Tragically, Rutgers freshman Tyler Clementi committed suicide last fall after being outed by his roommate. His death was a starting point in what has become a rallying cry for the LGBT community and our allies in stopping the bullying and humiliation that so sadly leads far too many gay kids to take their own lives.
His older brother James is also gay, and has written his little brother a series of beautiful, sad letters, published by Out. Please read it all, and have tissue handy. I’ll excerpt some of it here, and then click over.
James describes the moment when he realized that his younger brother was also gay, and how they eventually came out to each other:
I ’m not sure when I first realized my younger brother was gay. I think I knew he was for as long as I knew I was. I had no idea how to bring it up; it was just something we left dangling in the air, unsaid. I was open about my sexuality with friends, but around my family there was this barrier that felt unbreakable. It slowly dawned on me that I wasn’t the only one, that I had a brother who was also gay — my baby brother, whom I had always felt protective and paternal toward. I knew I was in a position to be a confidant, a role model. But I wasn’t ready to do any of that. It would have made it much less lonely for me to grow up with an older brother who had gone through and understood everything I was dealing with — and I wanted to be that for Tyler.
It was the Fourth of July. We had spent the day at the movies, the diner, the fireworks. So many opportunities, and I kept chickening out. That night, I found him in the house listening to Katy Perry, and I saw that, if I couldn’t do this now, something was really wrong with me. I overthought it — because it ended up being this simple.
Me: “I’m gay.”
Tyler: “Oh. Me too.”
Heh. Now a few excerpts from the letters:
You were one noisy kid. I remember walking inside and the most beautiful sounds of Tchaikovsky and Mozart would waft through every room. And I hated it.
Remember how I used to bang on your door and scream at you to stop being so loud? It was so unfair that I had to listen to your noise all the time — why couldn’t you just pick up a quieter hobby!? I would refuse to attend your recitals and concerts because I had to listen to you play all the damn time at home. Wow, do I regret that.
It is so quiet now. You were really talented; it was a gift. I’m not sure I ever told you that… maybe you didn’t care. It’s not like you needed my validation; I know nothing about classical music and you knew you were the shit when it came to that damn violin. I just feel really bad for not telling you how awesome you are, how much I respect your skills and dedication. I regret not listening to every note with open ears, not going to more concerts. Fuck you for making me feel bad; it’s not fair that you did that to me. But I would tell you now if I could, I really miss the noise!
About all the publicity surrounding Tyler’s death:
I wonder what you would think, seeing all the commotion you’ve caused. It is surreal and meaningless to see you as a mere story on The New York Times, a brief glimpse at a life with none of the detail. You were a typical college freshman, trying to adjust to a dorm room, make some friends, meet a cute guy, and enjoy your independence, and no one noticed. The headlines tell of how you were violated and ridiculed; your last moments are a cautionary tale, a scandal, something to sell and entertain.
You are on every talk show, newspaper, and blog, being held up as the issue du jour for the masses to “care about,” like they ever read you a story or wiped away your tears or spun you around in the air until you were dizzy. I wish it didn’t take you dying for your soul to know peace. I wish you could read the hundreds of letters we got, hear the thousands who rallied and marched for you, know the millions who followed your story on the 6 o’clock news. You were never alone; it just felt like it.
Having a younger brother who is close to me, I can’t handle the beginning of this letter:
I always thought that, between you and I, you were the stronger one.
That entire letter is amazing, but I don’t want to spoil it by merely excerpting it. Nor do I want to spoil the rest.
[h/t David Badash/photo via Out Magazine, courtesy of James Clementi]