Thursday, September 30th, 2010

A Summary of Our Gay Teen Bodycount

SETH WALSH• An 11-year-old sixth grader in Ohio had his arm broken by teenagers who called him a queer and a sissy because he wanted to be a cheerleader. One of the teenagers who beat him up was suspended! Another was not!

• There's the suicide, by hanging, of 13-year-old Seth Walsh, in California. There will be no charges filed against the students who bullied him for years. A memorial service will be held this Friday. His siblings, 11, 17 and 18, will attend.

• The suicide, by means of his father's Beretta, of 13-year-old Asher Brown, in Texas. School officials deny that the parents complained about bullying; the parents are outraged about being called liars and they're being backed up pretty well by other parents and students, including a student who was beaten with a pipe by other students after his complaints were ignored by administrators.

• It's only been a month since 15-year-old Billy Lucas hanged himself: "On Billy's Facebook web memorial, he's remembered with comments like, 'Everyone made fun of him.'"

• In related news, there's the really weird Michigan ADA Andrew Shirvell, who runs a blog devoted to harassing a "radical homosexual activist" (AKA the current University of Michigan student council president) because in part the student is a proponent of… gender-neutral dorms. Something the school's paper recently editorialized in favor of! (There's the already infamous Anderson Cooper interview.) This has actually been a "good" event overall, because pretty much it's exposed the entire student body of the campus to the real face of homophobic crazy.

• And now the suicide of Rutgers freshman Tyler Clementi. Here's the very odd story from the Rutgers paper, the Targum. It interviews lots of very defensive friends of the victim's roommates and the administration, who all suggest that the media may have "misconstrued" or "distorted" the story. That is very odd! Here's how the Star Ledger described the gist of the matter: "A Rutgers University freshman appears to have killed himself by jumping off the George Washington Bridge after his roommate broadcast live images of the 18-year-old having a sexual encounter with another man on the internet, according to campus and law enforcement sources." That doesn't seem very distortable; one event did indeed follow the other.

104 Comments / Post A Comment

BadUncle (#153)

Jesus. I just wish we had real adults to protect kids.

C_Webb (#855)

And a real government that didn't see gay rights/humanity as open to debate.

Mindpowered (#948)

Special to Awl commenters: We'd love to have such a charming bunch of people up in Canada. Come up and enjoy our free health care, celebrate your friends same sex marriages, and enjoy a nice refreshing taste of multi party politics.

Mindpowered (#948)

Hmm… that sounds a little gloaty, but really, most of you are a charming bunch, and I'd like to pull all of you out of there.

garge (#736)

You can make up for the gloaty by maybe shipping me some Berocca with paypaled funds and/or possibly dropping my name to a friend of yours, preferably in the Vancouver area, who does not consider the institution of marriage to be sacred?

Mindpowered (#948)

Your wish is my command. I'm calling my buddy who lives here.

Trust me. Nothing is sacred to him.

garge (#736)

Perfect! I hope he isn't allergic to cats .. but no matter, meds are cheap there!! I will start building my registry ..

DoctorDisaster (#1,970)

Do you have jobs up there? This country sort of ran out.

MikeBarthel (#1,884)

I thought "Gay Teen Bodycount" was the name of the upcoming Glee episode devoted to the music of Ice-T.

Not bad, not bad.

saythatscool (#101)

That's just textbook perfect commenting right there, mike.

saythatscool (#101)

Why is that an odd story from the Targum, Choire? I thought it was pretty evenhanded in the face of a lot of hysterical blogging from people who have no personal knowledge of the case.

saythatscool (#101)

On the other hand, I agree that homosexuals are often bullied as kids. So I don't dispute your premise.

petejayhawk (#1,249)

You don't find the story of a college freshman committing suicide after his roommate bugged his room and broadcast video of him making out with another student to be odd?

saythatscool (#101)

@pete: I thought Choire was saying that the claims by the friends that the media may have "misconstrued" or "distorted" the story is very odd? Or maybe I'm wrong…

saythatscool (#101)

@pete: Although I also agree with you that Choire is calling the underlying story "odd" as well. My point is these are high odds.

jrb (#3,020)

@stc Anonymous "student" source (sources?) claims Ravi wasn't spying to embarrass but to see if his roommate and the "strange, older male" were up to something nefarious.

Yet his voyeuristic I DARE YOU TO CHECK OUT THE GAY SEX tweet.

I'm open to friends saying that this was a prank and not malicious. Maybe that's the case. MAYBE. That doesn't be the kind of thing you do to a friend. And freshman year roommates can be the worst.

