Preventing LGBT Violence: Thoughts on the Tyler Clementi Case

Widespread isolation and rejection of LGBT youth by family/friends and the popularity of homophobic culture corrodes the moral fiber of the country’s social structure, and contributes to suicide within this young population. Should we blame LGBT youth’s suicides on the victim and/or perpetrator, or do we as a nation share blame for the death of these youngsters?

LGBT youth suicide was highlighted in social media with the 2010 suicide of Tyler Clementi and the consequent arrest and trial of his college roommate, Dharun Ravi. Ravi used a webcam to “check on” Clementi while he was entertaining another man in their dorm room, and then further broadcast his distaste for the situation via Twitter.

Ravi is facing 5 to 10 years in prison and deportation to India for participation in a hate crime, and invasion of privacy directed toward Clementi, which lead to the suicide. Many are left wondering if the trail was fair, and if Ravi was made a scapegoat in this whole ordeal. Was Ravi different than any immature, young man raised in a  homophobic society? Did he have the education or guidance necessary to realize that his public expression of thoughts/feelings would constitute cyber-bullying?

Often times, teens are given judicial leniency for their actions as they are deemed to not fully know how to deal with uncomfortable situations; except in this case. The harshness of Ravi’s sentence is shocking to many, while just as many feel it deserved. What is not really mentioned in media coverage covering this case is all the other judgment and pain Clementi may have carried with him from past experiences, and not necessarily inflicted by Ravi.

One such experience includes the rejection of his homosexuality by his mother. Also, those in the dorm building who knew about this abuse did nothing to stop it. What if someone had talked to Ravi about the consequences of his actions? What if society was more accepting of LGBT youth? If Clementi felt this to be an isolated incident, he might not have made the decision to jump and end both his life, and Ravi’s future.