About 100 people turned out at Phoenix Park in downtown Lexington on Friday for a candlelight vigil honoring gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youths who have taken their lives because of bullying.
Speakers included Fayette Circuit Court Judge Ernesto Scorsone, a former state senator; Orvis Kean, events director for the Gay and Lesbian Service Organization; and Mary Crone, facilitator of the Gay Student Alliance for Youth in Lexington.
Though people huddled together cradling white candles, the tone of the gathering was more celebratory than solemn.
The vigil was also held to acknowledge that nationally, there has been a decrease in the number of gay and lesbian youths who have taken their lives due to bullying over the last few years, which Crone sees as a result of programs like GSA.
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"I think it is due largely to the efforts of teens and young adults who are working in the schools to confront homophobia," Crone said.
Despite the apparent downward trend, Crone said, gay and lesbian teens are still at a higher risk for suicide. She said four gay or lesbian youths across the country killed themselves in September because of bullying. Two of them were 13 years old, she said.
Scorsone, in his speech, called such deaths "wrong and unacceptable."
"It's been 40 years ... since all the major health care professional organizations in this country have affirmed that being gay or a lesbian or bisexual or transgender is not a disease or a disorder," he said.
"And yet, with many, a stigma still persists, and its corrosive effects on young minds and souls continue to take its toll."
Following Scorsone was Sandy Linville, the founder of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, a confidential support group.
Linville told the story about when her daughter, Audrey, came out in seventh grade.
"The hard part for me was ... I couldn't lead her anymore. I'd not been down that path," she said. "What I had to do was give up power, and more importantly, I had to give it to her."
Crone then took the stage surrounded by current and former Lexington high school students who shared stories of the resistance they met from faculty and students when trying to start local GSA chapters, and the success the organizations have had over the years.
Vigil participants then proceeded to Soundbar, which hosted a charity toast for The Trevor Project, a national crisis hotline for gay, lesbian, transgender or bisexual people.
It cost $5 to participate in the toast, Kean said, adding that the amount raised at Soundbar would be matched by the Gay and Lesbian Service Organization. Donations collected at the vigil were also matched.
It wasn't immediately clear how much money was raised at the toast. By 3 p.m. Friday, the bar had received $2,400 in pledges, according to its Facebook page.