Candle Light Vigil Held To End LGBT Youth Suicide

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A candlelight vigil is held at the First Presbyterian Church in downtown Evansville, in hopes to bring awareness to the increase in youth suicide in gay and transgender teens. “There is support out there. There needs to be awareness. People need to be more accepting,” says Wally Paynter. The glow of the candlelight is small, but the message is not. “We’re trying to shed a light on what we are trying to speak about it, and we are trying to let people know that this is an issue that needs people’s attention.” Wally Paynter, President of The Tri-State Alliance, says the organization and other groups, decided to come together to make a difference. They host a candlelight vigil to bring attention to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender suicide issues. “Suicide has been an issue here in Vanderburgh County. We’ve had a higher rate than the national and state level,” says Paynter. Tonight’s glow comes in light of an Ohio transgender teen, who committed suicide last December. The group says there needs to be more acceptance of LGBT youth in the tri-state to put an end to the tragedy. “As people, as a community, and as society, we need to do better.” Guest speaker Alex Kessler says everyone has a story, including him. “That’s why I chose to be open about my story. I want people to be educated. I want them to realize that there’s more than just a label, there’s a person, and there’s a story,” says Kessler. He was the first student at the University of Southern Indiana to come out as a transgender person. Kessler says it’s an uphill battle, but coming together, even lighting a candle, is a step forward. “Whether it’s just sitting with somebody, hanging out with somebody, whatever. Just knowing that they have somebody is huge. They can then continue to do the things that they do, and be that awesome person. They can do whatever they choose to do because they know that they have people behind them.” Organizers hope to make the vigil an annual event.

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