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I Failed Tyler Clementi

Those who have read this blog know that the biggest hurdle I had with being gay was coming out to myself. When you’re young and full of self doubt, facing the stigma and being an outcast to your family and friends is overwhelming. Through this blog I’ve tried to document what I went through, partially out of reflection and partially as a chance to share my experiences. I would like to think all gays have some version of my story: a personal narrative of an underdog who comes to understand himself and how he fits in the world. Tyler Clementi sadly will never be able to have that story, and that pains me greatly. When I first heard his story of his roommate who broadcast his gay sexual encounter on a webcam, it hit me for a reason I think all gays understand: if that had happened to me when I was young and before I had come to terms with myself, I could see myself doing the same thing.

During my life I’ve gotten to know many gay men, and I’m always fascinated by how they come to terms with themselves and where they fit in the world. Some had supportive families, and some didn’t, but almost always love triumphs over society. However, before you reach acceptance, we’re all in a deeply venerable state, where we feel we hold a secret we must protect from the world at all cost. This is something almost all gays can identify with as well, and it’s the center of much pain and suffering. Personally, for the longest time I felt my sexuality was my greatest weakness, but now it is the source of strength. I’ve had to come to terms with myself in ways so many will never understand, and it’s made me more confident and bold.

Although I no longer feel ashamed about who I am, I still don’t wear my sexuality on my sleeve. I have a number of reasons that I tell people:

  • Legally, sexuality is a protected category and isn’t to be discussed at work.
  • Living in Kansas, I’m never sure who might be offended by my sexuality.
  • I want to be judged for who I am, not what I am.

All these reasons are bullshit. The real reasons is simple: it’s just easier. I don’t want to have to be the token gay who teaches America that it’s okay to be gay, because goddamit, that’s too fucking hard. I didn’t sign up for that, it’s too much responsibility, and I don’t want it. Leave that to someone else; I have shit to do. What scares me is: what about those who are gay but haven’t accepted themselves yet, those who are looking for others like them in the world, those who need someone to help them through to the other side? By keeping my secret, by hiding my sexuality, aren’t I telling them that they should be ashamed as well? Are there people I know out there who I could help simply by being proud of who I am? I didn’t know Mr. Clementi, and I will never be able to say if he had had a role model none of this would have ever happened. However, all of us hiding in the closet did him a disservice by continuing the belief that he had anything to be ashamed of. Regardless of what the Christian right says, 18 year-olds have sex; in fact it may be what they think about more than anything else. What his roommates did was terrible and a violation of privacy, but our keeping up the belief that being gay is to be ashamed of is also to blame.

I’ll end with a call to action and some hope. I think Ellen DeGeneres’ heartfelt message is something that needs to be heard:

The Make It Better project is using a YouTube channel to post videos of gays telling teenagers that there is a light at the end and it’s worth making the journey.

1 comment to I Failed Tyler Clementi

  • What Dharun Ravi did was irresponsible and cruel. I hope he and Molly are both feeling the shame they should be. The school should expel them both and a permanent statement should go in their school record. Invasion of privacy is something that can’t be violated by anyone. Now they will have to live with their action for the rest of their worthless lives. RIP Tyler.

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