Homophobia is defined as a bias, hatred or fear aimed at individuals who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT). However, the meaning of homophobia does not describe the intense suffering that the LGBT community must endure when homophobic people bully them. Some LGBT individuals are strong enough to ignore the harassment or even fight back intelligently in pacifist ways. Unfortunately, other members of the LGBT community will become very depressed because of the mistreatment, and it may even provoke their suicide.
Tyler Clementi (December 19, 1991-September 22, 2010), who was a gifted student at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, committed suicide after he was cyberbullied by his roommate, Dharun Ravi. Molly Wei, who was Ravi’s hallmate, also participated in the webcam incident. Clementi jumped from the George Washington Bridge on September 22, 2010. They found his body in the Hudson River on September 29, 2010. He was just 18 years old.
When Ravi used a webcam on his dorm-room computer and Molly Wei’s computer, intimate moments that Clementi shared with a friend were recorded. Unknowingly, Clementi became the victim of extreme cyberbullying. Clementi never knew that Ravi was videotaping him. He learned about the incident after Ravi’s post on Twitter.
For their crime against Clementi, both Ravi and Wei faced federal criminal charges. In addition to punishment for the webcam incident, part of their rehabilitation included counseling and classes about the lifestyles of LGBT individuals. This tragedy also made Ravi and Wei suffer as well, for they probably never expected Clementi to take his own life.
Without ever having known him, we get the sense that Clementi was a fragile young man with a gentle soul. He was a violinist who played with the Ridgewood Symphony Orchestra, and he also took part in the Bergen Youth Orchestra as a concertmaster. Even though we will never hear his beautiful music again, his spirit still lives on. In order to keep the memory of their son alive, Jane and Joseph Clementi, Clementi’s parents, started the Tyler Clementi Foundation in 2011 to help LGBT individuals and combat all types of homophobia. The Tyler Clementi Point Scholarship, created by the Point Foundation, also honors the memory of Clementi.
The suicide of Clementi brought national attention to the problems that LGBT youth face. The suicide rate is higher among LGBT youth and one of the many reasons is homophobia. Thanks to media coverage and concerned Americans, a movement against homophobia began and continues today. Many celebrities, such as Ellen DeGeneres, expressed their outrage towards homophobia after the suicide of Clementi. In addition to being a famous television personality, Ellen DeGeneres is a member and advocate for the rights of LGBT community.
During Gay Pride Month, we should remember story of Tyler Clementi because his tragic death brought reform that continues to help LGBT individuals. The Tyler Clementi Higher Education Anti-Harassment Act and The Tyler Clementi Higher Education Anti-Harassment Act both combat the mistreatment of the LGBT community. Do you think that these measures are enough to end homophobia?