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On Tyler Clementi & the Importance of Mentors

Perhaps I’m wrong and it wouldn’t have made a difference if Tyler Clementi had had an older gay friend or mentor to whom he could turn in his moment of mental anguish.

To be sure, it’s not just this story that makes me think of mentoring.  The issue of mentoring has been much on my mind since I first started wrestling with my sexuality.  The first gay “role model” I had was perhaps one of the most negative influences on my life and on my family as well.  And I always wondered if my coming out would have been any smoother had I met an older gay man capable of showing any compassion for my particular situation.

It is perhaps due in large part to his (negative) influence that I was so drawn to the goddess Athene when I read, re-read and listened to the Odyssey in the years after college and in the course of my graduate studies in Mythology.  Her gentle guidance stood in stark contrast to his arrogant indifference.  She both helps the hero’s son Telemachus find his first (male) friend — and facilitates his reconciliation with his own father.  It’s as if Homer knew that we human beings need divine guidance to navigate the treacherous waters when we first leave home and find our way in the world.

This story has stirred up so much with so many of us, in large part because we see ourselves in this young man, recalling the awkwardness of our freshman year in college, our first year away from home, when our aspirations often (unbeknownst to us at the time) conflicted with one another, finding our way in the world while seeking to belong in a new (and often) foreign environment.

Perhaps, the mentor issue comes to my mind because of my own experiences.  And other things surely must come to mind to other individuals, gay and straight alike.

The bottom question we need to ask is what can we do to make that journey less treacherous for young men and young women who differ from the social norm.  Perhaps, more personal mentoring might help.  With Telemachus at least, the Greeks thought a young man in difficult circumstances needed Olympian accompaniment until he found his way in the world.

So for now, let us consider what we can do to make that transition a little easier for young gay men and women first setting off into the world.



  1. Personally, I don’t think it matters, “normal” or otherwise, far too many of today’s children are just not equipped to deal with adversity, conflict, or failure when the necessary coping skills are deliberately withheld from them through schools’ (and those infamous helicopter parents) practicing “deferred success,” handing out trophies to everyone, and even “punishing” those who do win. Real life doesn’t work that way and these kids are clueless – yet instead of teaching them mechanisms for dealing with the ups and downs and the sometimes really ugly parts of what they will experience beyond the walls of the institutions of primary education, they are essentially stripped naked and thrown to the wolves.

    I’m not even 40, and it wasn’t anything like this when I was a kid. If we didn’t study for a test, we got F’s, and some kids were actually held back a grade. We didn’t have 10th place ribbons and trophies. If we got lippy to a teacher or parent, we got the paddle on the backside. I was taught about things like a solid work ethic, personal responsibility, and accountability. My teens, otoh, saw a very different set of standards in the very same public schools I attended, and those my little ones witness today are even worse. Sadly, not every kid out there is lucky enough to have parents willing (or able) to instill the “old” values in them, as I do, and another generation is being churned out without the skills necessary to deal with LIFE.

    Comment by Angie — October 4, 2010 @ 11:45 am - October 4, 2010

  2. The world is a different place and your comments have nothing to do with Clementi.

    I would like to ask however, how come this site ignores the other 8 deaths? 8 children bullied to death.

    Comment by Dooms — October 4, 2010 @ 1:20 pm - October 4, 2010

  3. Dooms…. How come you picked such a depressing nickname???

    Seriously. We’re talking about this one because it’s the one that is most compelling story-wise, and the one that is making news. I aware of two others, but not the other five. It’s the GP’s prerogative to blog on whatever they wish. I’m also a blogger, and you have to realize that we can write about everything that happens in the world. Besides, this one incident is shining a light on the whole issue of the statistical high rate of young gays who commit suicide. If you want to talk about the others, why don’t you start your own blog and talk about the others.

    Comment by Sonicfrog — October 4, 2010 @ 2:07 pm - October 4, 2010

  4. I understand that sonic, I am just bothered at Gay patriots continued lack of interests or support of issues that effect gays and gay youth.

    They never discuss the connection between religion and suicide amongst gay youth, or the hate spewed from the pulpits and people in power. I am not trying to troll, I wish to truly understand the disconnect on some of these VERY troubling issues.

