Saturday, October 2, 2010


I have been more than a little bit disturbed by one of the lead stories on the news this week.  By now, I am sure that most of you have heard of it. Tyler Clementi.  The college freshman that jumped off a bridge and ended his life.  The video taken by his roommate that pushed him to do it.

There are so many things wrong here that I don't even know where to start.

I don't know what is worse:  that Tyler felt so violated that he needed to end his life, that these teenagers were so callous and cruel that they would even think about putting a video like that online in the first place, or that there are actually people defending their actions.

Tyler was gay.  The video at issue is one taken covertly by his roommate of an encounter between Tyler and another man.  That video that was instantly put online, tweeted about and shared amongst god only knows how many people. 

When I was in college, we lived in a different time.  The internet wasn't what it is today, it was in it's relative infancy.  I knew so many people that finally felt comfortable with who they were for the first time in college and were able to come out.  College, to them, was a new chance.  They had time to learn how to develop and maintain relationships, how to experience intimacy before being thrust into the "real" world.  The things that straight kids learned how to do in high school or before.  It was a safer environment back then, away from the judging that comes from people who've known you your entire life. 

College is anything but safe for gay teens anymore.  In fact, it is quite the opposite because of things like this.  Cell phones, video feeds, twitter, youtube...all weapons against them. 

This kind of situation is why I am so hesitant as a parent to grant my children access to these technologies before they are capable of self-censorship.  They need to figure out how much pictures and videos and tweets and texts can hurt, not just themselves, but other people.  The kids who taped the encounters here knew what they were doing.  They knew they were invading his privacy.  They knew they were violating it even more by posting it online.  They invited friends to watch the videos.  They tweeted about it. 

Tyler knew about the video obviously, but apparently so did a lot of other people.  He tried to get help about it, but they did it again.  And this highly intelligent, musically talented young man felt that he had no other choice but to end his life.  The humiliation was too much.

Would these videos have been taken if Tyler was with a girl?  Probably not.  Would they have been as widely watched if it was a girl?  Most certainly not.  Would the humiliation of being outed publicly in this most embarrassing way have happened if these videos didn't exist?  No. 

I would make the argument that what these two students did to Tyler was a hate crime, because it would have not happened if he was straight.  It's not just an invasion of privacy.   It was done with a malice and lack of empathy that tells me they just didn't care about him or what this did to him.  And they did it more than once, which tells me that this wasn't a mere lapse in judgment.   It was intentional, and done for the sole purpose of outing and humiliating Tyler.  And, that, my friends makes it a hate crime.

Did they know that Tyler would end his life because of what they did?  No, they probably didn't.  I don't think that they can be charged with his death.  But we have to ask ourselves how far we are willing to let others push someone to the edge.  They didn't have a hand directly in his death, but they were definitely the key contributing factor.

I'm sickened by the people who come to their defense.  Even more sickened by the people apathetic about this case.  Those who have no qualms airing their anti-gay sentiments.  Who say terrible things like he deserved to die because he was gay. 

Yes, there are people who believe that.

In my eyes, Tyler is the Matthew Shepard of the viral video generation.  They didn't tie him to that fence, they didn't push him off that bridge, but only because they didn't have to.  They aren't directly responsible for his death, but only because they didn't need to be.  The internet was there to help.  An accomplice.

This morning, I beg all the parents out there to teach their children sympathy, empathy, kindness.  To teach them about repercussions and consequences.  To use reason and common sense before posting anything and sharing it with the world.  To teach them to walk a mile in the other man's shoes before judging him.  To do unto others as they would have done unto them. 

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