“It is important to point out in these moments of grief that there is absolutely no scientific evidence of an ‘epidemic of gay youth suicide,’ or even that gay youth kill themselves more frequently than do straight youth,” says Ritch Savin-Williams, professor of developmental psychology and director of Cornell University’s Sex and Gender Lab — which flies in the face of one study that says gay teens are four times more at risk of suicide than their straight counterparts. “[T]o assert that there is an epidemic of gay youth suicide is not only speculative but also irresponsible because of the message it delivers to gay youth: ‘be prepared to kill yourself.’ Indeed, most gay youth love their life and wouldn’t change their sexuality even if they had a magic pill to do so. Is this not the better message to deliver?” Of course it is. It doesn’t change the awful reality we’re in the middle of. The one that Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns — who in 2007 triumphed over anti-gay attacks to win his seat, and whose anti-bullying speech last week quickly went viral — recognized in the suicide of Zach Harrington.
Speaking to MSNBC’s Thomas Roberts on Friday (below) and The Early Show‘s Chris Wragge on Saturday (top), Burns says he wanted to deliver his story at the previous week’s City Council meeting, but decided not to. Then he heard about Harrington, the Norman, Oklahoma 19-year-old who attended a hateful Council meeting of his own, where he heard his neighbors reveal their disgust about homosexuality — and then killed himself.
After giving out his own phone number at the meeting, Burns says he’s received some 800 phone calls. As far away as Australia, where at least one young man is still alive today.