For the last week or so, we’ve been hearing the story of Tyler Clementi’s death. Tyler, a student tat Rutgers University, committed suicide after a live broadcast was aired of him being intimate with another man. From all reports, Tyler was a gifted musician and a caring young man whose death is a loss for us all. A lot has been said about the bullying issue; it’s definitely something that needs to be addressed. Something that I haven’t heard anyone talking about is why Tyler felt so backed into a corner by this video that the only way out he could see was to take his own life. I blame that on us, our society.
All to often, the message society sends out is that “different is bad, conform at all costs”. One of the worst unconformities is homosexuality. In all too many people’s eyes, being gay is disgusting, nasty, unclean, etc. Christians, in particular, have this viewpoint and the ones who feel this way about it are very vocal. I’m not going into all the arguments for or against homosexuality; I’m not getting caught in that particular trap. What I will say about the way Christians treat their gay, lesbian, transgender (and whatever other name I may have left out) says a lot about them. All to often, it’s not that good. People with alternative lifestyles are routinely criticized, ostracized and just plain mistreated. All of this has contributed, in my opinion anyway, to the idea that there’s something wrong with gay people; that they’re sick, or freaks, or abnormal. That they’re sick. There are several programs across the country to de-homo-ize (I made that word up. Like it?) young people who show the slightest inclination toward that lifestyle. In these programs, the teens (and older) are subjected to a constant bombardment of the message that “There’s something wrong with you. If we don’t ‘fix’ it, you’ll burn in Hell”. If you’d like a funny, but insightful look at this phenomenon, watch the “Cartman Sucks” episode of South Park, from the 11th season. I know it seems weird to see a South Park reference in a religious blog, but sometimes those guys seem to get it better than most theologians.
I’m sad that the other young people involved felt that outing Tyler was acceptable humor. I’m sad that they never stopped to think about the consequences of their actions. I’m especially sad that they didn’t see Tyler as fellow human being worthy of respect and not just the butt of their jokes. I’m also sad that Tyler took the lessons society taught him about his sexuality to heart so well. It almost makes me cry to know that, everyday, that society continues to tell good, honest, loving people that they are less worthy than others because of who they choose to sleep with. Whether you agree with their lifestyle or not, our LGBT brothers and sisters are children of God just like everyone else and they deserve to treated as such. That means with love, respect and acceptance of them and all their flaws, just as Christ does. As his followers, how can do any less?