When Tyler Clementi jumped to his death off the George Washington Bridge in September 2010, he shocked a nation unaware of the extent to which many young LGBTs endure bullying and harassment. But he also left behind a loving family that is still coping with the pain and hurt over the loss of its youngest child.In a letter printed in Out magazine, Tyler’s older brother,
Jason James, who is also gay, opened up about his feelings about Tyler—and his death—for the first time. It’s brutally honest, absolutely heart-wrenching—and should be mandatory reading for all.
Definitely read the piece in its entirety, but here are a few highlights:
On both brothers being gay:
“It slowly dawned on me that I wasn’t the only one, that I had a brother who was also gay—my baby brother, whom I had always felt protective and paternal toward. I knew I was in a position to be a confidant, a role model. But I wasn’t ready to do any of that. It would have made it much less lonely for me to grow up with an older brother who had gone through and understood everything I was dealing with—and I wanted to be that for Tyler… I was terrified to talk to him, accustomed to secrecy and scared I would make everything worse somehow.”
On feeling abandoned by Tyler’s suicide:
“I just feel really bad for not telling you how awesome you are, how much I respect your [violin] skills and dedication. I regret not listening to every note with open ears, not going to more concerts. Fuck you for making me feel bad; it’s not fair that you did that to me. But I would tell you now if I could, I really miss the noise!”
On developing anxiety and depression:
“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… 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.”
On M.B., the student in the video with Tyler:
“Sometimes I wonder who that guy was, the one in your dorm room. He doesn’t matter. You were so young, and there were going to be others. But in that moment, what did it mean for you? Were you bored, scared, over it, into it, what? Everyone knows their first, but who ever thinks of their last? I’m sure you didn’t even realize that it was the final time you’d be close to someone. He shouldn’t matter, but being the last gives him a strange importance. Did he make you happy?”
On Tyler’s death and legacy:
“I know now that you felt so alone, but Jesus Christ—you are so, so easy to love, with your kind eyes and gentle heart. I know so many people you had yet to meet that would one day love you almost as much as I do. Even after what you did, I cannot see you as a sad or depressed or lonely kid. To me, you will always be my sweet, tender little brother.
I’ve heard the story so many times: how you did it, the night you jumped. The first time, and every time I’ve been told about it, read it in a paper, heard it on TV, or dreamt about it at night, it still confuses me. I know you and I know that is not who you are. And that is never how I will think of you, alone and cold and at the end.
You are youth, potential just beginning to unfold. You are blood, my connection to the past, and my hope for the future. You are beauty, fleeting and marvelous. I know there was pain, and I’m sorry for that, but you were joy, too. Your voice, your smile, tiny hands clinging to mine. I will never let go.”
Jason should be commended for his eloquence and honesty—and for reminding us that the cost of suicide is the pain of those left behind.
Photos: Jason Clementi/Out magazine