But this equivocating bullshit of 'he was just making sure they weren't messing with the room' is beyond accommodating. It's just fucking stupid.

::rant over::

saythatscool (#101)

@jrb: Well let's be precise. Rutger's Vice President for Student Affairs used the word "misconstrued" and as far as the word "distorted," there's no attribution or quote. It's just a word the reporter used.

At the same time, Ravi's tweets seem to indicate that he saw Clementi "making out" with another man. And that he tried to record and broadcast another make out session a few days later. There was no indication that any type of gay intercourse was witnessed or broadcast.

Now of course it's wrong to do that. But at the same time, we are talking about two 18 year old nerdy kids living on the Busch science campus of Rutgers pulling a stupid prank on a fellow nerd. It's not like Ravi and Wei were 2 homophobic frat boys picking on a weaker gay kid. I guess I am just trying to say that people need to wait until all the facts are in before they judge.

Also, after reading the relevant statutes, I don't think the prosecution has a very good chance of getting a conviction under the invasion of privacy law counts.

saythatscool (#101)

At least as the facts are alleged right now.

scroll_lock (#4,122)


saythatscool (#101)

Which is odd because in real life I sell erotic cakes.

scroll_lock (#4,122)

Your shtupcakes with cream filling are the best.

Confused. The "innocent prank" hypothesis is perfectly reasonable without personal knowledge of the case, but the inference that this kid was disgusted by his gay roommate is not?

saythatscool (#101)

You're such a delicious tart.

jrb (#3,020)

@stc I don't like that the reporter tries to justify what the VP says by giving credence to bullshit.

They two might be tormenting monsters (as some are making them out to be). They may be two nerds who pranked the wrong nerd. No one can say for sure right now.

But the fact that this Targum story gave even the slightest credence to the idea of "He just wanted to see what was going on…. [Ravi] had no intention to violate Tyler in any way," couple with the VP's statement is ODD.

saythatscool (#101)

@gnarly: I am not sure about that inference. What do you base the idea that he was "disgusted" by what he saw? As opposed to titillated or just delighted with something that appealed to a prurient interest?

I am interested, I hope I am not coming off as a smartass, btw.

scroll_lock (#4,122)

@STC: Booby babkas!

saythatscool (#101)

@jrb: I see your point now and I guess that's what Choire was expressing. I just get irritated with 300+ Gawker commenterer (all of whom seem to have immigrated from Jezebel since last year) demanding two 18 year old kids heads after reading a 250 word poorly written summary of an article that a reporter maybe spent an hour on investigating and drafting. They're kids who deserve due process and a trial where all the facts can come out in a rational manner.

saythatscool (#101)

@scrolly: Cookiepussy!

I don't see how prurient interest and disgust are mutually exclusive. "I saw him making out with a dude. Yay." I suppose a post-structuralist would say that "yay" has infinite connotations, but it's obvious to me it's ironic and that he wasn't pleased with the activity in his room.

scroll_lock (#4,122)

@STC: No one would ever call you a smartass to your face!

saythatscool (#101)

@gnarly: OK so you think "yay" showed he was upset. But was it because the roommate was a homosexual or was it because a liaison was going on in his room and he wasn't a part of it?

In my mind, both explanations are equally possible without more evidence.

saythatscool (#101)

You know why I'm getting a divorce?

One morning I woke up and my wife said to me "Morning fuck face."

So I did.

saythatscool (#101)

that last one was @scrolly, btw.

scroll_lock (#4,122)

@STC: Always aiming to please, you are.

"Without more evidence." Like the eight words before "yay."

winslow (#7,692)

"It's not like Ravi and Wei were 2 homophobic frat boys picking on a weaker gay kid."

I'm not sure why this makes what they did any less disgusting. Just because it's "Ravi and Wei" as opposed to "Bradford and Troy", at the end of the day it's still two people whose idea of fun is humiliating another human being. I care less about the legal connotations than about the total lack of decency. It's fucking inexcusable. They're not stupid kids, they're 18, for crying out loud.

saythatscool (#101)

@winslow: It makes it less disgusting because Ravi and Wei's motives MAY (and I use that word because I don't understand their motives) have not been a hateful intent so much as general college foolishness. We all do stupid stuff in college and sometimes those have negative ramifications. This seems to be an instance of that to me.

Moreover, Wei did not do anything here as far as I can tell beyond sitting at Ravi's side and laughing as he allegedly recorded Clememnti and the lover and used a computer in Wei's room to watch. So I don't know what she did beyond hang out with a foolish boy and laugh at his childish prank.

saythatscool (#101)

@gnarly: "I saw him making out with a dude?"

