and now with the cover of People Magazine - we have The Werther Effect. So sad. Expect dozens more but not just because of bullying.

    Posted by: David C. Jones | Oct 11, 2010 3:10:51 PM

  19. Eugene, I would never say it was a "legitimate" opinion, but opinion it is none-the-less. Is what these adults do reprehensible? Absolutely. My point is, some of the responsibility has to lie with those who are actually killing themselves. To imply otherwise is intellectually dishonest and emotionally melodramatic.

    I can't help but wonder if we as a community have a responsibility to not only reach out to these kids, but to also encourage them that suicide is not the answer - ever. That there are solutions out there, but they have to be willing to ask.

    However, if one of these children are determined to allow these ignorant savages push them to suicide without seeking out the multitude of resources out there, what can we, as a society, do?

    These news stories seem to be pushing the notion that it is the homophobia that is killing these kids - and its not. The kids are killing themselves. The homophobia may be part of the catalyst, but I have a hard time believing it is the only reason. My worry is that we are encouraging martyrdom, and that is the last place we want to be.

    Eugene, you seem quick with your outrage, but I have to wonder, what solutions can we work on together to help these children DESPITE their environments?

    Posted by: taodon | Oct 11, 2010 4:38:45 PM

  20. I'd bitch-slap ANTHONY, but STILLMARRIED did such a nice job that I don't need to. I will say that the gap between "probably" and "definitely" with regard to committing suicide can be wide, and can grow wider with intervention. Also, with social support. It's one of the areas we look at when dealing with potentially suicidal individuals. Lack of social support (and yeah, Anthony, that includes Society) is a legitimate factor. Predisposed need not mean predestined.

    Posted by: TJ | Oct 11, 2010 7:30:06 PM

  21. Um... hate to tell you... any city in Oklahoma is a "small conservative town." And OU is hardly gay friendly.

    Posted by: john | Oct 11, 2010 8:02:57 PM

  22. Oklahoma makes me very angry.

    Posted by: Randy | Oct 12, 2010 6:28:21 AM

  23. Oklahoma makes me angry, and New York, and California, and any other place where homophobia ever existed.

    It's really frustrating to read that so many people assume that homophobia is exclusive to "The South" or "rural places" or "small conservative towns" or wherever. Sadly, homophobia exists everywhere. We know this. Relegating it to "that place where I don't live because it's backwater and regressive" isn't productive. Hate crimes occur in the "gay-friendliest" cities in our country, just as they do in other places. We have to acknowledge that homophobia is a pervasive undercurrent in our entire society, not just "The South" or wherever.

    Compartmentalizing anti-gay sentiment by assuming it's coming from "Over There" is a common defense mechanism, but it isn't going to make anything better for anyone, least of all the impressionable young queer people who live in the supposedly "extra homophobic" places that so often get written off. We have to stop rationalizing homophobia based on place.

    Posted by: Hmmm | Oct 12, 2010 12:17:30 PM

  24. This makes me SO angry and frustrated to see people tormented because of their sexual orientation! Dammit, we ALL live in this world, and we should love and help one another, NOT hurt them. I, too lost a friend, who couldn't live with himself, and it was a big loss. He was a brother deputy sheriff and a very good man.

    I served my country in war in the '60s so that we could be safe from hatred here! We have a right to live our lives and not be f*****g BULLIES to each other!!

    Posted by: Brad | Oct 12, 2010 10:11:34 PM

  25. I am Zach's Harrington's brother Michael. I am posting to say thank you to all of ya'll who have posted very nice things. Our Dad and his Mother are having a tough time paying for the unexpected death of there son. I have set up a benefit in Zach's name and I am completely clueless on how to get this info out there. If there is anybody out there that could help me get this out to the people who may be able to help. Please help me out and forward this or paste it on other sites.

    Please send a check made out to Zachery Harrington and send it to 315 E. Columbus West. Tx 76691

    Posted by: Michael Harrington | Oct 23, 2010 10:48:59 AM

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