Saturday, October 2, 2010

Pam Spaulding on the Suicide of Tyler Clementi...

Simply put, an excellent post:

...Tyler Clementi's story may be high-profile because of the circumstances of the alleged bullying, but the fate of this young man is not a solitary incident. This parents' nightmare is repeated around the country as our society grapples with Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT) youth coming out at earlier ages -- and being visible from grade school to college.

While they may find acceptance by loving parents and be encouraged by a culture increasingly embracing their identity, these young people find that "being themselves" is not always well-received by an important slice of their world -- school administrators, children who bully, and even teachers who subscribe to the "toughen up" philosophy. This world has not caught up, even as anti-bullying policies are being passed across the country.

In the coverage of this incident, I have seen discussion about the legal angles of prosecution, the psychological impact of the alleged heinous violation of privacy, but not enough about the festering social ill that brought us here. Who creates the bully? Who is accountable?

These behaviors start young, and whether they're manifested in homophobia, as they seem to be in this case, or in teasing others because of their faith, clothing, race or weight, we need to ask: Where do the parents and other influential adults in these bullies' lives fit in?

It's cold, this learned anti-social attitude towards being different and it has a striking impact on university campuses. Campus Pride, a nonprofit organization that engages student leaders and campus organizations to create safer, more LGBT-friendly colleges and universities, reissued its national report of findings on harassment at campuses, in light of Tyler Clementi's suicide...


The circumstances behind Tyler's suicide are definitely unusual, probably unique: his roommate and another student (whom he considered a friend) not only secretly filmed Tyler having sex with another male, they live-streamed it over the Internet. Obviously, Tyler found about it, and... now he's dead.

He's not the first closeted person to be outed. But the way he was outed is probably why millions of people are paying attention to and talking about this incident, as opposed to their marked indifference toward the countless prior incidents where young gay people, and many older gay people as well, end up committing suicide as a result of being outed. No one wants to have any private sexual encounter filmed, much less broadcast on the Internet by some unsuspected third party.

I'd like to think that this tragedy will be the one that finally breaks the spell that the homophobia still lingering in those who were poisoned with it while they were still children remain under. I can't, and I don't, because African-Americans, Latinos, and Asians are still dealing with racism, and women are still dealing with sexism. I'm pretty sure that homophobia is here to stay.

But I don't hear about any African-Americans, Latinos, or Asian being driven to suicide due to constant abuse from bigots for being African-American, Latino, or Asian, and I don't hear about any women being driven to suicide due to constant abuse from misogynists for being women. This sort of bullshit only happens to gay people in this country.

And that's why few people outside the LGBT community seemed to care, until Tyler Clementi jumped off of that bridge. It isn't the homosexual aspect within the violation of his privacy that disturbs people, or drove him to kill himself; it's the this-could-happen-to-you aspect of it that's behind both. It's no more or less destructive due to one's sexual orientation. It seems to me more than a few non-gay people have recently tumbled to that idea now.

Here's to hoping the idea sticks...

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