This week, The New Yorker's lead story is a lumbering, 12,800-word rehash of gay Rutgers student Tyler Clementi's suicide and his roommate's upcoming trial for invasion of privacy. The magazine too rarely covers gay topics, and this, their one take on gay teen suicide, doesn't include any of the major issues facing most gay teen suicides. It's like reporting on Africa by touring the Seychelles. People are drawn to this case because it exploits fears of internet exposure and because it's just plain sad. Yet it has nothing to say about actual bullying, unresponsive or complicit school officials, family rejection, extreme isolation, religious bigotry, or antigay politicking, or about unlikely pockets of support. Many people will read the piece and come away thinking it's a heartbreaking tale of a lonely college kid who made a terrible choice on a bad night... but what are angry gays complaining about? (Clementi was not outed by the hidden webcam and a total of maybe seven people saw images for a few seconds of him and another guy with their shirts off and their jeans on. His text messages after discovering the spying are full of lols and hahahaha and that all in all his roomie was "pretty decent," though hours later he did request a roommate change.) If you can get past sentences like "His sexual self—born on the Internet, in the shadow of pornography—seems to have been largely divorced from his social self," read the whole essay here.
Readers who are not sufficiently depressed by the main story can dwell on the scene of closeted Anderson Cooper at Rutgers a year later to host a tv special called "Bullying: It Stops Here," where a CNN manager talked to the student audience prior to taping to "coach them on how to express shock or grief while watching the panel."
A great writer exploring this subject could produce another In Cold Blood. The place to do it is Tennessee, whose legislature is still deliberating their "Don't Say Gay" bill. The state offers plenty of grotesque hatred like Rep. Floyd of Chattanooga standing by his statements that he would "stomp a mudhole" in any man [trans] who tried to use the women's dressing room while his wife or daughter was there. But, less publicized, even rural Tennesseans have shown a tremendous outpouring of gay support. Two recent suicides there were Phillip Parker, 14, whose parents repeatedly complained to his school, and Jacob Rogers, whose friends say he was abused "every day in every class." As I wrote last week, Rogers asked for an Easy Bake Oven when he was six and shot himself at eighteen.