His parents said Phillip was constantly bullied because he was gay.
“He was fun, he was energetic, he was happy,” said Gena Parker, Phillip’s mother.
To his many friends, Phillip was known as the boy who told everyone they’re beautiful.
“He kept telling me he had a rock on his chest,” said Ruby Harris, Phillip’s grandmother. “He just wanted to take the rock off where he could breathe.”
Phillip’s family said they reported their concerns over their son’s bullying to Gordonsville High School on multiple occasions, but the bullying by a group of students just got worse.
“I believe my whole family up in heaven’s taking good care of him,” said friend Megan Redinger.
“I want to say I love him dearly,” added friend Heather Hunt. “He’ll never be forgotten. He’s always in my heart.”
“That’s my son,” said Phillip Parker, Phillip’s father. “I love him. I miss him. He shouldn’t have had to kill himself to be brought to life.”
Phillip’s parents said that students at Gordonsville High school have bombarded them with information since Phillip’s death — more than hundred teens told them the bullying was obvious, and some said they went to teachers about it.
“Because he was gay, he got mistreated physically, mentally by several people out there at the school, and I am very resentful as a result of it,” said Phillip’s grandfather, Paul Harris.
WSMV reported that more than 100 people gathered on Saturday night to grieve for the loss of Phillip.
Phillip’s parents plan to meet with Gordonsville High School officials on Monday morning, and a spokesperson at Smith County Schools said they are now planning how to address the situation with students.
The Tennessee Equality Project (TEP) Upper Cumberland Committee has announced it will hold a candlelight vigil in Cookeville, Tenn., on Thursday, January 26 at 8:00 p.m. in memory of Phillip and other victims of bullying, including Jacob Rogers, a gay teen from Ashland City who took his life in December.
The event will take place at the Courthouse Square — candles will be provided, and participants are asked to bring their own signs.
According to Beth Thompson of the TEP Upper Cumberland Committee, “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 event is designed to show support for LGBT youth while the Tennessee General Assembly continues to debate legislation such as the “License to Bully” bill, the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, and the transphobic “Bathroom Bill,” all of which have drawn national scorn from LGBT advocates.
Phillip is the third gay teen this month to commit suicide under similar circumstances:
In the early morning hours of New Year’s Day, Jeffrey Fehr, 18, hanged himself at his family’s home in Granite Bay, Calif. Jeffrey’s parents are convinced that a lifetime of taunts and bullying contributed to their gay son’s decision to take his own life.
On Jan. 11, Eric James Borges, 19, of Visalia, Calif., also died, the victim of an apparent suicide. Known as EricJames to his friends, he was an intern with The Trevor Project and a young film maker who was not accepted by his birth family because he was gay.
Editor’s Note: If you or someone you know needs support, please don’t hesitate to call the Trevor Project‘s Lifeline at 866-488-7386.