Do you know if Ravi is gay? Does anybody? What if he was? Would that change your opinion about the tweet?

STC, "I just get irritated with 300+ Gawker commenterer… "

Yep, Jezebelianism is a creeping virus. However, the roommate is doing massive amounts of back peddling. If you read all the elements in the story in a rational manner it is clear the roommate intended to continue to harass him. So, not really so innocent.

winslow (#7,692)

Yeah, okay. See, to me, common college foolishness with negative ramifications is more along the lines of "I got drunk and fucked my roommate's boyfriend" — not "I humiliated my roommate on the internet for my own enjoyment". There's a point at which you cross over from stupidity into cruelty. Do you really think there's any circumstances under which it's NOT execrable to spy on someone's sexual activity and broadcast it to other people without their knowledge or consent?

saythatscool (#101)

@@winslow: Depends, does execrable mean "hot?" If so, then fuck yeah.

Just kidding.

I don't know what your college experience was, but I saw a lot of cruel jokes played on freshmen roommates and I went to Rutgers. Ravi's biggest mistake may be that he treated Clementi just like a typical freshman roommate who you don't like. Having attended there, I can tell you that it's a school where there are many gays and I can honestly say that homophobia was not a problem at the school during the time I was there. It's about 40 minutes outside of New York and there is a very liberal, east coast vibe there. That said, I had a dorm mate who killed himself junior year because his girlfriend was sleeping with another student. Nobody discussed charging the girlfriend when his roommate found his body hanging from the ceiling. Though certainly, I considered the girlfriend's actions quite cruel.

saythatscool (#101)

@kitten: Has Ravi made a statement? If he has, I don't know about it.

saythatscool (#101)

So you say that taking down his twitter is "backpeddling?" How do you know that he didn't take it down just to avoid a million angry messages from Jezebel/Gawker commenters? That seems like a logical explanation to me too.

saythatscool (#101)

@winslow: Also from a comment on the NYT website, from a person claiming to be a classmate of Ravi's:

Dharun was notorious for his obnoxious and boorish personality; he would have probably enjoyed streaming a video of a heterosexual roommate as well. Granted, he became more "interested" in sharing the "show" with everyone in his hall because his roommate was gay, but he did not intend to metaphorically push Tyler to his death. He is not a sadist.

winslow (#7,692)

In that case, we may have crossed paths before. I went to Drew, and spent many weekends at Rutgers because your parties were a hell of a lot better. Memories!

But anyway, I'm not arguing homophobic motivations — just that Ravi and Wei are exceptional assholes for doing what they did.

And of course nobody charged your dorm mate's girlfriend — just as these two aren't charged with murder, either, or anything else that suggests they somehow catalyzed Clementi's suicide. It's privacy invasion and dissemination of images (or something like that). Which seems appropriate given the facts, right?

saythatscool (#101)

@winslow: Ha! Drew is a great school. As far as the privacy law charge goes here's what I have seen:

From the article:
"Under New Jersey statutes, it is a fourth-degree crime to collect or view images depicting nudity or sexual contact involving another individual without that individual's consent and a third-degree crime to transmit or distribute such images."

From the New Jersey statutes:

"Sexual contact means an intentional touching by the defendant, either directly or through clothing, of a person or defendant's intimate parts for the purpose of degrading or humiliating a person or sexually arousing or gratifying the defendant.

Intimate parts means sexual organs, genital area, anal area, inner thigh, groin, buttock or breast of a person.

Again from the article:

Ravi wrote Sept. 19 on his Twitter page "Roommate asked for the room till midnight. I went to molly's room and turned on my webcam. I saw him making out with a dude. Yay."

At the worst, he allegedly recorded two guys kissing. That does not constitute sexual contact under the statute. As I said, I have not heard about Wei doing anything at all, so I don't know how you charge her.

Of course, other attorneys may disagree with me, but right now I just don't see the case against either Ravi or Wei.

STC, what his twitter shows is his intent to continue to illegally record and broadcast his roommate. If his intentions were innocent and all in good fun there was no reason for him to take it down. All he had to do was not log on and let his freshman foolishness speak for itself. Now he is trying to wipe away his online footprints.

saythatscool (#101)

@kitten: We are talking about an 18 year old science major. I am willing to bet that he knew there is no way to wipe away your online twitter account. As far as "illegally record and broadcast his roommate," the statute he is charged under is very specific about what must be recorded and broadcast in order to constitute an invasion of privacy. There was no "nudity or sexual contact" as defined in the statutes and ergo, no invasion of privacy.