    Comment by Dooms — October 4, 2010 @ 2:53 pm - October 4, 2010

  5. Long story short, I just never fully understood why so many gay conservatives acknowledge many of the issues facing gays.

    And my name is a shortened version of the name I use online.

    Comment by Dooms — October 4, 2010 @ 2:54 pm - October 4, 2010

  6. Dooms, you may not be trying to “troll,” but that is exactly what you are doing. Instead of projecting your prejudices against gay conservatives onto us, why not simply take our words at face value and argue our points or address our insights?

    Perhaps, we don’t see the same connection between religion and suicide as you see or fault the supposed hate spewed by people in power. We also see hatred coming from your side, with the nastiness of left-leaning gays on display in public statements of gay leaders and on some left-of-center blogs.

    As my posts on Clementi should indicate, I believe the problem of teen suicide relates to the anxieties of youth and the difficulties of being different and the absence of supportive role models.

    And because we differ from the norm, suicides among our younger peers are higher than they are among straight people. It’s not, I contend, a problem of hate-spewing ministers, but the sense of isolation among gay teens.

    I believe we need focus on the suffering teens, provide a supportive environment for them instead of blaming the traditional targets of the gay left.

    Finally, you will never understand gay conservatives as long as you hold onto your prejudices against us. Try to understand what we are saying rather than assume we are carrying water for social conservatives.

    Comment by B. Daniel Blatt — October 4, 2010 @ 3:10 pm - October 4, 2010

  7. Mentors are important, but this is just more speculation about Tyler. People commit suicide for various reasons; worse, they usually give no real clear signals about suicide until it’s too late to save them. Suicide is personal.

    I believe Tyler committed suicide because he was a freshman at a 4 year college who had not adjusted to being away from home.

    Comment by Sebastian Shaw — October 4, 2010 @ 3:32 pm - October 4, 2010

  8. That was exactly the comment I was expecting, but I had hoped that I would get something different in response. Tell me, do you currently or have you ever studied sociology and the human mind? If not, you may not be aware of the effect that churches and people and power have when they claim gay’s shouldn’t be teacher, gays are disgusting, gays are pedophiles, gays are evil, gays are undeserving of love and respect, gays will destroy the nation, gays are an abomination, and the list goes on.

    Perhaps it is you who should take me and the countless others who see the connection that is as clear as day.

    Watch this clip and tell me I am wrong, I await your response.

    Comment by Dooms — October 4, 2010 @ 3:32 pm - October 4, 2010

  9. Mr Shaw, what about the other 8 teenagers? Do you have clever excuses for them as well?

    Comment by Dooms — October 4, 2010 @ 3:34 pm - October 4, 2010

  10. As a writer for LGBT Christians, and someone who has had a lot of contact with gay young people thrown out of their churches/families because of religious issues, I can say there certainly IS a connection between religion and teen suicide.

    That having been said, the connection is probably not being intelligently explored by people who simply say “Duh…religion bad!” Not all churches, by any means, any longer condemn gays. I have never had any trouble finding welcoming congregations, and I’ve been out for 14 years.

    Nor is it true, anymore, that all welcoming churches are liberal. Many of the smaller independent ones are quire theologically conservative. The general perceptions of those not involved with LGBT Christians or their issues are spectacularly ignorant about what actually goes on.

    We come from all different parts of the country, types of background, types of family. We can no more be neatly stereotyped with regard to our religious beliefs than we can concerning our politics.

    Witness all the trolls who come to this blog insisting that they can’t believe their lying eyes and that we must not really exist.

    Adults have no excuse for being ignorant. Kids are ignorant because they’ve had very little experience yet with the world. Maybe mentors would be helpful for students like Tyler Clementi because they could help them see that the tiny amount of experience they have had with the world is nowhere near all there is to it. Mentors can also help to steer kids away from bad and destructive aspects of the world and toward things that are more positive.

    Comment by Lori Heine — October 4, 2010 @ 4:15 pm - October 4, 2010

  11. No one is saying religion is evil, I’m saying people who use religion as a way to justify their hate are evil. It seems as if you guys are taking my words and twisting them to fit your own confusing hatred of the “gay left”

    Providing a safe environment for these teens is a good idea and should be done, but we need to recognize and identify where the problem is and where it comes from, we then need to address said problem. You aren’t going to be able to provide a safe environment for these kids without addressing the issue of those spewing hate.

