Stand up to homophobes
The news of the death of an innocent young man this week swept the University campus. Many are furious, many are heartbroken, most of us are ashamed. University first-year student Tyler Clementi's suicide is a stark reminder of how far we as a University still have to go until we can call ourselves a school of diversity and acceptance. The rest of the nation now sees that as well. But to me, the most disturbing aspect of this story is not the fact that someone would be despicable enough to invade a roommate's privacy. No, the most horrifying part is the fact that Tyler felt ashamed enough of his sexuality to kill himself because others had discovered it and made it public. As much blame as we may want to put on School of Arts and Sciences first-year student Dharun Ravi for breaching another man's privacy or the University for failing to set up "safe spaces," the blame lies completely with us — each and every student and faculty member here at Rutgers — for failing to create an environment where Clementi would have felt safe, secure and comfortable with himself.
Had this been an incident where a heterosexual couple was spied on, there would have been no suicide. High-fives would be passed around between pigs, and the girl would be just another one of those poor victims of sick voyeurism that float all over the Internet. But because Tyler was a homosexual, the incident was deadly. I have no doubts whatsoever that Tyler was surrounded with anti-gay sentiments every day, as we all are. We still hear the words "queer" and "faggot" pass between people on a daily basis, whether it is jokingly or truly malicious, and it is the usage of words like these that continue the delusion that there is something wrong with homosexuality. So much so that many homosexuals themselves feel there is something wrong with it, as Tyler probably did when he took his own life.
The truth is plain and simple: There is nothing wrong with homosexuality. It is not a defect, it is not a sin, it is not a disease. To preach otherwise is the true sin, and homophobia is the real disease. If we are to prevent tragedies such as this from ever occurring again, we must find the cure quickly. The sooner we destroy the bigotry and taboos that surround homosexuality, the sooner we can start saving lives and start calling ourselves a diverse and accepting school. I urge every student at the University to make a stand against homophobia. Speak up against bigotry and hatred, stop the usage of hurtful words and embrace those who are different. You just might learn something.
I applaud the efforts of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community and Robert O'Brien, Department of Anthropology assistant instructor, for seeking a change at the University. But we must remember, we cannot look solely to the administration or any other leading political body to rid our communities of hatred and disrespect. Doing so only takes responsibility away from the individuals who sit idly and allow such tragedies to occur. No matter what kind of programs, policies or "safe spaces" our University establishes, the gay community, as well as other minorities, will continue to be harassed and discriminated against if we do not urge the individual students to change. We must convince them to make the right choice and that is to accept gays for who they are.
And to the people who still stand by Dharun Ravi, a School of Arts and Sciences first-year student, and claim he's a "good guy" — shame on you. Not only did he Tweet about how he spied on his roommate making out with another man — only highlighting his obvious immaturity and lack of acceptance — but days later he invited anyone with an iChat to video chat him at specific hours so they could spy on the private life of his roommate once again. This public invitation happened a day before Clementi's suicide. A "good guy" would have realized the indecency of his actions and the breach of privacy he was committing. Whether a homophobe or not, his crimes must not go unpunished. Ravi's actions destroyed a life and robbed a family of a loved one. Those who support him are an embarrassment to our University.
Finally, I ask that all gay individuals who may read this to remember that you are not alone. You are beautiful, you are loved. Be proud of who you are, and never hide it. To everyone else, my request is simple. I ask for a country where our gay relatives and friends can be safe, where people like Clementi won't feel ashamed of who they are, and where we can finally become a society that has outgrown hatred and bigotry. May the building of such a nation begin here with us at the University, and may we always keep Clementi and his family in our thoughts and prayers.
Sean Curtis is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore majoring in East Asian studies. His column, "The Friday Rants," runs on alternate Fridays.