Saturday, October 2, 2010

ANOTHER ONE BITES THE DUST

“Going to Jump off the Bridge.  Sorry.”   -Tyler Clementi (1992-2010)

Those were the last communicative words the world read on the Facebook status message of eighteen year old violinist and Rutgers student, Tyler Clementi, before choosing to take his life on September 22.  His car (containing his laptop, wallet, and phone) was found abandoned on the George Washington Bridge here in New York City.

If you had not recently read in the papers of this boy’s demise then I will give you a brief synopsis.  Clementi asked his college roommate for some privacy until midnight one night.  His roommate, by name of Dharun Ravi, obliged and sneakily set up his computer’s webcam.  The end result of this prank was Ravi recording Clementi having sexual relations with another man in their room without Clementi‘s awareness.  It wasn’t until later on did Clementi find out about this video and that it had been posted all over the internet for everyone to see.  Humiliation does not justify what his feelings must have been when he found out. 

It is not proven that this particular incident drove Clementi to his death, but if I was to speculate (and I will) the fingers do point in that direction.  This poor child is dead and the worst punishment Ravi will receive is up to five years in prison.  That’s how the justice system handles a bully picking on a weaker individual because he was gay?  How many more gay men and women have to die before society will take this seriously?  

It is obvious being a gay individual why I would be disgusted with this case.  I can talk about the politics of hate crimes in this country and the hardships minorities face, but I will leave that to others.  I will refrain as best as I can and I will talk about how this story relates to me and HIV, which my blogging is ultimately about.

ACCEPTANCE.  A simple concept, yet the world won’t allow themselves to practice such.  It is a concept that any gay individual, including myself, strives to find the meaning of.  Society and religion are two variables that tell people what is right and wrong in life and what we should and shouldn’t accept.  Unfortunately, being gay for the majority is wrong in the eyes of most.  This causes those who are different to feel isolated and unloved.  I was lucky growing up.  The worst torment I ever experienced was verbal abuse- “Hey faggot,” “Fairy, what’s up?” “Kiss any boys lately?” “You hate pussy, don’t you fag,” to name a few.  It was all sticks and stones, but rarely would people physically try to attack me.  It’s easy to pick on the kids who are weaker and introverted.  I didn’t have a lot of friends growing up and before my junior year I was never the most popular person in school, spending many weekends at home by myself. 

As I became an adult and understood that I was attracted to men was when the real danger happened.  I began doing things that was only going to hurt my health down the road.  But, I did them because I was tired of rejection and feeling alone- like most of us in the gay community.  I found a home where I can share stories and relate with other guys who were picked on and beaten in childhood just because they were born with a genetic makeup that causes attraction to the same sex.  But like I said, I was lucky.  I am still alive and here to talk to others while I can’t say the same for the innocent Clementi.  I’m lucky to have supportive friends and family who love me unconditionally. 

I knew that unprotected sex can get me in trouble, but before my diagnosis and my enlightenment I didn’t love myself enough to care. The piled up years of others not loving me or accepting me took a toll on my attitude about things.  Inevitably I got HIV. 

Society enforces that being gay is wrong because of reasons like HIV and Meth users, etc.  God forbid they see us as individuals.  It’s okay to be sympathetic to straight people with alcohol problems, but if you’re a gay man then you are a time bomb for falling into drugs or getting HIV, and no one can help you, right?  Well, society seems to think so.    Hence, hate crimes continue without consequences and HIV spreads.  As time passes I am learning to think that HIV has saved me.   Of course, HIV is a serious illness and nothing to joke about, but as said in entries past I plan to look at HIV in a different light than what I was brought up to believe.  Being diagnosed was the thing that changed my attitude about myself.  

“Oh no world,” I say, “I may have low self-esteem and you may tell me it’s wrong to be gay, but no way will I let your cruelty and non-acceptance prevail and win!  I have more self worth than that!” I refuse to let HIV take over and kill me.  My body and the medication I take illustrate that.  In the end, I win.  It is a shame that Clementi, being a gay man wasn’t as strong.  I did not know him personally, but as a gay man I wish I could give this boy a hug and say, “You’re not alone, don’t let them win.” 

It is not enough for me to educate the world about HIV and prevention.  We need show the world that consequences for hate crimes should be dealt with harshly.  Parents need to take a stand with their kids and tell them that other kids on the playground will be different- from skin color to handicaps to love interests.  Said kids need to understand that the occupants of the world will never all be the same and you must accept that.  Little Johnny or Sue are no better, nor worse, than they are.  The world we have created for younger generations is filled with cruelty and nonsense.  It needs to be stopped.  We need to reshape people’s attitudes of the ever-changing planet we live in if we are ever going to live in harmony.  If we don’t then negative variables like HIV and suicide will continue to increase in numbers and win.
<-Tyler Clementi

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