NBC’s Full Interview With Tyler Clementi’s Parents: Gay Kids “Are Not Broken”

Last night on Rock Center with Brian Williams, Lester Holt spoke with Joe and Jane Clementi, the parents of Tyler Clementi, the gay Rutgers student who tragically took his life in 2010 after discovering his roommate, Dharun Ravi, had broadcast his intimate encounter on the Web.

It’s the first time the Clementis have spoken to the press extensively, and we learn that even though Tyler’s older brother, James, was also gay, their parents struggled with accepting homosexuality.

Tyler came out just weeks before he left for school, and Mrs. Clementi admits the news “shocked” her because of her strong Christian faith.

She said she also realizes that Tyler may have misread her reaction during their conversation.  He later texted a friend that his mother had rejected him after he came out to her.

“It just was like a dagger,” Mrs. Clementi said.  “And that took me a long time to process.  Because I did not think I had rejected him.”

The Clementis are now working to foster acceptance for gay youth with The Tyler Clementi Foundation, which they hope will combat cyberbullying and the idea that homosexuality is sinful—a belief they once held themselves.

“Sin needs to be taken out of homosexuality,” said Joe Clementi.  “Our children need to understand—and adults need to understand—that they’re not broken.”

Photo: James Clementi



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  • 1equalityUSA

    Dear Clementi family, Thank you for taking this tragedy and starting a foundation that may save the lives of others. The grieving that you are enduring must be made so much more difficult with the added comments about your having rejected your son. When we come out to others, we have taken the time needed to resolve it, in our own minds, before telling others. I believe that when we finally do come out, we expect others to just drop all of what they’ve known about us and immediately accept the new. We, who choose to be authentic and refuse to lie about our orientations, come out to those around us. However, we may not be allowing enough time for loved ones to adjust to this new information. I believe that there is a grieving process parent must go through before true acceptance can take place. Fear, disgust, and shock do not have parents saying the most beneficial things to their children in the heat of the moment. You are not alone in this. You did the best you could do at the moment and that is all one can ask of you. This foundation that you have started is a beautiful way to bring healing to yourselves and all who were moved by your son’s story. It makes me feel as though Tyler’s life was not in vain. I hope the focus of this foundation is on the grieving process that the parents endure when an son or daughter reveals themselves. Parents need to come to terms with the new information in healthier ways. I will donate to your foundation and hope that peace and a sense of support come your way.

  • The Real Mike in Asheville

    @1equalityUSA: “… You did the best you could do at the moment and that is all one can ask of you….” Really?

    He came out to his parents in July, he killed himself three months later. In that time, what did they do to show their love of him? According to Jane Clementi’s own account, nothing, except maintain a distance and separation. They (the parents) even failed to enlist Tyler’s older out gay brother, to check in on him and show the love and care a family is supposed to show one another.

    Hardly the “best you could do”

  • 1equalityUSA

    We have to forgive others, not for their benefit, but for our own. I appreciate their revision and it’s a heartache that this all came about through Tyler’s untimely demise.. We have to forgive Dharun Ravi as well, for the same reason. We all have learned from this. There’s no point in bashing now. The day is done, move forward and alter the future.

  • Brandon

    I agree Real Mike. Let’s also not forget how Tyler’s OWN MOTHER rejected him when he came out to her.

  • 1equalityUSA

    If any one of the “1 million moms” revise their thinking because of this foundation, it will not have been in vain.

  • The Real Mike in Asheville

    @1equalityUSA: I agree with your sentiment of rising above their own now former beliefs, and it is sad that it took the loss of their son’s life for the parents to see the light. And, if just one homophobic mother/father rises up because of the Tyler Clementi Foundation, that is a victory.

    It is not for me, nor you, to forgive Tyler’s parents for their shortcomings — God knows we all have many. That will take their own hearts to do, and clearly, their new efforts show that is their goal. For that, I wish them well and great success.

    The more honest, though, the Clementi’s are about their roles in this tragedy, the greater success the foundation will have. I sure hope they see that, and face the brightness of disclosure, leading hopefully the next set of parents who face this with a stronger sense of support and love of their children.

  • Justin

    I think that the foundation they’ve started is a great thing. Maybe i’m reading the situation incorrectly, but It seems maybe they are running the foundation not just to help others in Tyler’s name, but as a way to apologize to Tyler for their past beliefs and reactions. That’s not a criticism by the way. Helping others is a great way to find forgiveness in yourself. It’s just a shame that it took an “a-bomb” event such as their sons death to do it.

  • SFMatt

    Tyler’s mom is now trying to revise history and claim that she never rejected her son for being gay when in fact she did.

  • David Myers

    I commend your change of heart even though it came to late for your son. I approve of your establishing of the Tyler Clementi Foundation. One more suggestion is that you sue Ravi and donate any and all monies won by such a law suit to the Tyler Clementi Foundation.

  • houtx48

    DAVID Myers Ravi has suffered enough. I suppose I’m a bad LGBT person since I don’t want him lynched or deported.

  • dsny22

    It is Mrs Clementi who still did not learn her lesson. She rejected Tyler. There is nothing anyone else could have done to Tyler that is worse than the rejection he suffered from his own mother. She still does not get it. She sent Tyler into a depression. Tyler also had other mental issues other than depression. He found it difficult to talk to people or make friends at school. Why blame Dharun, blame yourselves for doing a lousy job as parents. When you point one finger there are three pointing back at you.

  • tallskin2

    SO he came out, she rejected him (now denies it cos of feelings of guilt), and three months later he killed himself. Hmmm.

    I want to say, Stupid christian bitch with your filthy evil sky god religion.

