I had intended to write about the outpouring of sympathy over the suicide of Tyler Clementi and the irony of how so many people who had never met the young man were reaching out to him in death, while he felt that he had no one to turn to during his last days. However, while researching this topic, I stumbled upon a letter to the editor of The Press of Atlantic City, and I think the author, whomever he is, sums it up very well.
Dear Tyler Clementi:
I am simply heartbroken that you lived a life of pain and harassment. I am thoroughly embarrassed that I sat back, comfortable in my life as a gay man, and thought that my generation paved the way for you. Paved it in yellow bricks and rainbows. Clearly, we did not. Clearly, there are vast stretches of this country that support bigotry and misinformation. Clearly, we failed you.
I failed you.
We in the gay community sit within our big-city confines, comfortable and content. We have agencies and laws and neighborhood watches and newspapers and blocks and blocks of gay-ness to give us comfort, support, safety.
We watched as television accepted gay characters in its sitcoms and dramas and on reality TV. We grew complacent thinking that finally it’s OK to be gay in America today. So many books, movies and shows have gay characters of one form or another now that it seemed like another place and time when the bigotry against us was the norm, and we had to hide ourselves in that deep dark closet. It seemed everyone came out all at once, and the world realized that yes indeed, we’re here, we’re queer and nobody really cares anymore.
And then … there was the report that a young gay teen in Indiana killed himself. And then another report of another gay teen who was harassed to the point of taking his own life. And then another. And now I learned of you, dear Tyler.
Just seeing the photograph of you playing the violin makes me cry uncontrollably.
To know that you had the ability to make such beautiful music, to take an instrument made of wood, ebony and gut and create a sound that can lift the human spirit, makes it all the more painful to know that you had such hurt and torment in your life. That your spirit was beaten down so badly that you felt there was no way out.
I was harassed as a kid. It was horrible. I thought the world hated me and wanted me dead. I suffered so completely, my spirit was wounded so bitterly that I never thought I would recover. But slowly, surely, as I grew older, I began to see the absurdness of my situation. I began to realize that what I was had no bearing on who I was. I learned that it’s idiotic to take criticism from those whose opinions mean nothing to me. I grew. I blossomed. I got over it.
But the misguided fools took away a part of you, Tyler, and displayed it for the world before you were ready. They took your secrets. They took your soul. They took your music. They took you from the world.
I promise you, Tyler, that I will not let your death go in vain. I promise you that I will reach out in any way I can to other beautiful young gay people out there who are scared, bullied, hated and tell them this: It. Gets. Better.