It would be disingenuous and misguided of me to pretend like I can at all relate to what happened to Tyler Clementi. I’m a white male whose biggest claim to having anything remotely close to a hardship is being an atheist. The stigma that surrounds my lack of belief is trivial in comparison to what gays and other minorities go through. And there’s a significant difference: I choose to be an atheist. Tyler Clementi didn’t choose to be gay, no more than one chooses to be black or white. That was his identity – and he was forced to keep it in the ‘closet’. We have society to blame for that.
Minorities have been held down and ostracized and mocked ever since early humans began to notice the superficial differences we have between us. But how many minorities have been forced to stay silent on who they were? Blacks have historically been kicked, but they haven’t been forced to hide the physical color of their skin as a routine matter. The same goes for all racial minorities. This doesn’t make their plight any less significant or less important than any other plight, but it does make the discrimination gays face a unique beast. Gays are in the unique position where they can disguise who they are. The horribly hateful bigots out there take advantage of this, proclaiming the existence of some fairytale ‘homosexual agenda’, suggesting homosexuals want to teach gay sex to children, among all the other ugly lies we hear every day. This forces many gays to keep a major defining aspect of their lives a complete secret; fear drives them to hide who they are.
That’s why Tyler Clementi killed himself. If society accepted who he was because, damn it, he’s a human being and deserves at least as much, he would still be alive. He would graduate in three and a half years from Rutgers University, ready to contribute as much as he could to society, to his family, to his friends, to his own well-being. Instead we’re left with an unnecessary and permanent absence because that very society to which Tyler Clementi would have contributed so much is so immersed in a dark, dark hate.