Thursday, September 30, 2010

Tyler Clementi's Suicide Must Be A Teachable Moment on Homophobia

Dear readers: I wrote this letter this morning to the Today Show, who ignored the reason behind Tyler Clementi's suicide, concentrating only on Internet bullying. Please consider writing them as well at And please talk to your children! Tell them nothing is worth taking their life over, that you love them, and that sexual diversity is part of God's gift to us. PLEASE.

Dear Today,

Your piece on Tyler Clementi's suicide focused almost exclusively on the dangers of webcams and internet posting, rather than addressing what drove Tyler to take his life.

If Tyler had been kissing a girl, this tape wouldn't have been made. If made, it wouldn't have been twittered and posted.

But, he wasn't. He was kissing another boy, and even in today's world, that made him the subject of ridicule and hate. And his shame at being outed drove him to end his life.

Homophobia and hate caused his death, and you inadvertently add to the problem when you don't even mention it.

Tyler's death is one of five gay teens and young adults in the last few weeks. Can we count on you for a segment on gay teen suicide? Can we count on you to get the word out about GLSEN, or It Gets Better, or the Trevor Helpline?

Let's make sure that Tyler didn't die in vain. Help us make this a teachable moment for parents and teens. Please call on me if I can be of help as you prepare this segment on the real issue that is causing so many young people to take their lives -- and how parents can make sure that their children know that they are loved and accepted without regard to their sexual orientation or gender identity.

The Reverend Debra W. Haffner


HeySexEd said...

Thanks, Reverend Haffner. I hope the Today Show is listening, and will stop contributing to the problem. By not addressing his sexual orientation and the motivation of humiliation that his bullies intended, they reinforce the message to lgbtq youth that their orientations are shameful... too embarrassing to be mentioned on TV.

Faygelah said...

Beautiful, Debra. I hope the Today Show recognizes their responsibility and addresses this.

Carla Schmidt Holloway said...

I sent it from all 4 of my email accounts. I think I'll also re-post this on my blog (giving you and your blog credit of course).


Unknown said...

My understanding is that about 3000 gay teens commit suicide every year in this nation.

The following is all conjecture on my part, but it seems to fit the model of the gay closeted youth who finally cant take it any more.........

Eg the hostage taking boy in WI a few days ago who released the others but shot himslef might well have been gay. Secretly suffering from the 'fag' jokes, and a church / bible (Baptists) that condemned him. It seems to fit the model

And then there was eg the mass killing at VA tech some years ago.
the boy as I remember was very very closed off to society, not communicative at all. And from Korea where Pentacostalism is strong, and they condemn gay people. So he finally exploaded, got even with society, and then "escaped"

Bottom line - If the 3000 gay kids every year who commit suicide is close (I think it came from a Psychologist - that is a 9/11 every year.

America is fighting the wrong war on terrorism. And the worst of the worst are the people of the same religious culture who gave us slavery, the KKK, segregation.

And to an extent hitler as well. Thats another story.

I'm going to try and get in touch with Tylers parents. I do know Dennis and Judy Shepard, and have met them several times.

Comments- email me at