In the wake of last week’s suicide of Rutgers University freshman Tyler Clementi, whose roommate allegedly posted a video of Clementi being intimate with another male student, tribute videos by such notables as Ciara, Jay Manuel, Good Charlotte’s Joel Madden, Ellen DeGeneres and Perez Hilton have hit the Internet.
A number of websites paying tribute to Clementi, 18, have also popped up, with thousands of messages of condolence, as well as pleas for despondent gay teens to give life a chance and get help if they are feeling bullied, harassed or threatened.
“Tyler, you were perfect just the way you were. I know you’re in Heaven and have been welcomed by the Angels,” wrote Gail Hamm Frederick on a Facebook page called “In Honor of Tyler Clementi,” which at press time had already garnered nearly 7,000 friends.
“For all of us that have been a victim of bullying, we know the pain that this young man experienced. My heart is sad that the world will never see his talent. If only all this support was given to him earlier,” said Mark P. Schwamberger, picking up on the message of “Savage Love” columnist Dan Savage, who has launched the “It Gets Better” site on YouTube, featuring videos of former victims of gay taunts imparting the message that what seems terrible at the moment will eventually pass.
Savage told MTV the project was spurred by the suicide of another gay teen, 15-year-old Billy Lucas of Indiana, who took his life after being taunted by classmates for being gay. “I posted something to my blog about Billy Lucas — who might not have even been gay, he wasn’t out if he was gay, and not all kids who experience anti-gay bullying are gay — but he was bullied for being gay. … And I was reading about him and about Justin Aaberg [another teenager who committed suicide after being bullied at school] in Minnesota, and the reaction as an openly gay adult, always, when you read these stories is, ’I wish I could’ve talked to this kid for five minutes, so I could’ve told him it gets better,’ ” Savage said about the message of his YouTube site.
Clementi’s case has also shed light on a topic MTV has been spotlighting this year with the ongoing “A Thin Line” project , which provides stories and resources for people who are being cyberbullied or who are looking for ways to stop harassment by digital means. “Shame there are so many close-minded people and the right to privacy has taken a whole new meaning since Internet and technology. Rest with the angels,” said Mary-Alice Becker.
Another poster, Rachel Crittenden, said she hoped Clementi’s death would not be in vain. “I hope this is a lesson learned by millions,”
she wrote. “Tolerance and acceptance are values that need to be instilled in our young people before more tragedies occur.”
Another Facebook site, “Tyler Clementi Memorial,” has more than 12,600 friends, with posts that range from touching poems to angry comments aimed at Clementi’s roommate, Dharan Ravi, and Ravi’s childhood friend, Molly Wei. They have both been charged with invading Clementi’s privacy by allegedly taping him last week while he was engaged in sexual activities with a man. Over the course of the past 24 hours, the tribute page has been the site of a tug-of-war between visitors posting homophobic and hateful posts, who briefly took control, and others offering kind words and condolences.
It’s unknown what drove Clementi to take his life — his body was recovered from the Hudson River on Wednesday — but his suicide has opened a national debate on the dangers of digital abuse as well as the potentially serious consequences of using the Internet to spy on others.
If you’re a victim of cyberbullying or need help stopping digital harassment, check out the “A Thin Line” website.