    Hey, why not, hell I will


  • B

    When you watch the full video (the earlier version was shorter) it mentions that his parents were evangelical Christians. His father’s comment about “taking the sin out of homosexuality” (hope I got this quote right) makes a lot more sense in that context.

    During all the discussions on Queerty, commenters seemed to want to crucify Ravi. Yet there was hardly a peep about the contribution of evangelical Christianity. While growing up, Tyler must have heard a continual barrage of propaganda about the sinfulness of homosexuality (and I’m not blaming his parents – he could have heard that just going to church). That barrage must have had some effect on him emotionally, possibly far exceeding what Ravi might have done in the course of a few weeks, which consisted of one viewing of a kiss for a few seconds followed by a failed attempt a few days later, plus some childish twitter posts and chats with Ravi’s friends. This excludes, of course, anything Ravi might have said in private discussions with Tyler – there are no records of that.

    The Christians problem with homosexuality was really a non issue before some point between the mid 1960s and the early 1980s. Before that point, they were so uncomfortable with sexuality in general that they said very little – people were too embarrassed to talk about it. They only elevated homosexuality the status of “Sin of Sins” after the gay rights movement started to make some real progress. Before then, all of Leviticus was ignored – churchgoers didn’t want to hear about how it was forbidden to have sex during a woman’s period because not only were they uncomfortable hearing about sex in general, but they were even more uncomfortable about having to explain to the kiddies what a period is.

  • Making up stuff is fun!

    I’ll start believing Mrs. Clementi when she acknowledges the full extent of what she did to her son. Her kid commits suicide and she’s *still* in denial about having rejected him?

  • B

    No. 8 · SFMatt wrote, “Tyler’s mom is now trying to revise history and claim that she never rejected her son for being gay when in fact she did.”

    You simply have no grounds to claim that. What is fair to say is that Tyler thought his mom had rejected him. Either she did or Tyler misinterpreted her reaction (I’m assuming he was telling the truth about his perceptions and there is no reason to believe he wasn’t).

  • Making up stuff is fun!

    @B: If there’s one thing a gay kid coming out to his parents is clear on is whether he’s been accepted or rejected. The “maybe he didn’t read the signals right” argument you’re trying to put forward is dead in the water.

  • B

    No. 16 · Making up stuff is fun! wrote, “@B: If there’s one thing a gay kid coming out to his parents is clear on is whether he’s been accepted or rejected. The “maybe he didn’t read the signals right” argument you’re trying to put forward is dead in the water.”

    Fist, you are misrepresenting what I said, which is that there are two possibilities (assuming Tyler reported his perceptions accurately, which is my working assumption). To prove that his mother in fact rejected him, you have to prove that he did not misinterpret her reaction. You haven’t done that – you simply asserted your conclusion and assumed it is self evident. It isn’t – you have to show that surprise and/or shock would not be misinterpreted as rejection. Certainly there wasn’t any rejection at the level of that experienced by some people I’ve met – Tyler was not kicked out of the house and told to fend for himself and never come back.

    You can blame her for not being as clear as she should have been in retrospect (I think that is her opinion as well) if she didn’t reject Tyler as she claimed.

    I find it curious, however, that people aren’t really dumping on their church – Evangelical Christian churches tend to be among the most homophobic and hearing that repeatedly would have some negative effects.

  • Zach

    remember she called him the morning of the night he committed suicide. She called him all the time and was planning to come to Homecoming. She did take him places and helped him pick out his school stuff. She might not have been as mothering as she should but rejecting him is not correct. That was ONE immediate text, not a bunch later saying anymore about his mom. I am sure he felt like she was not as compassionate as she could have been when he told her but I think “rejected him” is overstated. I might also suggest that Tyler, like most kids, told his friend that she rejected him right after talking to her as the normal reaction. Did he ever say or text it again after that one right after talking to her? NOPE. I am sure he felt she was distant on the gay life he was going to lead and that was a factor. STILL, letting Ravi off because Tyler had problems is not right. Tyler could have worked it out with the Alliance at Rutgers, lots of things. What triggered it was Ravi and that shows by the 38 or so times in the last 2 days he checked Ravi’s webpage. The old, “but for” Ravi’s making him a mockery different things could have happened. I totally agree with Mr. Clementi that the failure of other people to tell Ravi he was wrong and give any kind of support to stopping that humiliation of Tyler was a BIG PART.

    Lastly, the the Ravi supporters, HOW could he be in the room with Tyler for almost an hour only two hours after Grover told Ravi of the complaint and that Tyler knew what he had done and NOT apologize immediately when Tyler came in? He could text joke to Tam and even call him a faggot for not coming to visit Ravi at school. Ravi is one F’ed up personality and needs lots of counseling.

  • eee


    nuff said, end of story.

  • dsny22

    It is not normal to upload pornography images and videos of yourself onto the internet and then invite the internet porn predators to your shared dorm room for sex. If you do that then you will invite ridicule from your room mate their friends and family.

    Tyler could not determine if this behavior was appropriate or not because his family failed to diagnose his mental disorders.

    The Clementi family will try their best to blame Dharun Ravi for their son’s death but all arrows point to the Clementi family for their strict religious beliefs, not accepting their son’s sexuality AND failing to diagnose their son’s mental disorder – Asperger’s

  • dsny22

    @David Myers:

    LOL, what exactly are they going to sue the Ravis for? For neglecting their own son?

    Madness. Mrs Clementi needs to come clean and own up to her rejection of her son’s sexuality. On the date of his suicide Tyler Clementi had a conversation with his mother? What do you think was their conversation about? Why did Tyler refuse the separate dorm room the RA offered to give him if he was so intimidated by Dharun Ravi.

    You can get a good glimpse of this case from the following two documents –

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