Tyler Clementi, the gay Rutgers freshman who succumbed to suicide after his roommate secretly recorded Tyler’s intimate dorm room encounter, had an older brother, and that older brother is gay. Tyler was, tragically, one of at least 10 teens who died by suicide in September of 2010. Today, in Out’s “Letters to My Brother,” James Clementi writes a heartbreaking letter — actually, a series of letters — to his younger brother Tyler. As it turns out, the two only came out to each other mere months before Tyler died.
“I wonder what you would think, seeing all the commotion you’ve caused,” the elder James writes. “It is surreal and meaningless to see you as a mere story on The New York Times, a brief glimpse at a life with none of the detail. You were a typical college freshman, trying to adjust to a dorm room, make some friends, meet a cute guy, and enjoy your independence, and no one noticed. The headlines tell of how you were violated and ridiculed; your last moments are a cautionary tale, a scandal, something to sell and entertain.”
In the lengthy ode, James writes honestly of his feelings, mixed emotions, regrets.
You were one noisy kid. I remember walking inside and the most beautiful sounds of Tchaikovsky and Mozart would waft through every room. And I hated it.
It is so quiet now. You were really talented; it was a gift. I’m not sure I ever told you that… maybe you didn’t care. It’s not like you needed my validation; I know nothing about classical music and you knew you were the shit when it came to that damn violin. I just feel really bad for not telling you how awesome you are, how much I respect your 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!
James writes of what it is like to see, literally, his brother’s face everywhere.
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.
Saying, “You were never alone; it just felt like it,” the paternal elder brother reminds us that whatever the depths of our pain and sorrow in Tyler’s death, his, rightfully is worse:
You are on every talk show, newspaper, and blog, being held up as the issue du jour for the masses to “care about,” like they ever read you a story or wiped away your tears or spun you around in the air until you were dizzy. I wish it didn’t take you dying for your soul to know peace. I wish you could read the hundreds of letters we got, hear the thousands who rallied and marched for you, know the millions who followed your story on the 6 o’clock news.
And James reminds us of what he and his family lost:
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.
Curiously, James Clementi never mentions their parents.
It is a letter filled with anger, hurt, pain, and regret. And it reminds us, but mostly, it teaches.
The Trevor Project provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning youth. Call them 1-866-488-7386. You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 and visit stopbullying.gov, and the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network’s (GLSEN) website for more resources.
Image via Out: Tyler (left) and James Clementi / Photo courtesy James Clementi
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