It pained me to watch Jane Clementi talk on June 7th about her life since the death of her gay suicidal son. “I’m not even near healed,” stated Jane Clementi, New Jersey resident, and mother of Tyler Clementi, who in 2010 jumped off the George Washington Bridge. As Jane, sitting besides her husband Joseph on CBS Morning, told interviewer Erin Moriarity, “the journey has been as if I’ve been in a fog, a really, really deep fog. It only started lifting last year.”
Tyler confided in his mother that he was gay before he went off to Rutgers University as a Freshman in 2010(his older brother is gay and is active in the Tyler Clementi Foundation now). His mother expressed fear for Tyler. She thought “the talk” went well; Tyler didn’t. However, this was not the only motive for his suicide.
A Master violinist, Tyler had arranged a rendezvous with a man he contacted on the Internet. Tyler’s roommate Dharun Ravi recorded the meeting and with a friend and live-streamed the intimate encounter. Tyler became the laughing stock of his college. Humiliated, ashamed, he killed himself. Ravi was sentenced to 30 days in jail for invasion of privacy, among other offenses, but was released after 20 days. The case is being appealed.
“My Life Was Shattered Into A Million Pieces”
After his suicide, Tyler’s parents’ life seemed like a sentence. Heartbroken, they formed in 2010, the Tyler Clementi Foundation whose mission is described as promoting “safe and inclusive spaces for LGBT and vulnerable youth and families.”
Now five years later, the Clementis are trying to stop bullying in its tracks before it escalates. The rationale is the same as it was earlier this year when Jane Clementi commented on the suicide of a young female student who identified as transgender, named Leelah Acorn who took her own life (Leelah’s parents wanted her to partake of “conversion therapy.) For this reason, “we, as a culture,” commented Tyler’s mother after transgender daughter Leelah Acorn, committed suicide (after her family tried to enroll her in “conversion therapy,) “must teach the lesson each day that all life has value and purpose, especially the lives of all, young people, regardless of who they are – “that’s an irrevocable value. The only way to make a difference in this world- is to truly change hearts and minds is through celebrating and accepting every life. Nobody knows better than my family that ending life can’t create change”.
After Tyler took his life, the Clementi’s mission has been to ensure that no family endures the pain that Tyler and Leelah endured and that we are sure that the Alcorns are experiencing. It’s only by building a world where every life is sacred that we move forward.”
Rolling Out Day 1
This week, the initiative Day 1 , introduced on CBS Morning on June 7th to the public, will serve to get authorities in workplaces, schools, universities, and athletic programs to immediately demand tolerance for everyone regardless of sexual orientation, appearance, dress or religion. During orientation in schools, universities, workplaces, athletic programs and other group environments, the audience will have to give a verbal confirmation that they understand the consequences. Day 1 states that some forms of “socially acceptable teasing or cruelty are unaccepted.”
Says Sean Kosofsky, Executive Director, The Clementi Foundation, there will be consequences for” treating people differently for who they love, how they dress or what their body looks like.” Senators Corey Booker and Patty Murray as well as the Human Rights Campaign and GLAAD have all supported Day 1.
Rather than being just a bystander, Day 1 is encouraging the public to be so-called “upstanders,” who actively intervene in or report bullying or harassment when they witness it.
It is estimated that 3.2 million students identify as a victims of bullying each year. Day 1 is trying to make sure that no victim is ever tormented like Tyler.
When Your Child Is Gay: What You Need To Know
For more detailed advice, see book, co-authored with a mother of a gay son and a psychiatrist, Jonathan L. Tobkes, M.D.