Earlier this week, the New Yorker published an extensive article correcting the record on the case of Tyler Clementi, the Rutgers Freshman who killed himself after his roommate attempted to broadcast his sexual liaison on the internet. While it became evident that some of the intellectual perceptions of the case were wrong, Out magazine published something today that shows that the emotional response to the case, especially in the gay community was spot on.
The magazine got in touch with Tyler's older brother James Clementi, who also turns out to be gay, by contacting him on Facebook. Today they released some letters that he wrote to his departed brother. It is just about the saddest damn thing you will ever read.
When Tyler jumped off that bridge, it is sort of like he became every gay person's younger brother. Many of us have felt the pain and isolation and sadness and depression he must have felt to lead him to do something so drastic. I remember, when I wrote this post shortly after his death, that I had the same instincts his real brother had: to protect him, to show him love, to use his death to teach the world a lesson so that no other gay teen would end his life before he even got a chance to live it.
But being Tyler's actual brother, someone with a seriously emotional and personal attachment to him, James' letters are even more heartfelt and more complex.
So the other day I was at Barnes & Noble, trying to find a book to read since I have a lot of free time now that I can't sleep, can't hold a job, don't want to be around friends or family, and pretty much need to escape my life. Anyway, I was browsing at the newsstand and I saw you. I always do. This time you were staring back at me from the cover of People. I keep thinking that I'll look up and see you for real, the way you should be, but it's always more reminders of the way you are. I'm sure the other customers found my anxiety attack entertaining. How am I supposed to respond to seeing you on People, though? It's a lot to digest, you being a celebrity and all. I always knew you would make it big; I just thought you'd be around to enjoy it.
James is angry and regretful and alone and seemingly conflicted about his brother's death and the very public attention it has gotten. (He doesn't, however, weigh in on the trial facing Darhun Ravi, Clementi's roommate.) While it was necessary for the New Yorker to set the record straight so that the public has the facts, what James, and Out, has done is even more important. It is letting the public know that—after this becomes a question of prosecution and defense, of lawyers and motions, of pleas and courtroom regets—that what is at the center of this whole case is a young gay man who killed himself. There is nothing we can do to bring him back, but James shows us all that there is something we can do to honor him.