Tyler Clementi Case. In Which We Are Our Own Worse Enemies.
“The popular and populist history of gays in the United States goes something like this: In the beginning, gay people were horribly oppressed. Then came change in the 1970s, where gays like the men in the Village People were able to live openly and had a lot of sex. Then, in the 1980s, many gay people died of AIDS, and that taught them that gay sex is bad. The gays that were left began to realise the importance of stable, monogamous relationships and began to agitate for marriage. Soon, in the very near future, with the help of supportive, married straight people–and the help of President Obama–gays will gain marriage rights in all 50 states, and they will then be as good as everyone else.”
I must admit, I felt a bit sick yesterday as I watched the pre-sentencing statements and the verdict being read out in the Dharun Ravi/Tyler Clementi case. It wasn’t the first time I felt sick in regards to this case. For the past few months I’ve seen mainstream gay activists, from Michelangelo Signorile to Aaron Hicklin ask for a light sentence. Mr. Signorile from the Huffington Post is actually satisfied it was a fair sentence. Some activists who asked for a light sentence are now dismayed that they got precisely what they asked for.
I can’t pretend I don’t know what they were doing. It was clear, it was obvious, it was the worse kind of politics. They were afraid of the backlash, the backlash the LGBT community is oft-threatened with by conservative groups. If we rock the boat, if we demand justice, that will create an environment of acrimony. If we do that we end up with riots, like the African American community. Asking for real equality in America is bad. It upsets the mainstream, because the mainstream, like Tyler Clementi’s parents, obviously don’t have LGBT children and family members. LGBT people are all born from spontaneous combustion in New York or San Francisco
Last night, I read Melanie Nathan’s article titled Tyler Clementi Gets No Justice. My hope was for a barrage of people seconding her motion this morning. It was not to be. Melanie was a lone voice in her criticism of Dustin Lance Black’s ridiculous comments about Obama recently, and she seems to be a lone voice today. The New York Times opinion pages aren’t even mentioning the case. The Daily Beast’s Jay Michaelson says a thirty day sentence is right. Hmmm… interesting! A thirty day sentence reminds me of something. What was it? Oh, of course, Lindsay Lohan. She was sentenced to thirty days last year because she didn’t keep up with her community service. A short while later she was sentenced to 120 days for not returning a necklace that a shop had loaned her. Interestingly, just like Dharun Ravi, she got three years probation. She did however, get 180 more hours of community service than he did.
Lindsey, darling, if you’re reading this, listen up- you’re living in the wrong state! Move to New Jersey! They’ll surely give you time served for all your future infractions.
The media equated Lindsey’s forgetfulness to robbery. Headlines said she stole a necklace, and that brings me back to Dharun Ravi. What did he steal from Tyler Clementi? What exactly did he do? Was it just a teenager’s prank? A bit of fun? Insensitive antics? That’s what his attorney and a number of gay activists would have us believe (the judge evidently agrees.) I’ve heard and read all sorts of justifications. The comments section of The Daily Beast provided me with the following:
He was already out of the closet, the peeping made no difference.
People who commit suicide are selfish.
He was a disturbed young man.
He needed to toughen up.
The only reason this went to court was that Clementi committed suicide.
Clementi caused the situation by having gay sex in his dorm-room.
Ravi’s father called it a malicious prosecution, twice he mentioned that this only went to trial because of powerful lobby groups and their agenda. Hey, wait a second! Does he mean me, The Pink Agendist? I’m not powerful, just a loud-mouth. He can’t possibly mean the Gay Mainstream and their push for the adoption of conservative values.
I’m not sure if the attitude and comments I read on TDB are a better fit for the Blame the Victim Defence or the Gay Panic Defence. If you don’t know what the gay panic defence is: “…the defendant claims that they have been the object of homosexual romantic or sexual advances. The defendant finds the advances so offensive and frightening that it brings on a psychotic state characterized by unusual violence.”
My position is, as you can imagine, entirely different. What Ravi did was not a childish prank. It was reckless, it was dangerous, it was criminal. It was tantamount to robbery, it was emotional rape. America is still the country where LGBT teens dropped like flies in the Anoka-Hennepin school district. It’s the country where Matthew Shepard was dragged through a field, pistol whipped, tortured, tied to a fence and left to die. It’s the country where fifteen year old Larry King was shot in the head by a fellow student, at school. So why in the world would Tyler Clementi mind having his private sexual encounter ridiculed on twitter and publicized over the internet? Right? That’s what Signorile, Nathaniel Frank et. al. seem to be saying. What could he possibly have to lose? Not his dignity, his self-confidence and his life? Of course not. I mean, it’s not like he and M.B. (his sexual partner) would have to spend the rest of their lives wondering if the next person they met, the next job interview they attended or the next person they saw in traffic, were people who may have seen them in the most intimate of human interactions. We The Gays are always complaining, because we don’t realize we already have all the rights we need and deserve. We’re even going to have marriage rights! Yay! Surely, that makes us equal. The idea of two gay men together is so widely accepted, no one could ever think that secretly filming a gay encounter and publicizing it could cause any harm at all to the people being filmed. We’re even allowed to hold hands in public, aren’t we? Without conservatives saying that by doing so we’re promoting homosexuality? Gone are the days in America when Republicans were trying to prohibit the use of the word GAY in schools. Hey, maybe I should even jump on the gay-mainstream’s bandwagon. It was a silly prank. Invading, stealing, publicizing a human being’s most intimate moment is nothing. It meant so little to Tyler Clementi that he only visited Ravi’s twitter page 59 times in the days prior to his death (38 of those times in his last 48 hours.) It must have been Clementi’s fault. He wasn’t tough enough, maybe he wasn’t even straight-acting enough. He didn’t hide his internet history well enough. He was publicizing his homosexuality by asking questions online, in fact, that’s how Ravi first found out he was gay and made the first of his disparaging comments for the world to see on twitter. If only Clementi had been more manly, like our mainstream gay activists. He should have waited to have gay sex after he was gay-married, in the privacy of his suburban home. Not in a dorm-room where someone could set up a remote-activated camera to spy on him and live-stream his private encounter. He was asking for it. Had he behaved properly, he wouldn’t have deserved Ravi’s silly harassment. The judge knew all of this, hence the 30 day sentence.