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A Victory Tainted by the Suicide of Gay Teen

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Zach Harrington
Zach Harrington

On September 28, the City Council of Norman, Oklahoma, a conservative city made a bold decision in favor of an unpopular proclamation recognizing October as GLBT History Month.    The 7 to 1 vote came after three hours of anti-gay rhetoric from community members opposed to the proclamation.

The victory was followed one week later by the suicide of Zach Harrington, 19, who attended the council session to support the proclamation.

“When he was sitting there, I’m sure he was internalizing everything,” said Nikki Harrington, Zach Harrington’s older sister.  “I’m sure he took it personally.”

Harrington, a talented musician, graduated Norman North High School in 2009.   He was subjected to constant harassment after he came out as gay.  “He feared for his safety,” stated his father Van Harrington.  According to his father, Zach requested to leave high school early in his senior year and finished his diploma in a separate program.

Van Harrington stated that his son experienced a hard reality at the council session as he witnessed the same sentiments that tormented him in high school being shouted and applauded by adults.

“Equality Forum mourns Zach Harrington,” stated Malcolm Lazin, Executive Director of Equality Forum, which coordinates GLBT History Month.  “Zach reminds us why we need GLBT History Month to build self-esteem and buttress youth against the tsunami of homophobia in our schools and society.”

In 2006, Equality Forum, a national GLBT civil rights organization undertook coordinating GLBT History Month (www.gltbHistoryMonth.com).   Each of the 31 days in October, a gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender Icon is featured online with a video, biography, bibliography, downloadable images and other educational resources. In its fifth year, there are 155 Icons archived on the free site.

“The GLBT community is the only community worldwide that is not taught its history at home, public school or religious institution.” stated Lazin.  “Without this information, it is no wonder that homophobia has such a devastating impact on gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youth.”

“Zach like other teen suicides reminds us why youth need role models, history and the civil rights message of our important national and international contributions.” said Lazin.

GLBT History Month Icons for October 22 to 31, 2010

Eleanor Roosevelt (First Lady)  –  October 22

Jalal Al-Din Rumi (Sufi Mystic)  –  October 23

David Sedaris  (Author) –  October 24

Maurice Sendak (Illustrator)  –  October 25

Johanna Sigurdardottir  (Iceland’s Prime Minister)  –  October 26

Matthew Shepard  (Hero)  –  October 27

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky  (Composer) –  October 28

Rufus Wainwright (Singer)  –  October 29

Mel White (Minister)  –  October 30

Emanuel Xavier (Poet)  –  October 31

Equality Forum is a national and international GLBT civil rights organization with an educational focus.    Equality Forum coordinates GLBT History Month, produces documentary films, undertakes high impact initiatives and presents the largest annual international GLBT civil rights summit.

OutSmart is a sponsor of the 2010 GLBT History Month sponsored by the Equality Forum.

For more information visit www.equalityforum.com and www.glbtHistoryMonth.com

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