But again, I don't know what was in this boy's heart. He sounds young and foolish to me. It's unfortunate that another boy died. But honestly, I don't know what caused Clementi to jump off that bridge either. Was it solely the college prank? Was it a contributing factor? Was it the main contributing factor? That's anybody's guess.

winslow (#7,692)

@STC, Where do you get the idea that "at worst, he recorded two guys kissing"? Because the term "making out" can describe a whole gamut of contact beyond kissing, including "intentional touching by the defendant, either directly or through clothing, of a person or defendant's intimate parts". (You know, "third base".)

Obviously we don't know the whole story. But based on statements by the police who describe the filmed interlude as a "sexual encounter", and statements by friends of Ravi's confirming that he livestreamed video of Clementi over iChat, I think we can assume that there's a reasonable basis for pursuing criminal charges.

saythatscool (#101)

@winslow: See I think of "making out" as necking a la Richie Cunningham and that ain't "intimate parts" touching.

Also, I have not heard from anybody (including the G) that they have seen a recording or broadcast of this encounter other than Ravi. So who knows what was filmed? Just the two defendants? You think they're going to admit that they saw Clementi get to third base?

winslow (#7,692)

@stc: It's been pretty widely reported that Ravi livestreamed one encounter to friends on iChat (and was setting up to stream the next one), so I'm operating under the assumption more than just the two defendants saw and confirmed what was filmed, which would also support the charges. Maybe that's not the case, but for the time being, I'm assuming that the police investigation turned up evidence that made a case worth pursuing, and that's why the two were arrested.

mrschem (#1,757)

brilliant. this belly laugh was much needed.

mrschem (#1,757)

whoops! wrong post!

Meeg (#309)

I think it's odd that the Rutgers school newspaper is called the Targum

scroll_lock (#4,122)

Incredibly depressing. Hope those kids who bullied a boy to death but weren't charged get their karma tenfold; likewise the webcam guy. I wonder if the police who decided not to charge them would do so if the victim was their own son or daughter?

zidaane (#373)

I don't see why these social media app's can't filter that someone just changed their status to 'I'm going to kill myself' and maybe do something.

C_Webb (#855)

Too busy shilling acai berries?

MollyculeTheory (#4,519)

The cost of unjustified system response to teen status updates consisting of Morrissey lyrics would be astronomical.

garge (#736)


BadUncle (#153)

You know, the Awl is really harshing my buzz today. Seriously, can we have something happy, with bears, please?

gregorg (#30)

Isn't it the bears making all the "It Gets Better" videos?

kneetoe (#1,881)

Even the bears are dead these days.

deepomega (#1,720)

Shattering. Fuck you, society.

HiredGoons (#603)

Even in my hippie-dippie high school in Vermont I got my fair share; luckily I have a strong constitution but the thought definitely crossed my mind once or twice.

Kids can be fucking monsters.

saythatscool (#101)

That's too bad, Goonsy. I don't like the idea of anybody picking on you. Give me those kids' addresses and I'll help you go set some fires this weekend. I'll drive.

C_Webb (#855)

A Revenge/Foliage tour!

saythatscool (#101)

In Vermont, Leafers burn you!

scroll_lock (#4,122)

@goons: At a gay friend's request I attended his high school reunion as his (beard) girlfriend and we pretended to be madly in love. The looks on the faces of the a-holes who'd made his high school life hell were priceless (they were all there with their dumpy wives). He felt at least a small measure of revenge.

HiredGoons (#603)

@scroll_lock: my measure of revenge is being completely out, living in New York City and knowing lots of amazing, talented wonderful people.

But that does sound like fun!

scroll_lock (#4,122)

@goons: Living well (and out) is the best revenge!

HiredGoons (#603)

@saythatscool: yay! I love arson!n But lets wait three more weeks when the leaves peak.

Maevemealone (#968)

I was wondering if/when/if I even wanted you wanted you guys to mention the poor Rutgers student, then you go and deliver so much more… Now I really just want to cry and curse at the world…. I'm going to bury myself in baby otter gifs for an hour.

David (#192)

It's time to re-read Robert Cormier's novel, "The Chocolate War."

lawyergay (#220)

Thanks, Choire. I read about Asher Brown on another site today, and it fucked me up, like all of these stories do.

What the fuck!? It may not be fair, but my grief and rage always finds the same, ultimate target when I hear about these tragedies these days: Our "fierce advocate," Barack Obama.

It's just simply true that he could change the national discussion about LGBT civil rights with the stroke of a pen (DADT) and a turn at his fabled podium.

