work to do

photo credit : myfoxny

after hearing tyler clementi’s tragic story, i have been wrestling with the idea that i might need to be doing more to reach out to young gay people. i understand only too well, the challenges of being different coupled with guilt and self-loathing that many of these young gay men and women must work through. it is a dark dark journey that on some days takes all one can muster just to make it through a day. the internalized shame is completely toxic.

at the root of all of this is homophobia. people make fun of the characteristics of others because they are different and people are afraid. and this fear of gay people oftentimes is rooted in the perpetrators’ own self loathing.

but to have one’s initial sexplorations secretly videotaped and then posted online amid a small cloistered community like a college likens itself in my mind to torture. hazing, taunting, and torture. certainly the culprits did not intend for tyler’s reaction. no, they probably didn’t see it as an option. and that is the high crime here. that something could be funny takes priority over someone getting hurt is negligent, self-involved, and criminal.

i do have to admit that this does not seem far out of character for those in their late teens and early twenties. the dark possibilities in life have not yet reared their ugly heads to young persons in that age group. they (as did i) have a tendency to live in a safe bubble and still hold a belief that nothing will hurt us. but as the experience of actual living reveals to us, that we do get hurt. really hurt, seriously and permanently hurt sometimes.

my experience shows me that much of this early adult trauma that is both felt and perpetrated morphs into a life of heavy substance abuse and addiction,  self abuse, and hiv infections. there may be an internal self-hating that never really goes away if it is not addressed. it can lay dormant for long periods and then resurface when life situations take a southerly direction. and life does go south now and again and when it does, the roots of  shame can return as an infection, a virus, and a bacteria all rolled into one. we can find ourselves feeling as unprotected, vulnerable, and weak as we were when we were 17.

dan savage, dave navarro, ellen degeneres and many others are stepping up and beginning what should be an ongoing quest. how do we make the world a better place than when we got here? how do we squelch this force of hatred and separation that confronts so many lgbtq youth?

i don’t have the answer. i don’t know that i am sure where to begin. but i will become kinder. i can make an effort to reach backwards and become more inclusive. and i can make sure i don’t forget.  i got work to do…

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1 reply

  1. Well stated, Rod. This could have happened to a straight kid, but I think internalized shame played a huge role in this. The whole thing is obviously due in large part to immaturity and the “look at me” attitude that goes with the Internet age. But there was a real anti-gay aspect to it, too, it seems to me. I don't know if they'd have done it twice, for example, if the person were straight – they would have told the person and laughed about it. It's hard to say. But gay people are brought up with a lot of internalized shame. Something like that- being shamed publicly (and forever with the way things are now) made life look pretty dire, I'm sure. And that's in big part because he's gay. The consequences of a leaked straight sex video would be less severe for most straight kids than a gay sex video would feel for a young gay guy.I feel for Tyler. I got to know a lot of great people in college. I had many great friends who were “straight but not narrow”. They were confident in who they were and were so protective of me – it was so nice to meet straight guys like that because, before that, I really hadn't.If you all still haven't seen Dan Savage's “It Gets Better” project, check it out. Its message to gay teens, I know, is true, life does get better: http://www.youtube.com/user/itgetsbetterproject

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