LGBT teen suicides: A call to action
From flash mobs inside New York’s Grand Central Terminal to vigils at Philadelphia’s Outfest, the general public remains acutely aware a talented musician and Rutgers University student ended his life when his privacy was stolen from him.
Tyler Clementi was a Rutgers student and an accomplished violinist. His tragic story, however, is painfully familiar: Dharun Ravi and Molly Wei allegedly violated Clementi’s very being when they decided to place a hidden camera in his dorm room, video tape him having sex and live stream it. I don’t think there is a person in America who doesn’t know Tyler Clementi’s name, but there have been at least six more deaths since he took his own life. And the rate just keeps going up.
These deaths are the tragedies we hear about, but there are many others whose stories are never told. Tyler’s death has made us aware that our privacy is no longer a right, and can be violated at anytime by people we know and trust. Privacy really has become a privilege.
Tyler Clementi didn’t feel he could do anything about his private life being put on display for the world to see, so he decided to end his life, but not before saying a very public good bye on Facebook. Tyler’s post read, "Jumping off the gw bridge sorry." Outfest attendees had strong reactions.
"I was repulsed when I heard about Tyler, I am horrified for him and his family," said hairstylist Diane. "I am also horrified for the parents of the other two students who have committed this horrible act. Being a Mother, it just chills me to the core."
Kris, an IT specialist, also spoke about the tragedy.
"Society has put such a negative spin on being gay, that just to be accused, whether you are or not, is enough to make a kid want to kill themselves," said Kris. "These kids are just trying to figure out who they are, it’s really so tragic that they would rather take their own lives."
"The bullying needs to stop," said massage therapist Doreen. "And I believe the responsibility and education needs to lie on the parents. It has to start at home! As far as Tyler is concerned, I do not care if he was gay, straight or whatever, it is a disgrace that he couldn’t feel safe or have privacy in he’s own space! These two should be held accountable for manslaughter. You never know how close to the edge someone is until you push them!"
The recent rash of suicides seems to have no end in sight. At the Tyler Clementi vigil at the William Way Center in Philadelphia, Equality Forum executive director Malcolm Lazin said these suicides are a call to action. And he urged LGBT people to become involved in their community.
Tyler’s suicide has been a vehicle to bring awareness to the general public at large. As one Rutgers student put it, though his death was tragic, he has not died in vein.
Recent suicide victims:
Tyler Clementi, 1992-2010
Justin Aaberg, 1995-2010
Cody Barker, 1993-2010
Asher Brown, 1997-2010
Chloe Lacey, 1991-2010
Billy Lucas, 1995-2010
Seth Walsh, 1997-2010
If you or someone you know is a victim of bullying, reach out to one of these organizations.
The Trevor Project
A 24-hour, national help-line for gay and questioning teens
866 4U TREVOR
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Suicide hotline for anyone in need, 24/7, free and confidential, nationwide network of crisis centers
KBHC Hope line
Suicide hotline for anyone in need, free and confidential, nationwide network of crisis centers
Befrienders Worldwide (International)
The Matthew Shepard Foundation
An online community and resource center for LGBTQ youth
Amplify Your Voice
An online community and resource center by and for LGBTQ youth
Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays
Pacer Center: The National Center for Bullying Prevention
Helping to promote awareness + teach effective ways to respond to bullying
STOMP Out Bullying
Focused on reducing bullying and cyber bullying
A site dedicated to increasing the awareness of bullying and to preventing, resolving and eliminating bullying in society
Sam Martino is a writer and news editor for Out in Jersey magazine.