What’s Wrong With Remembering Tyler Clementi For His Role In LGBT Bullying?

I do love reading Rutgers University’s student newspaper The Daily Targum, because it gives me hope that my less-than-brand-name four-year education is actually not, compared to Rutgers, as cheap intellectually as it was financially. Because my god, unless the Targum is letting children write for them, their pool of Rutgers talent is embarrassing. After an editorial blaming the media and celebrities for exploiting the death of Tyler Clementi for their selfish gay causes, a student followed up with a column saying the response to that editorial was at least as bad as what Dharun Ravi and Molly Wei allegedly did to Tyler. And now Lonnie Affrime, a 2010 alum, tries shaming the media for branding Tyler a gay rights icon. BECAUSE THAT WOULD BE HORRIBLE.

The family of Seth Walsh, the 13-year-old California student who died after hanging himself from a tree following years of torment, wants to make sure Seth isn’t remembered only as “the gay kid who hung himself,” but Seth’s grandmother Judy has recognized the importance of including Seth’s name in the conversation about LGBT bullying. “[T]he more I thought about it, the more the world needs to know why Seth was harassed. He was harassed because he was gay.”

And that’s why Tyler was harassed by his roommate Dharun, who posted to Twitter an invitation to watch his roommate get it on with another dude on his webcam. He harassed Tyler because he was gay.

And yet, writes Rutgers grad Affrime, it is “dangerous” to simply lump Tyler into the group of gay kids killing themselves.

As an individual [who identifies with a singular culture] you’re denying, or at least devaluing, the many facets of your persona – an unhealthy endeavor that I’m sure would be frowned upon by any psychologist. Perhaps even more importantly, your emphasis has irrevocably shifted to the differences, rather than similarities, of those outside your movement or worldview, therefore crippling your efficaciousness at best, or sowing the seeds of your own undoing at worst. [Ed: I love when student newspaper editors permit big words in the copy, because college kids are wise.] Instead we must all see ourselves – first and foremost – as being human, regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation, income, etc. That should have been the message of the recent tragedy involving University first-year student Tyler Clementi – humanities’ peaceful collaboration. But it wasn’t. Instead, thanks to the media’s want for a good story and the student bodies’ zeal, Clementi will forever be remembered as a gay rights icon.

“Remembered as a gay rights icon?” We could only be so lucky! That a young man who was shamed by his peers because of his sexuality would be remembered as a fallen member of that community.

Continues Affrime:

Maybe that is what he would have wanted, but who knows? His friends and family would probably have been the most apt to answer that question. But they were not asked, were they? No. In a passionate fervor hundreds of people descended to remember an individual they had never known, to pay homage to “Tyler the Homosexual,” rather than “Tyler the Human Being” – just like the rest of us.

Oh, lady. Of course we will remember “Tyler The Human Being.” But he’ll also be remembered as “Tyler, the promising musician and college student who was on the receiving end of some assholes’ hatred of the other.”

To be an icon, in life or death, for the betterment of a group of people? Well, that is a legacy worth having.