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Could an older friend have prevented Tyler Clementi’s Suicide?

Posted by B. Daniel Blatt at 6:44 pm - October 1, 2010.
Filed under: Academia,Gay America

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.

The real punishment for the Clementi pranksters

Posted by B. Daniel Blatt at 12:30 pm - October 1, 2010.
Filed under: Academia,Gay America

Sonicfrog‘s comment to my post on the Tyler Clementi suicide merits a post of its own:

Concerning the suicide and aftermath? I think it’s a waste of time and money to press any hate crime charges against the two. Kids, especially those in college, do stupid things without thinking ahead to the possible consequences. There doesn’t seem to be any real malice involved. They, or more likely Rutgers, will get sued by the parents. But, more than that, these two are going to have to carry with them for the rest of their lives that their unthinking actions cause another human being to take his own life. That is a pain that to me would be unbearable. That is a pain for which there is no relief.

Those who recorded him did indeed do stupid things.  But, did they intend to hurt?  Did they even know the harm they were caused?  Sometimes people cause pain without meaning it.  And Tyler Clementi’s pain was greater than any of us can fully imagine — at a particularly vulnerable time in his life.  It’s never easy being a college freshman, starting in a new environment, concerned about fitting in, finding your place.

These two may not have intended to hurt the young man, merely sought to share in the sport of mockery, as if they were watching an actor portraying a human being rather than a human being himself.  That said, as Sonic notes, they are going to have to live with his suicide on their consciences for their entire life.  I believe it was Dostoyevsky who wrote about the real punishment they’re about to endure.

What really makes me wince is the amount of sympathy generated for the young man after his death.  If only he had known how much good will there is out there for individuals in his situation, in a situation many of us once found ourselves.

Another strange obsession

Posted by B. Daniel Blatt at 12:18 pm - October 1, 2010.
Filed under: Academia,Gay America

We always wonder about those who spend so much time on our blog while telling us just how clueless and self-hating we are.  If they don’t like what we have to say and believe we have profound self-esteem issues, then why not leave well enough alone?

Which brings me to Michigan Assistant Attorney General Andrew Shirvell who has recently “taken a voluntary leave of absence after generating national attention over a controversial blog that ridicules and denounces the University of Michigan’s student body president.

You see that President Chris Armstrong is a, well, he’s a homosexual. Yes, friends, he prefers to express his sexual and emotional intimacy with members of his own sex. Horrors! And Shirvell, an alumnus of that Big Ten school, will have none of it.

On his off-hours, for nearly six months, he has blogged about Armstrong, “using the online moniker ‘Concerned Michigan Alumnus.’

Among other things, Shirvell has published blog posts that accuse Armstrong of going back on a campaign promise he made to minority students; engaging in “flagrant sexual promiscuity” with another male member of the student government; sexually seducing and influencing “a previously conservative [male] student” so much so that the student, according to Shirvell, “morphed into a proponent of the radical homosexual agenda;” hosting a gay orgy in his dorm room in October 2009; and trying to recruit incoming first-year students “to join the homosexual ‘lifestyle.'”

My, my, my.  He does seem concerned.  More than concerned.  He really sounds obsessed.  Wonder why that is.

Shirvell would do well to leave well enough alone, lest people get suspicious about his real motives.

Wondering “how those two folks are going to sleep at night”

Posted by B. Daniel Blatt at 2:00 am - October 1, 2010.
Filed under: Academia,Gay America

There are few things more despicable than individuals who, for personal gain or sport or merely their own edification, would make public the private lives of others.  They take advantage of others for a laugh, or maybe a bet or for their own sense of self-righteousness, to show how much “better” than they are than others.

They don’t think about the human being whose private life they invade and exploit.

Rutgers University freshman Tyler Clementi “leaped to his death after his roommate allegedly secretly filmed him during a ‘sexual encounter’ with a man and posted it live on the Internet.”  Why would this one young man want to make public the private life of his roommate?  Did he think people would like him more if he streamed live footage of a young gay man’s private sexual activities on the web?

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie gets it

As the father of a 17-year-old…I can’t imagine what those parents are feeling today, I can’t. You send your son to school to get an education with great hopes and aspirations, and I can’t imagine what those parents are feeling today. . . .  There might be some people who can take that type of treatment and deal with it, and there might be others, as this young man obviously was, who was much more greatly affected by it. . . .  I have to tell you, I don’t know how those two folks are going to sleep at night, knowing that they contributed to driving that young man to that alternative.

Exactly.  Exactly.

These two probably just thought they were pulling a prank, but they didn’t consider consider the feelings of Clementi.  He was so young and while ready to act out his feeling for men, not yet ready to have his sexuality made public.  It takes time to deal with the public ramifications of our difference.  Not just that, even when we are comfortable with our sexuality, our private life is just that, private life.  Many of us, not just a 18-year-old just coming to terms with his difference, would be embarrassed if strangers, friends even, witnessed our sexual activity.  It is the most private, the most personal of things. (more…)