The Tyler Clementi story has weighed on me much since I first read the entire details about this young man’s unfortunate. And not just because of the sadness of the tale, but also because it, to a small degree, parallels a conversation I had with a young gay man at my alma mater, now a senior.
Last weekend, when on campus visiting as part of my obligations as a member of the executive committee of our Society of Alumni, I chanced upon that student. I had first met him three years ago at a “Send-off” party the LA Alumni Association organized for area undergraduates, in particular, the incoming freshman class.
I sensed that he was gay and seeing myself in him and recalling my own difficult freshman year, sought to reach out to him as best I could. I recalled e-mailing him and offering words of encouragement and support, letting him know that alumni were there to support him. But, I didn’t tell him I was gay. Because I believe each individual must come to terms with his sexuality on his own timetable and in the way appropriate to him, I didn’t want to force the matter, put any undo pressure on him.
Well, this weekend, when I ran into him in Williamstown, I did come out to him, having read in an e-mail on the college’s gay and lesbian alumni listserv that he had come out. He was surprised to learn I was gay — and wished I had said as much in that 2007 e-mail.
And now, having learned that his freshman year was also difficult, I realize that perhaps I erred and should have come out. Then, perhaps, he might have been better able to turn to me, an older gay man who was concerned about his well-being. Having that support might have made his first year away from home far less difficult than it was.
For if Tyler Clementi had had such a friend, he might be alive today.