NEW YORK -- Cyber-bullying and homophobia dominated the headlines in Sept. 2010 when 18-year-old college student Tyler Clementi jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge. A key dimension that was missing in those headlines was any understanding of Tyler beyond his death.
Learning that Tyler's older brother James was also gay, OUT invited James to write about his brother in a series of personal letters that reclaim his brother’s memory from the headlines and pay tribute to an abbreviated life.
“There’s been so much media attention around Tyler’s death but there hasn’t been as much focus on his life,” James says. “He was a person I knew and I loved, and I wanted to share that to make people aware of who he was. For a long time my family shied away from the media because of the legal case. But Tyler has siblings. Now with some space and time, it’s a little easier to discuss after the initial grief of what happened. Now with more time and being more removed, I’ve had time to digest it and what happened and what it means.”
James opens his story remembering when he first recognized that both he and his younger brother were gay. He struggled to find the perfect time, place, and words to let Tyler know that he had a deep secret they were both sharing. He wanted to be a confidant and role model, but he wasn’t sure he was ready to step into that role. Finally, the time was right, and the brothers came out to one another:
James: “I’m gay.”
Tyler: “Oh. Me too.”
With that simple exchange, James describes his relationship with Tyler as feeling “like the beginning.” The two were open to discuss a wide variety of topics, many of which had been off-limits before. James saw a Tyler who understood himself and was grounded in his own worth and value. Two months after their conversation, Tyler left for his freshman year at Rutgers, and James “was looking forward to the days ahead and the years of brotherhood still to come.”
The full story, in which James' shares his life, regrets, and feelings with his beloved brother can be read in OUT magazine by clicking HERE.