The Suicide of Tyler Clementi

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.

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    •'Brenda Milouchev says

      Thanks Cristie. Yes, this whole situation haunted me yesterday. That’s why I felt the need to write about it. Thanks for reading.

  1.'bonnie lynch says

    So well written Brenda, as well as from the heart. My first reaction was this was someone’s son, but you express my feelings so much better than I ever could. So sad.

    •'Brenda Milouchev says

      Yes, someone’s son. And I would want to prevent this from happening to anyone else’s son or daughter.

  2.'nikki says

    It’s hard enough to be “different,” but then to be made fun of and outcasted b/c of something you can’t control. It sickens me. I hope everyone reads your blog, especially those whose minds need to change.

  3.'Serena says

    Yes, very beautifully said…and so important. Thank you for bringing it to the attention of all JerseyMoms who may or may not have been affected by it in the news. Your story re-affected me, made me cry & most importantly, reminded me of my own little boys who will become young men someday – young men who quite possibly could be gay and I would love them and accept them just the same as I do today. Right now. My heart goes out to Tyler and his family….I couldn’t imagine ever knowing that level of hopelessness for myself, or my children. One child at a time….it IS possible. But it starts right here with us.

    •'Brenda Milouchev says

      Thank you so much for your beautifully written comment. I cannot imagine what Tyler’s mom (and dad) must be going through at this moment. It breaks my heart.

  4.'Charlie says

    I do not mean to take away the tragedy of this young man’s suicide. It should not have happened.

    But there are some other factors involved than his sexual attraction. (By the way, the best research shows that the percentage of those with same-sex attraction is about 2.5% of the general attraction, not 10% or 5%. The 10% figure came from the “research” of, now known to be fatally flawed in design, execution, and analysis.)

    Mr Clementi’s roommate was not prejudiced against those with same-sex attraction; it is known that he had several friends who identified as gay. Had Mr Clementi been attracted to women and had been filmed and then the films made public, he might (as a sensitive young man) also committed suicide. We do not, and can not, know.

    I believe that other factors were in play in this situation, most of which “set the scene” for the airing of the video. With the advent of “reality” TV, where most of the shows are highly sexualized, we have a populace that is used to seeing sexual situations among strangers as entertainment. (I daresay that the widespread availability and general acceptance, of pornography may have played an even greater part in making the filming of a sexual encounter seem to be acceptable). There also seems to be a huge component of You Tube devoted to publicly embarrassing events. In addition, because of the sexual revolution (I was in college in its early stages, so I know the changes that have happened), it is assumed that sexual activity before (and, under certain conditions, during) marriage is acceptable and good.

    Had not all these factors been in place, the liaison between Mr Clementi and his partner might not have taken place, and if it had, it would not have been filmed and exhibited.

    The general coarsening of American popular culture plays at least as great a part in Mr Clementi’s suicide as his sexual attraction.

    And as you note so eloquently, Brenda, so does the lack of a supportive community. Mr Clementi’s RA seems to have been asleep at the switch. His parents were certainly supportive, from what the media report, but many of those who knew him seem to have not noticed or reached out very much.

    It didn’t have to be this way.

    •'Brenda Milouchev says

      Thank you for your thoughtful comment. There is so much that influences people, we have no idea. Yes, it didn’t have to be this way.

  5.'jen says

    I too was very affected by this story and left feeling haunted by what seems like the dehumanization of our society, made so much easier by new media. Never before would it have been so simple for one person to humiliate another in such an immediate and global way (regardless of orientation, having a sexual encounter shared worldwide would be humiliating for many of us). There seems to be a lot we need to teach our children about how to treat each other like human beings, with respect and dignity, perhaps even with care. It’s so easy for one stupid moment shared in a public forum (i.e. the Internet), whether meant as a joke or as an intentional cruelty, to have a devastating impact on another person. It’s seems that lots of kids forget the Internet is even public… they’re sitting alone using it, and somehow it seems so anonymous. I personally, would love to see media health classes offered or required for kids. Sorry, rambling… this hit a nerve. Why can’t we just be kind to one another?

    •'Brenda Milouchev says

      I know, children need to be taught the ethics of media and technology. You make great points in your comment. Thanks for sharing.

  6.' says

    Very well put! Even though I agree with previous comments about the various influencing factors I believe that as parents to make the most difference – ultimately it comes down to teaching our kids respect. Respect the personal choices that people around you make just as you’d expect them to respect yours. Only then the bullying, teasing and intolerance for anything different will reduce!

  7.' says

    Very well-written, heartfelt piece, Brenda. Thank you for writing it. I have some gay friends, and I can only hope they never feel the hopeless despair Tyler must have felt to do what he did. It’s a tragic story, and as you so eloquently put it, all of us should do our best to prevent such a thing happening again.

    Like you, I send my deepest sympathies and condolences in prayer out to the Clementi family and friends of Tyler who must be suffering right now. Although it’s very little, hopefully they can take some comfort in the fact his tragic death has become such a national story that it may just do what you advocate; prevent such a thing happening to another mother’s son.

    Bravo for writing this!

  8.'Adam Dunko says

    I’m a 36 year old gay man who didn’t come out until after college. While I lost my mother when I was only 14, she was the type of mother who had the sense, and most of all love, to sit me and my brother down and tell us outright and specifically that it was ok by her if we were gay. I am so grateful to have had her as a mother. I can only imagine how great our adult relationship would have been!

  9.'Brenda Milouchev says

    Adam, what a great thing your mom did for you. She must have been wonderful! I plan to do the same for my children so they know they can always talk to me about anything. Thanks for sharing.

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