The New York Times ran a beautiful interview with Tyler Clementi’s parents on Friday about how they’ve dealt with their lives since their son’s death. Both Tyler’s mom and dad were very open and contemplative in their conversation with the paper, explaining that their son’s suicide – after being filmed in an intimate moment with another man by his Rutgers roommate Dharun Ravi – made them realize that their church’s anti-gay views are dangerous. Jane Clementi told the Times, “I think some people think that sexual orientation can be changed or prayed over, but I know sexual orientation is not up for negotiation. I don’t think my children need to be changed. I think that what needed changing is attitudes, or myself, or maybe some other people I know.”
Jane’s willingness to examine her beliefs without succumbing to totally blaming herself for Tyler’s death is pretty remarkable, and I think she sets an amazing example for those Christians who might be on the fence about fully accepting that there’s nothing “wrong” with their gay children. “At this point I think Jesus is more about reconciliation and love,” Jane admitted. “He spoke more about divorce than homosexuality, but you can be divorced and join a church more than you can be gay and join churches,” she added.
Many who felt that Dharun Ravi should not have been convicted of bias harassment in conjunction with Tyler’s suicide cited a text Tyler sent to a friend after coming out to his family as a means of indicating that Ravi’s actions weren’t the only thing that pushed Tyler to jump off the George Washington Bridge. The text message read, in part, “Mom has basically completely rejected me.” The paper notes:
Joe Clementi argues that his son was speaking with classic teenage exaggeration to a friend, that the remark was taken out of context by people who did not know the family, or the facts. “Just to be clear: Tyler had two parents, and I didn’t have any problem with it,” he said. “He had support.”
But Ms. Clementi can’t dismiss it that easily. “Obviously he felt that way, he needed to tell his friend that.”
The Clementi’s have another son, James, who has come out as gay since his brother died. “The family is devoting itself to a foundation promoting acceptance with the hope of preventing the suicides of gay teenagers,” the Times reports. Meanwhile, the prosecution in the bias harassment case is appealing the 30-day sentence Dharun Ravi received “on the ground that that it was too short.”