Shaken by the Death of Tyler Clementi
This past week, I’ve been shaken by the tragic death of Tyler Clementi, the student at Rutgers who committed suicide after his roommate and another student shared a video of his sexual encounter with another man on the web. How awful is the bullying that persists in our world – from very young children into adulthood! How sad that we live in a world where lgbt people still feel such deep shame about who they are that such bullying can lead them to suicide! And Clementi’s suicide is not alone. During the past month, there have been five suicides by gay teens – five that we know about.
In our community, we live in a bubble. We start to believe that it’s fine for lgbt people to live openly. After all, so many of the leaders in our congregation are openly gay or lesbian; so much of our membership is lgbt. Children growing up at Mishkan Shalom don’t have one vision of what a family looks like; they have many. All of this is good, but it doesn’t exempt us from responsibility to reach out to lgbt youth whenever we can and to do whatever we can to change the world so it’s safe for them to live in.
Those of us who live in a safe community have the extra ability and responsibility to speak out on behalf of lgbt youth. We have the responsibility to speak out in our work places, to push to change curriculums and texts, and to make sure that we create work places that are supportive of lgbt people.
There are so many ways we can do this; if Tyler Clementi’s death is a reminder to us that it’s not time to stop fighting for our lgbt youth, it will at least have made a difference in the world. Over the coming year, I hope to find ways to make our congregation even more open, and to make it clear that in our community we will never tolerate bullying of any sorts. The pain of Tyler Clementi’s death is great; our response can and should be working to create a world where such deaths will stop occurring.
One thing to do now is to go to Keshet to their Do Not Stand Idly By campaign. You’ll find a pledge of support for lgbt youth that you can add your name to. Mishkan Shalom signed on as an organization, and they would like both individuals and groups.to join in support.