Suicide. An act of despair. An act of hopelessness.
On September 22, Tyler Clementi, an 18-year-old Rutgers freshman, jumped off the George Washington Bridge just days after Clementi’s roommate and his roommate’s friend streamed live video of Clementi having a sexual encounter with another man.
I did not know Tyler Clementi personally, nor do I know anything about his life except for what the media has written. But what I do know is that suicide is an act of desperation. An act that screams, “Life is not worth living.” And as a mom, I am deeply saddened. As a mom, I know Tyler Clementi was more than just a “gay” student at Rutgers. Right now, there is a mom in Ridgewood, NJ who has lost her son. Tyler Clementi was someone’s child. He was a grandchild. A nephew. A friend. A neighbor.
Statistics reveal that 1 out of every 10, or possibly 1 out of every 20, humans is gay (a gay male or lesbian). Research also reveals that lesbian, gay, bi-sexual or transgender (LGBT) teens are 4 times more likely to attempt suicide compared to heterosexual youth. Alarmingly, nationwide in the past month, there having been 4 suicides involving gay teens. As parents, I believe it is imperative that we truly grasp the scope of this information.
I am fortunate to live on a street with over 30 children, including my own. With the above statistics in mind, we need to realize that at least 1 (with the possibility of 3) of these adorable munchkins, who are truly gifts from God, will grow-up to be a gay adult. Right now, while they are young and virtually innocent, I assume many of us are not thinking about our children’s sexual orientation. Lest we not forget, though, just a short time ago Tyler Clementi was also a tween… a grade-schooler… a pre-schooler… a toddler… a baby. Time goes by so quickly.
In light of his suicide, I believe we as parents need to accept the possibility that our son or daughter may grow up being attracted to the same sex. And with this possibility also comes the possibility that our child may feel suicidal, socially isolated, depressed, alone and/or unaccepted. I believe that Tyler Clementi’s suicide must motivate us to question how we can better foster in our children an inherent love of one’s self, whether gay or straight… a love that doesn’t allow for the possibility of suicide. I lived through the suicide of one of my closest friends. Looking back, I wish I would have done more. Listened more. Understood more. Loved more. I wish she could have seen the possibility of a different future… one filled with hope and laughter, not tears and despair.
As moms and dads we must do our best to lift-up our children, whether our own or our neighbor’s, in order for our children to be able to find the hope even amongst possible humiliation or bullying.
We must also teach our children to reach out for help when feeling down or alone, depressed or isolated. Before it is too late. We must listen closely.
Further, we must teach our children it is not acceptable to invade someone’s privacy.
Ultimately, can we teach our children that each human being is deserving of dignity, compassion and respect?
Can we change societal discrimination and hatred, one child at a time?
Tyler Clementi’s death leaves us with many unanswered questions. All we know for certain is that Tyler felt it necessary to take his own life. May his soul rest in peace. May we live in peace.
This is an original post for Jersey Moms Blog. Brenda’s send many prayers to the family of Tyler Clementi. Brenda openly loves and accepts her gay friends and family members, including a sibling and multiple cousins.
Photo credit given to NYDaliyNews.