Tyler Clementi: It’s not bullying, it’s bigotry.

12 Oct 2010 10:31 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

This week, one of my closest friends from home, who attends a large, prestigious university, informed me that his mother begged and pleaded with him to remove his “interest” in men on Facebook after hearing the news of Tyler Clementi’s suicide. She did this not because she is ashamed of his sexual orientation, but because she is afraid for his life. This is the unfortunate truth. Many gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered individuals live in fear and shame because society still treats them as second-class citizens, deprived of basic human rights. How can we ask today’s youth not to bully individuals over their sexual orientation while simultaneously passing laws that strengthen bigotry against the LGBT community? This is the underlying issue surrounding the death of Tyler Clementi, the Rutgers University freshman who jumped to his death last month after discovering that his roommate secretly webcast footage of him having sex with another man. His tragic and horrifying death has struck a chord with the public, leaving people at a loss for answers.

Since the discovery of the footage, there has been wide coverage of the story in the news and media, and I admit that I became slightly enraged with the reporting. For example, news anchor Diane Sawyer began ABC’s news segment on Clementi’s suicide by attacking the “callousness” of kids today and the “destructive behavior” of cyber-bullying through Facebook and Twitter. I anxiously waited for the segment to discuss the underlying issue: why Clementi felt so much shame, and why his roommate felt he could breach Tyler’s privacy and openly mock and exploit him— but nothing was reported. We need to understand that this is more than cyber-harassment. This kind of bullying stems from homophobic bigotry manifested throughout mainstream society. First, where is the mainstream media—CNN, NBC and ABC (I won’t even bother to ask where FOX is) in unveiling the epidemic of suicides among gay adolescents? These news sources publicize the referendum results, the congressional decisions and the court verdicts that repeatedly reject equal rights for LGBT Americans. According to a 2007 Massachusetts youth risk survey, gay adolescents are four times more likely to commit suicide than straight adolescents. Where is CNN, ABC, and CBS when it comes to reporting about these victims?

Within the past couple of years, our generation has witnessed human rights withheld, even taken away—such as Proposition 8 in California which repealed the right of same-sex couples to marry. However, California isn’t the only state that voted against equal rights for the LGBT community. States all across the country have held referendums where the majority of the public voted against permitting gay and lesbian couples their equal right to marry, sadly including my own “blue” state of New Jersey. Despite compelling arguments, it didn’t make a difference. The majority of the public and state lawmakers voted for the LGBT community to be recognized as second-class citizens under the law. Governor Chris Christie recently stated in the aftermath of Tyler Clementi’s suicide, “As the father of a 17-year-old…I can’t imagine what those parents are feeling today, I can’t” This is the same governor whose political platform openly opposes legalizing gay marriage in New Jersey. This is not to say that Governor Christie does not empathize with the Clementi family, but having a political agenda against civil rights for LGBT Americans only furthers this bigotry and hate throughout New Jersey. I ask you, what message does this send to the LGBT youth of this country if they are not granted equal rights from their government?

The movement against LGBT rights’ expands even beyond the state level. Recently, Congress turned down the opportunity to finally repeal the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell Act originally created in the 1993. DADT literally restricts United States gay and lesbian soldiers from disclosing their sexual orientation. Meanwhile, these are the same soldiers that go wherever they are needed. For a country that denies them their basic human rights to be who they are and to love whoever they choose without fear of endangerment. This law declares that it is illegal to serve as a soldier in the U.S. Armed Forces if one is openly gay.

One cannot do any more damage to a human being than take away their basic human rights. Think about the loss of Tyler Clementi and the thousands of other lives caught in this cyclical torture of homophobic bullying. Bigotry is costing lives.

Resources such as The Trevor Project and Matthew’s Place are incredible tools for suicide prevention, and I urge everyone to make suicide prevention a top priority in the aftermath of this tragedy. However, the homophobic bullying and harassment will continue until laws and society’s treatment of the LGBT community change. Our generation needs to take a stand and fight for equal and just laws. This is our time to rid the shame and rid the fear. We cannot stand idly by any longer.

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