Tyler Clementi was a college student at Rutgers University who came out as gay to his religious family. Despite his mother calling the news “shocking,” his parents were ultimately affirming and supportive. But when his roommate secretly filmed him during a sexual encounter with another man and shared it on social media, the humiliation drove Tyler to suicide in 2010.
Eight years later, his mother, Jane Clementi, told the Today show how her faith got her through the worst event of her life. She said that God would repeatedly repeat words like “hope” and “change” to get her through her “fog” of grief.
To each their own, especially in the wake of a tragedy, but Clementi interpreted the word “change” as a call to create the Tyler Clementi Foundation, a non-profit organization that aims to combat online bullying. Clementi says she hopes that anyone who has ever been aggressive and cruel to others can take a moment and try to see the world through their victims’ eyes.
“We want to create a world of kindness and empathy,” she says.
No doubt many conservative Christians who routinely fight against LGBTQ rights would be right by her side.
Here’s where they would depart: The segment also mentions an essay Clementi wrote for Huffington Post in which she states that losing Tyler has “changed the way I look at the teachings and traditions of the Christian church” and that “loving and embracing your gay, bisexual, or lesbian child as God created them will never fail you.”
She also calls out conversion therapy as abuse and anti-gay rhetoric as bullying:
Telling your child or letting a religious leader tell your child that there is something wrong with them because of who they love is bullying. A church community that treats your child as being broken, less than or separated from God because they are gay or lesbian or bisexual, and insists that they must be fixed or repaired, is bullying. Sending your child to so-called reparative therapy is as damaging and traumatic as a beating from the schoolyard bully. None of it will change your child who is gay or lesbian.
To try and change what God has created causes significant harm. Reparative therapy can cause depression, anxiety, drug use, homelessness and suicidal ideation. It has been rejected by every mainstream medical and mental health organization as a dangerous and fraudulent practice that is traumatic and psychologically painful.
At the end of the segment, she says, “If God wasn’t there, I know I wouldn’t be here today.”
We know the Christians who oppose LGBTQ equality aren’t eager to listen to many progressives, but they should take some time to listen to a fellow believer who’s seen the worst of what anti-gay bigotry can do.