On September 22nd America suffered a loss. It was not due to a terrorist attack or some natural phenomenon. America lost one of its most valuable resources; a young man attending Rutgers University with a bright future ahead of him named Tyler Clementi. Clementi jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge after he discovered his roommate filmed a sexual encounter he had with another man and posted it online.
Not only did we lose Clementi, but also eight other young adolescents who committed suicide in the month of September alone, due to homophobic bullying over their sexual orientation and gender expression. This string of deaths highlights the disproportionate number of suicides committed by LGBTQ youth. These deaths are an outrage and do not reflect well on our society and how it perceives LGBTQ individuals.
Young people are generally very sensitive to their sexual awakening. When that individual is a LGBTQ person, this compounds the trauma of that awakening in that a whole other set of confusing feelings and emotions are present in one’s psyche. Add homophobic bullying into the equation and this can spell disaster, such as in the case of Tyler Clementi and the others.
These unnecessary deaths are a direct result of our society’s homophobia, prejudice and misunderstandings of what it means to be LGBTQ. LGBTQ youth need guidance and secure role models in light of the constant barrage of criticism and negative attitudes toward homosexuality and attempts to convert them to heterosexuality. My heart aches each time I hear of an energetic, talented young person taking their own life due to their fear and anxiety over their sexuality and what people will think if they find out. We, as a society, can no longer allow such a loss of human potential over something as insignificant as one’s sexual orientation or gender expression.
Great strides have been made to advance equality for this nation’s LGBTQ population. The deaths of Tyler Clementi and the others prove that we certainly have a long way to go until full, unequivocal equality is won. We shall fight on. We shall persevere with the memories of those who have fallen victim to homophobia and have taken from themselves the most precious gift given to all of us; their lives.