Is this the hardest blog entry I have ever written?
The suicide of Tyler Clementi has upset me and driven me to tears.
I remember being poked fun at. I remember being called a fag and a sissy. Sometimes I yelled back in a vain attempt to defend myself, sometimes I swallowed my pride, laughed and either took the abuse or walked away. It all stopped when I just accepted the taunts and used the words to describe myself.
It was the 1970s and it was pretty outrageous to say I was a fag but it stopped all the taunts. It became part of my political identity, who I was in the world, and it was empowering.
It was the 1970s, I had a very supportive family, and I gravitated to other teenagers who took the same approach to the confusion that is teenage sexuality. I also watched some teenagers close into their shells and personalize the hate and become depressed.
For me, being a fag represented much more (much, much more) than a sexual orientation. It meant I was different from the average Joe, I had different ideas than most people, I cared more about the world than did my peers who weren't fags, I thought creatively about the way the world worked. It was a lifestyle that freed me from the bondage of normalcy, of dullness, of conservatism. I was free to become the person God intended me to be.
It was a long road from the first time I was called names to the day I stepped into the freedom of self. I learned a myriad of survival techniques, most of which were either self-destructive or hurtful to other people. There were times I cried. I found ways to block-out the pain and the shame. I became a bit of a clown in my social circles, diverting the conversation away from the taunts to jokes about others. At times I picked on those weaker than me to get the heat off of myself.
Two days ago when I read an article about Tyler Clementi, those memories flooded all over me and I broke down. First I sobbed quietly at my keyboard, and then I found myself in the bathroom actually weeping, and then the sadness and tears gave way to the real underlying feeling: anger.
As much as I have accepted the past, and taken responsibility for my part in the events that formed the man I am today, I cannot suppress the anger I feel when I see a weaker person tormented by bullies. Not that I haven't learned about the roots of my own bullying: the insecurity that feeds the need to appear stronger or better than the next person. I understand why bullies bully, and I understand why victims live in quiet acquiescence or lash out against the bullies. I get it. It took many years, but I get it.
Tyler Clementi was victimized in a horrible way: his actual intimate moments were stolen by a person he was expected to trust, and that person broadcast that intimacy to the world.
His roommate, Dharun Ravi, and another classmate, Molly Wei, conspired to record a sexual encounter between Tyler and another man, then broadcast it on the internet, and had a good laugh about it.
I would rather be beaten. I can't imagine being exposed or violated in that manner by a person with whom I share a home. This brings homophobic harassment to another level.
Tyler couldn't live with the humiliation. He took his own life by jumping off the George Washington Bridge. I sit here knowing the thoughts that went through his head, the hopelessness of his situation, his inability to see other options as he approached the bridge. I can only imagine the terror of falling to his death.
Most people are outraged.
If you are outraged it is important that you tell everyone that Tyler Clementi represents all of us. You are Tyler Clementi, I am Tyler Clementi, and we have to stop the culture of hate that allows incidents like this.
Ellen DeGeneres released a video about the incident: An Important Message from Ellen DeGeneres on Facebook
The Facebook page In Honor of Tyler Clementi allows people to post a message.
Many people are angry, and some have taken to Facebook to disparage the perpetrators: Dharun Ravi and Molly Wei are sick F*cks
And then there are the news articles:
Before a Suicide, Hints in Online Musings
Tyler Clementi's body ID'd - Rutgers freshman committed suicide after sex video was streamed on web
Here's a Google news search for you.