Phillip Parker's suicide on Friday is the latest in a string of deaths to take place after persistent anti-gay bullying by a teen's peers. The openly-gay Gordonsville, Tennessee, 14-year-old killed himself Friday after being the target of anti-gay bullying at Gordonsville High School.
His death was the second suicide in the last two months by a teen in middle Tennessee who had been a victim of anti-gay bullying and the most recent in what has become an alarming trend of bullied teens committing suicide.
Phillip's parents and grandparents found his lifeless body in their home Friday afternoon, and shortly thereafter found a handwritten note in his garbage can bearing the heartbreaking words Please help me mom, according to Tennessee's local News Channel 5.
I should have knew something was wrong, but he seemed happy, Phillip Parker's mother, Gena Parker, told News Channel 5 after his suicide. We are going to find out who done it, we are going to get justice for Phillip and you will pay for what you did to my son.
Phillip Parker's parents plan to speak with Gordonsville High officials today, and the teen's grandfather, Paul Harris, has begun to speak out about bullying at the school, saying he is resentful of the bullies and the people who allowed the bullying to go on for so long without reporting it to the eighth-grader's family:
After he did what he did, we found out a lot that we didn't know and there is a lot of bullying that goes on at the school, Paul Harris told News Channel 5. Whether it's verbal or physical a counselor at the school should be on top of it and notify the parents. We weren't notified, and Phillip didn't tell us about it.
A number of other high-profile suicides by teens who were subject to anti-gay bullying have taken place in the past two months.
Jacob Rogers, also of Tennessee, killed himself on Dec. 7 as a result of such discrimination. A friend of Rogers told WSMV that he could not get the help he needed to cope with the extensive bullying he was experiencing at school: He started coming home his senior year saying, 'I don't want to go back. Everyone is so mean. They call me a faggot, they call me gay, a queer, he said.
Another teen, eighteen-year-old Jeffrey Fehr, a member of a California school's cheerleading squad, hanged himself Jan. 1, according to The Sacramento Bee. Fehr was bullied for years and had recently gone through a break-up with another young man, the paper reported, adding that his classmates began calling Fehr a fag in sixth-grade.
Fehr's father, Steve Fehr, spoke with the Bee about his son's troubles: We will second-guess ourselves forever, Steve Fehr told the paper. But we do know that for years and years, people knocked him down for being different. It damaged him. It wore on him. He could never fully believe how wonderful he was, and how many people loved him.
And EricJames Borges, a California 19-year-old, also killed himself last month at the age of 19 years old, ABC News reported. Though Borges was a talented filmmaker who volunteered for The Trevor Project, a group that advocates to end anti-gay bullying and other ills, he eventually gave in to the bullying he underwent at his school and the pressure he was put under as part of his extremist Christian family, which kicked him out of their home for being disgusting and perverted before he took his own life.
There is a major campaign in Tennessee and other states to pass legislation aimed at reducing anti-gay bullying, but many advocacy groups say there is not enough being done to protect America's youth from such discrimination.
One such group, The Tennessee Equality Project has planned a Thursday candlelight vigil to remember Phillip Parker. While not only youth who identify as LGBT are targets of bullies, they have been found to be up to four times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers, according to the Massachusetts 2006 Youth Risk Survey, the Tennessee Equality Project wrote in its statement announcing the vigil. Our goal is to support teens who are/have been bullied and harassed; not to fight or argue with those who may disagree with our stance.
Citizens from the national community have also come out to show their support for the Parker family and to express their outrage and sadness over the scourge of anti-gay bullying that has spread across the United States. Facebook pages dedicated to Phillip Parker's memory have been flooded with messages of love and solidarity, revealing the visceral level on which even total strangers can be deeply affected by such suicides. This hurts and something has to be done to stop this and stop this now, one user posted on the candlelight vigil's Facebook event page.
Another user posted similar sentiments on the Tennessee Equality Project's Facebook page. As a parent, a gay person, a Tennessean, and a humanitarian, I am horrified by the lack of compassion in the young people who persecuted him, the writer said. My heart goes out to his family.