    Isolation is only a symptom, the main problem is these teens being made to feel as if they are disgusting mistakes and that no one will ever love them.

    I will be providing you with more links and websites, I urge you to truly read and objectively asses the information they provide.

    Comment by Dooms — October 4, 2010 @ 5:25 pm - October 4, 2010

  12. Dooms, exactly the comment you expected? Hardly. If it was, you would have been prepared with a response to what I said, instead of directing me to some video.

    I take this issue very seriously, but have reached a different conclusion than you have. You may not agree with me, but for someone who has been spending a lot of time on this blog lately, you show a remarkable indifference the things we actually say here.

    Comment by B. Daniel Blatt — October 4, 2010 @ 6:25 pm - October 4, 2010

  13. I assume Dooms ‘8 kids bullied to death’ include cases like this or this or this?

    After all, if it is so important that Dooms takes the time to keep count, I’m sure that he’s talking about any instance of bullying. After all I’m sure while he’s trying (ineffectually) to take us to task for being ‘typical’ conservatives, he’s clearly not being a typical liberal and only talking about ‘his group’.

    Comment by The_Livewire — October 4, 2010 @ 7:52 pm - October 4, 2010

  14. Oh hey look you found a few stories that are about gay teen suicides that aren’t gay!

    I think you are forgetting that at no point did I ever say that it did NOT happen. What I am arguing is that gay teens are in a unique position of added stress, negativity, and in many cases violence.

    Find me a story about those kids kicked out of their house because they are pretty. How about teens forced to sell themselves for cash because their parents kicked them out?

    As for Blatt, you are ignoring everything I am saying. Either you know I’m right or I am arguing over your head.

    Comment by Dooms — October 4, 2010 @ 11:19 pm - October 4, 2010

  15. Dooms, you make an assumption that the pretty folk have it great for all their lives.

    Some don’t.

    There was a guy in my high school named Robert. He had it all. He was a really good football player. Got good grades. Had a handsome face, a great body (no I never got to go there). Always had a great tan. Of course he had no problem getting laid….

    It seems that as he grew older, all the suntanning took a toll on his looks. Having it easy in HS and after… for a while… he never bothered to really develop developed a career. I ran into him at the local college dance club about fourteen years ago, and lets just say he was not nearly the nugget he once was. I found out this spring he committed suicides nine years ago. He left behind an ex-wife and a couple of kids.

    The point I’m making is that, yes, young gays as a rule have it harder when we are younger, but that early struggle might make use stronger and / or more adept at handling life as we get older. Will pretty people always have a bit of a leg up? Probably… But screw it! I’m not going to waste my time fretting that someone else had or has it easier than I did. Maybe, in the long run, we might even end up with an advantage… What doesn’t kill us….

    Comment by Sonicfrog — October 5, 2010 @ 1:26 am - October 5, 2010

  16. Um, Dooms, how polite we are? Please specify which arguments of yours I have ignored.

    And since we’re dealing with people spewing hate, I trust you’ll take to task all those gay activists calling us self-hating or otherwise mocking, deriding or insulting gay conservatives, indeed all conservatives for that matter.

    Comment by B. Daniel Blatt — October 5, 2010 @ 4:05 am - October 5, 2010

  17. One more thing, Dooms, there is a reason I’m not following your links and providing the answer you want from me.

    You come to my blog, immediately chime in with a snarky comment and refuse to address the point I made in the post to which you attach said comment.

    You came to my blog; I’m not going to yours. So, since you’ve decided to attach your comment to my post without addressing the issues raised therein, I will show you the same respect you show me. Actually, I’ve shown you more respect.

    I expressed that we see the issue differently here. But, you’re not even considering my viewpoint. And you, let me repeat, come to this blog.

    So what then is your purpose in coming to a gay conservative blog? To learn what gay conservatives think or to deride them for not having the same viewpoint as gay leftists?

    Comment by B. Daniel Blatt — October 5, 2010 @ 4:30 am - October 5, 2010

  18. So for Dooms, it’s only important when the gay kids kill themselves. frak anyone else.

    Typical liberal troll.

