The vast expanse of the English language conveys a semblance of the utter grief, tragedy and hell five childrens’ parents are going through right now.
Tyler Clementi was a young man just like any of us here at Drake University. He was a living young man, that is, until he took his own life last week off the George Washington Bridge into the depths of the Hudson River.
Two nights before jumping to his own end, his roommate at Rutgers University, N.J., decided to live-stream Tyler’s ventures with another man in their dorm room for all to see.
Posting on Twitter, “roommate asked for the room till midnight. I went into molly’s room and turned on my webcam. I saw him making out with a dude. Yay,” his roommate suggested that others watch Clementi’s private encounter.
Tyler Clementi and I were not friends, nor did I know his name before last week. We probably never lived in the same state or the same zip code.
Nor did I know the beautiful, young Seth Walsh, a 13-year-old from California who took his own life this past Tuesday to escape the bullies. I was never blessed to meet 13-year-old Asher Brown of Houston who shot himself in the head two Thursdays ago.
Justin Aaberg a 15-year-old of Anoka, Minn., never told his parents he was gay. They found out only after he hanged himself this past July.
After being taunted with the hideous epithet of “faggot,” Billy Lucas, a 15-year-old from Indiana, couldn’t find the pain of this life worth bearing and acted on it Sept. 9.
Five young lives. Five young lives that should have grown old.
Five families that never get to see their children bud into the beautiful people they surely would have been.
I shouldn’t be able to have five tabs open in my web browser sharing the title “gay teen suicide.” But I do. All five are from this year, and four of them are from the past month.
In memorializing Matthew Shepard two days after his murder, James Darsey prefaced his memorial by saying, “A human life should never be reduced to mere symbol, but there are times when the life is stolen, and we must salvage what we can.”
Between Matthew and these five who were tormented so extensively that death became a better reality than life, we are up to six. If I could stomach another sobbing mother’s story of what she would do differently, I could easily open up more painful tabs in my web browser.
I could take up Drake’s entire bandwidth finding stories of those innocent youth around the world who have been persecuted day in and day out on the basis of their sexual orientation.
So let us, strangers to all six, salvage what we can and prevent this epidemic of tragic proportions from taking place at Drake.
I’ve never understood Coming Out Week, even after coming out myself.
But now I do.
When someone’s life, that person’s existence, is a political statement, how does he or she find genuine social acceptance?
When holding hands with the person you love causes others to ridicule, taunt or stare, how can one truly find peace?
When the highest aspiration you hope to reach from others is being tolerated as one tolerates a cockroach, how can you actually hope to earn others’ respect?
Drake University recently posted a video on it’s facebook page titled, “It Gets Better.” The video was two gay men speaking to potentially suicidal younger gay people. One alumni commented, complaining that their alma mater shouldn’t post “icky” videos on its page.
Really? If they find two gay men preventing suicide “icky,” their conception of good taste is more screwy than my dog who eats my cat’s crap for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Those nasty, derogatory words we throw around are the words and taunts that keep the closet doors closed for too many Americans.
Those are the ignorant, vicious vehicles of bullying that imply someone’s sexual orientation deserves punishment.
I wanted to write this week about Distinctly Drake and all of the amazing experiences we have had these past weeks with world and community leaders.
I would have preferred to write on that, too. It’s comfortable.
My parents may have preferred me to write on another topic, but they’re surely glad I am at least here to write.
For anyone out there in a position of distress, I have two messages:
1) I’ve been there. It gets better.
2) There are plenty of resources available to help you. Sticking it out, even when it seems like you can’t, is worth it. Googling “Trevor Project” is just one avenue that can help you.
Let’s, as a campus community, change our behavior.
Let’s do it for Tyler, Matthew, Seth, Asher, Justin and Billy. Let’s do it for ourselves, for our community and for the world we want to live in.