Broken Heart Land

About This Episode


On an early autumn afternoon, gay teen Zack Harrington killed himself with a gunshot to the head in his parent’s ranch in Norman, Oklahoma. One week earlier, Zack allegedly attended a local city council meeting in support of a proposal for LGBTQ History Month. When the floor opened up for public comment, some community members made highly controversial statements equating being gay with the spread of diseases such as HIV and AIDS.

Against the backdrop of a town bitterly divided on the issue of homosexuality, Zack’s parents, both conservative Republicans and military veterans, are forced to reconcile their own social and political beliefs with their son’s death. Determined to understand him, they discover a diary, which paints a portrait of a boy in crisis, and a chilling secret that Zack kept hidden for almost two years. It leads them to some painful conclusions about their son’s life and death.

When an outspoken conservative citizen runs for City Council, the Harringtons decide to join the politically active group, “MOMS: Mothers of Many." Over the course of the local election season, witness Zack’s family, once private and politically conservative, come out of their own closet, moving from private denial to a climactic and very public acceptance of their son’s legacy.

After the film, America ReFramed host Natasha del Toro, Penn State professor Anthony D'Augelli and LGBT youth advocate Jordan Scruggs talk about growing up and coming out as an LGBTQ youth in rural communities.