    Comment by The_Livewire — October 5, 2010 @ 11:17 am - October 5, 2010

  19. No, its a problem when gay kids are being targeted by ADULTS and killing themselves or developing a drug/alcohol problem at an alarming rate.

    Comment by Dooms — October 5, 2010 @ 4:01 pm - October 5, 2010

  20. Are gay kids TARGETED by adults?????? If a preacher says the bible says being gay is a sin… which it does say… then that preacher is targeting gay kids?

    What do you really want… the rest of the world to stop being hateful and stop saying things that you (and sometimes I) disapprove of? Sorry, it’s not going to happen. We need to teach all kids, not just gay kids, how to cope and survive in an unfair, unkind world. That way you help everybody, not just the gay kids.

    Comment by Sonicfrog — October 5, 2010 @ 4:18 pm - October 5, 2010

  21. Wait so what you’re saying is that its perfectly ok for children to be mentally abused?

    Do ANY of you understand the damage this can do to a child?

    Comment by Dooms — October 5, 2010 @ 4:29 pm - October 5, 2010


    It gets better

    Comment by Dooms — October 5, 2010 @ 4:32 pm - October 5, 2010

  23. Wait so what you’re saying is that its perfectly ok for children to be mentally abused?

    Yes Dooms! That’s EXACTLY what I’m saying!!!!!!

    Comment by Sonicfrog — October 5, 2010 @ 6:18 pm - October 5, 2010

  24. Do ANY of you understand the damage this can do to a child?

    No! Because none of us were ever tormented when we were kids and in high school. We all had it easy!

    Comment by Sonicfrog — October 5, 2010 @ 6:25 pm - October 5, 2010

  25. Wedll since Dooms only cares about gay youth being ‘bullied to death’ apparently it’s ok with him to bully straight kids.

    Must figure the ‘breeders’ have it coming.

    Comment by The_Livewire — October 5, 2010 @ 6:30 pm - October 5, 2010

  26. Live… Apparently so.

    When I was doing my student teaching, there was one girl in my 3rd period class who was a stoner type chick. I want to say she’s not a stoner, but she certainly fit the stereotype of what a high school stoner would be (Dooms is going to have a field day with that one). One day I had to send another classmate to the office because he would not stop calling her a stoner. Three weeks later, he was at it again, and again, he went to the office. I know he had been in trouble for being mouthy in other classes and not respecting authority.

    Dooms, here’s the thing. There are always going to be kids who will, for whatever reason, pick on others who are weaker, who are geeks, who are maybe gay, who are short… blah, blah, blah. I don’t care how you try, you will almost never be able to change either their tendency to be so, nor will you be able to squash that behavior that is for whatever reason ingrained in some sorry individuals. I’m sure you’ve heard of the “Class Divided” experiment, where the elementary school teacher teacher separated her 3rd grade kids into a blue eyed group, and a brown eyed group. Each day she chose one of those groups to treat harshly, and show them what it was like to be picked on and discriminated against. You would think that those kids would all grow up to be tolerant? Some did absorb the lesson. But a few went on to become uncaring classic bullies, even though they had experienced having the shoe on the other foot earlier in their lives (I’ll try and find a link to the follow-up study when i get a chance). What you’re left with is trying to help those with targets on their backs to learn to deal with it. I’m not talking about learning to fight necessarily, as some, like myself when I was that age, will not feel they are worth fighting for; they themselves are so worthless to society, they are not worth defending anyway…

    Yes, I come at this topic from personal experience, which makes your comments, quite frankly, look really stupid. In case you’re interested, here is part of my backstory. I was not targeted as gay. I hid that well enough. But what I couldn’t hide was that I was very very short, among the smallest in my class, and I have a lazy eye, which is annoying to this day. I didn’t get harassed and picked on quite as much as some, but I got my fair share.

    Anyway, the world is not fair. There will always be stupid idiots who harass and exploit those who they deem weaker that themselves. Our best offense against this is to not only stop the bullies and bullying when we can, but to also help the targets of the bullies to become stronger and better equipped to deal with this. That is where the hard work lay.

    Comment by Sonicfrog — October 5, 2010 @ 7:16 pm - October 5, 2010

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