It’s not hard to feel for families and friends left behind after the death of a loved one. It’s not hard to understand that they are in terrible pain. If that loved one died by their own hand, it’s not hard to imagine the added pain and guilt, and to feel the added pangs of empathy and sympathy … what if it was my child? my sibling? my parent? my lover? my friend? What if…? If that child succumbed to the pressures and pain of anti-gay bullying (or any kind of bullying), imagine the questions it raises — who knew what and when? could anyone have prevented it? did I fail this person? why them/why not me? — and, in many cases, the guilt, that results.
In Out Magazine, James Clementi sheds some light on these questions … with an added layer: James, like his brother, Tyler (the Rutger’s University student who committed suicide after having his private relationship secretly streamed to the world by fellow students), is gay. James is also the older sibling. His Letters to My Brother is an incredibly personal and touching glimpse into his thoughts and feelings as he and his family deal with the loss of Tyler.
There’s really nothing to say about James Letters. They truly speak for themselves in an honest and poignant way. I can only suggest reading them, reading the letters from this strong man as he comes to terms with the loss of a brother who was more of a peer than outsiders knew. I’ve read and seen comments from the Clementi parents, and have been constantly impressed by their strength and grace in the face of Tyler’s tragic loss — James shares these traits. His words are worth reading by anyone who is a parent, particularly if they have a gay and/or bullied child; by teachers and professors — it is time, in my opinion, for many of them to start being a presences in school bullying cases; by anyone who has a sibling or friend who might be suffering; and, by any teen who has ever felt isolated, bullied, threatened, or misunderstood. For the latter group, if there was ever proof of the importance of trying to reach out, trying to fight back — trying to survive — it’s James Clementi’s words to his brother Tyler.
If there were ever words that conveyed not only ‘what if’ but ‘would could have been’, it’s Letters to My Brother.
Thank you, James, for your bravery and your honesty.