Hope you all got to wear your purple yesterday! I know I did.
Just stumbled across this excellent essay by Sunsara Taylor on “The Culture That Killed Tyler Clementi.” Please read it.
She situates gay suicides in a the general culture of violence that is not only not prevented by the government, but actively encouraged by the way those in power frame the humanity (or lack thereof) of queers.
The two students involved in filming and sharing Tyler’s private moments, Dharun Ravi and Molly Wei, have become the subject of great debate… But this horrific death cannot be explained by focusing narrowly on two college freshmen. The even more damning truth is that their behavior was completely in step with the dominant culture of homophobia, cruelty, and destruction of privacy.
At every level, the forces of tradition and of power—from the major molders of public opinion, to the keepers of traditional Christianity and faith, to the highest levels of courts, legislature and executive—have come down against accepting the full humanity of gays. Let us not forget that even the “great progressive” President Obama not only opposed gay marriage but also invited Rick Warren—the bigoted biblical literalist who played a big role in banning gay marriage in California and who has ties to international forces determined to execute all gays—to deliver his 2008 inaugural invocation.
All this gives force and backing to the most backwards impulses among the people and contributes to a situation where anti-gay jokes, anti-gay bullying, and anti-gay violence are so widespread that gay teen suicides are commonplace. More than 85 percent of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students report being harassed because of their sexual or gender identity and more than 20 percent report being physically attacked… As politicians and pundits debate whether Dharun Ravi and Molly Wei should face charges of manslaughter, it seems doubtful they could have fully comprehended the weight and potential repercussions of their actions. However, there is absolutely NO QUESTION that this society and this culture will continue to generate the kind of deep pain, alienation, and sorrow that leads gay youth to take their lives at a rate three to four times that of others.(Emphasis added)
This culture of fear and intimidation, of course, is common knowledge among queer people — we often joke about it and frequently see it depicted in the films and literature in which queers are the main protagonists. How often are the vicious attacks against queers justified by: “He tried to flirt with me”? As if a harmless sexual appraisal could be grounds for potentially lethal violence. Have straight men never been hit on by an unwanted female? Why is gay panic an acceptable excuse for resort to violence?
What’s new is spreading awareness of those who are privileged. As someone emailed me: “It’s really a pathetic that the heterosexual community (myself included) needs such tragedies to take place in order to see the problems that plague a group.” Better late than never.
This video, which has gone viral, is a must watch.