Last year when 18-year-old Tyler Clementi, a freshman at Rutgers University, committed suicide by jumping off New York City’s George Washington Bridge, the question left was: Why? Just days before his death, his college roommate secretly recorded Tyler’s encounter with another man–an extreme violation of privacy that was later streamed over the Internet. All of that drew huge headlines about the devastating effects of bullying gay teens. But in the first interview with his parents this morning on the Today show, his mother talks about another regret surrounding her son’s suicide–her reaction when he revealed he was gay.
Jane Clementi, Tyler’s mom, said that his death is still very difficult:
It’s almost like a physical pain. It’s like a tightening of the chest. It’s aching of the muscles and the tightening of your face and your jaw and you’re clenching, and it just physically hurts.
While Tyler’s roommate, 19-year-old Dharun Ravi, awaits trial in February where he faces 15 criminal counts, including invasion of privacy and bias intimidation, which could carry a 10-year prison sentence, his parents are still trying to put the pieces together. Days before he left for college that fall, Tyler revealed to his parents that he was gay, and then Tyler later tweeted to a friend “mom has basically completely rejected me”. Then one night Ravi sent a Twitter message to a classmate saying, “Roommate asked for the room until midnight. I went into Molly’s room and turned on my webcam. I saw him making out with a dude. Yay.” Three days later, Tyler wrote on Facebook, “Jumping off the gw bridge sorry”.
When asked how she felt after her son came out to her, Jane Clementi said:
I was very shocked. I felt like he had kick me in the stomach. I was very surprised. And I had no clue.
His mom also admitted that Tyler picked up on her shock, leading him to believe that she “rejected” him.
I had never intended him to feel that way. I think in the tweet he had said that I had rejected him and that was never even a possibility that I would ever be able to have my life without him.
All of this is just sad. Whether Tyler’s roommate or his mother’s reaction contributed to his decision to commit suicide, we’ll never know. But it is hard to believe that there are still people today who are shocked by the fact that someone is gay. One study says there are over 9 million Americans who are gay, lesbian or bisexual. With numbers like that, it’s not like being gay is such a rarity. And yet, there are those who still can’t accept this.
Even though some people’s morals and religions may not condone homosexuality, refusal to accept it can lead to bullying and rejection. And because gay youth are seven times more likely to commit suicide than heterosexuals, if people don’t just get over the fact that yes, some people are gay (and so what?), tragic deaths like Tyler’s will, unfortunately, continue.