After Utah LGBT advocate's suicide, community recalls his passion, kindness

Sunday , April 10, 2016 - 5:00 AM28 comments

MITCH SHAW, Standard-Examiner Staff

UPDATE: Though investigators and family members originally said Lincoln Parkin’s death was an apparent suicide, autopsy and toxicology results determined he died of natural causes. Read more here

NORTH OGDEN — Those who knew LGBT youth advocate Lincoln Parkin describe him as a genuine, passionate, kindhearted person — someone who was unafraid to stand up for what he believed in.

After nearly a decade battling depression, Parkin died in an apparent suicide earlier this month, found dead Wednesday, April 6. He was 22 years old.

Brent Parkin said many factors contributed to his son’s death, but in the end, his life became unbalanced. 

“I think he got out of balance physically, spiritually, emotionally and socially,” Brent Parkin said. “He got pretty extreme with his diet, he got to the point where he felt like God wasn’t there for him, and he isolated himself.”

Brent Parkin said medical examiners are still investigating, but it’s clear his son’s death was self-inflicted. He spoke openly about the suicide not to glorify it, but in hopes that someone else can learn from the heartache he and his family are experiencing.

Parkin, who was living in Seattle at the time of his death, was known for his advocacy. He was passionate about societal issues affecting LGBT youth, animals and the Earth. He was awarded several scholarships for his work in the community and his musical talent.

He attended Westminster College on a music scholarship and played the lead male role in the school’s performance of the musical “The Light in the Piazza” in January 2014.

Parkin, who was gay, graduated from Weber High School in 2012. While he was there, he reestablished the school’s Gay-Straight Alliance club. Weber High English teacher Julie Van Orden was the club’s adviser during Parkin’s time there and said its success today can largely be attributed to Parkin.

“It’s this big vibrant group now,” Van Orden said. “And that’s in large part due to what Lincoln did while he was there.”

During his senior year in 2012, Parkin sent a letter to Weber School District asking officials to support school GSAs and address the mistreatment of LGBT students. During that same year, Parkin received a $1,000 scholarship as part of the ACLU of Utah’s Youth Activist Scholarship Program for his LGBT advocacy.

In a news release announcing the scholarship winners, Parkin was quoted as saying, “In the future, I envision a world where sexual orientation won’t define a person, but refine them. Where differences will be celebrated, not mutilated.”

Marian Edmonds-Allen first met Parkin about four years ago, during her tenure as executive director of OUTreach Resource Centers of Ogden, a nonprofit that provides services for at-risk youth — specifically those in the LGBT community.

Edmonds-Allen said Parkin was not shy about helping and publicly advocating for those who were lonely and isolated. 

“He lived everything he cared about,” she said. “He lived his convictions. This is a devastating loss. There's a lot of us shedding a lot of tears.”

Parkin was also passionate about environmental sustainability.

Bob Hunter, president of the United Way of Northern Utah, said Parkin encouraged responsibility toward the environment while volunteering for the organization.

“He was always talking about not wasting food, recycling, being respectful to animals,” Hunter said. “He was never pushy, but he was insistent enough that we paid attention to it. He inspired us to be better to the Earth. He was just so kind and thoughtful. He was a very special young man.”

Brent Parkin said his son had attempted suicide before, but appeared to be doing well during the weeks leading up to his death.

“His therapist was totally shocked,” he said. “We always knew (suicide) was a possibility. It was our biggest fear, but there was nothing recently that would have indicated this.”

Parkin, who spent much of his youth as an active member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, came out to his family around the age of 15.  

“He was so conflicted with that because it was contrary to our religion and to things he thought were true for years,” Brent Parkin said. “He knew he was gay at 12, but struggled in silence for years.”

Brent Parkin said he and his wife never tried to change their son, and they never told him his desires were wrong.

“My wife and I told him we loved him whether he was gay or straight,” he said. “He’s our son, and if he’s gay, he’s our son even more. Him being gay was his chemistry, and we embraced it. Our family was behind him 100 percent.”

Edmonds-Allen, who now works with the Continuum of Care for LGBTQ Youth organization, said Utah has the fifth-highest rate of youth suicide in the country, with suicide currently the leading cause of death for youth in the state. LGBT youth attempt suicide four times more often than their straight peers, and those rejected by their parents have an eight times greater risk, Edmonds-Allen said.

Brent Parkin said his son’s personal struggle with sexual orientation contributed to his depression early on, but so did his brain’s natural chemistry. 

“I think he definitely had a chemical imbalance,” he said. “And he didn’t like taking his medication because it affected him so much.”

Brent Parkin said his son’s unwillingness to take medication and experiment with doctors to find a combination that worked for him contributed to his life getting out of balance. He encourages people suffering from depression to treat it like the disease that it is and seek medical help.

He also said he hopes Lincoln’s life and work will inspire people to embrace diversity and treat others with kindness. Those who knew Lincoln well say the inspiration has already come and will continue.

“He was just a very big-hearted kid,” Van Orden said. “I’m a better person for having known Lincoln. He wanted to change the world, and I think he did just that.”

Funeral services will be held at 11:00 a.m. Saturday, April 23, at the LDS church house at 900 E. 2800 North in North Ogden. Visitation will run from 9:30 to 10:45 a.m. A visitation will also be held at the church from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday, April 22. 

The family asks that people donate to The Rotary Foundation Scholarship Fund in lieu of sending flowers. Checks can be mailed to 2580 Jefferson Ave. in Ogden. 

Those struggling with thoughts of suicide can find resources at utahsuicideprevention.org. Teens and young adults having suicidal thoughts can text “start” to 741741 or visit crisistextline.org. Suicide prevention resources tailored to LGBT youth can be found at lgbtqyouth.org and www.thetrevorproject.org.

You can reach reporter Mitch Shaw at mishaw@standard.net or at 801-625-4233. Follow him on Twitter at @mitchshaw23 or like him on Facebook. 

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