Fucking sickening. All of it.

Some explicit verbal support of marriage rights would be nice, as well.

lawyergay (#220)

Agreed! What is this child of a mixed-race marriage that was ILLEGAL in many states until the Loving decision by the Supreme Court doing?

synchronia (#3,755)

What, you guys didn't see that episode of The West Wing?

lawyergay (#220)

There have been similar incidents of bullying leading to suicide here in my quiet corner of the country. It's not just an LGBT issue:

This is a problem in schools, and it's the fucking cowardly teachers who are on the front lines who don't do a goddamn thing about it. Massachusetts just passed anti-bullying legislation, and it's about time.

DMcK (#5,027)

Does that legislation provide penalties for teachers and school administrators as well? 'Cause as you say, they really seem to need some motivation to curb this problem.

Abe Sauer (#148)
Mindpowered (#948)

That kind of "research" reminds of the wave of support that phrenology enjoyed in the 19th century.

caw_caw (#5,641)

It's stories like this that make me glad impromptu internet Justice Squads exist, screwed up and demented as they can be.

A huge percentage of kids think about killing themselves. It's incredibly heartbreaking when any of them do it.

Very sad.

sigerson (#179)

BUT YOU CAN'T FORCE SOMEONE TO COMMIT SUICIDE. This poor young man did it to himself. He drove to the GWB and he jumped off of it. The jerks with the webcam are not culpable in the slightest bit. They are not criminally liable for his death and they are not liable under tort law for any civil damages. He did it, not them.

Suicide is a touchy subject but in my experience when friends and acquaintances have blown their heads off, parked in the garage with the engine running or taken a long walk off a short pier, my overwhelming reaction is anger and rage that they did it. There are always loved ones left behind to clean up the mess. Whenever I have been depressed and lost and contemplating suicide, I always think of my mother and how it would crush her. I hope this poor young man is resting in peace in whatever after-life awaits us all.

Bittersweet (#765)

You can't force someone to kill themselves, but you can contribute to making them miserable, not just during school hours but all the freaking time. Back in the Victorian Age when you and I were in high school, there was some relief from bullying when you got home. But nowadays, it's in your face, all the time…and it's permanently out there to haunt you.

I'm not saying that bullies should be legally held to account (although we'll see what happens in the Phoebe Prince case in W. Mass), but it's a huge problem and people are trying to figure out what to do about it. And of course we're angry when people kill themselves. And sad.

erikonymous (#3,231)

@sig "The jerks with the webcam are not culpable in the slightest bit."
yeah, you're probably right. he was probably just gonna throw himself off that bridge anyway. no corollary evidence there.
they may not be legally culpable for the death, but is that all that really matters?

sigerson (#179)

My point is that the outrage about the Rutgers incident is bizarrely misplaced. Gawker literally accused the two kids of murder, which is so simple-minded and dumb that it's laughable.

THIS ISN'T EVEN A CASE OF BULLYING. Based on the available evidence, it seems like a prank combined with some pretty awful teasing. But bullying??? How do you connect the dots between the Phoebe Prince case and this one? Other than the suicides, there isn't much of a connection, in my opinion.

sigerson (#179)

Google "proximate cause" and you'll begin to understand that the bullies are not the real problem. All this internet rage and handwringing seems to miss the point.

People commit suicide because of depression and other mental illness, not because someone was mean to them once. Coincidence is not causation.

sigerson (#179)

I just lost my Gawker commenting star over this issue. Brian Moylan didn't like my comments, apparently.

Terri Torkko (#7,695)

You missed the homecoming king in Muskegon, Michigan, whose crown was taken away because even though his fellow students voted for him, the school claimed he couldn't be king, because he's FTM. Not a death, but no moves to make things any better for any kid anywhere, really.

Chris Pulaski (#7,698)

This list makes me furious. Not only because of the content, but because this list exists "Our Gay Teen Bodycount" Really? REALLY?! Doesn't anyone seen anything wrong with this?!

Meeg (#309)

Don't shoot the listicler

ow that hurt (#3,919)

Although it's neither wise nor helpful in the end, I advocaate revenge, and I wish there was a website or two (you could call it "Gay Revenge" ), aimed at high-schoolers who get harassed and/or beat-up, so at least they can feel
less hopeless (revenge like putting someone's name on SPAM lists, enrolling them in wacky churches, distributing photoshopped pics of them, copying their fingerprints and leaving them at crime scenes, snipping their brake lines, etc)

of coourse, I would not have had the nerve to do these things as a high-schooler; I just felt helpless and humiliated (the priests who taught us were not much help either, telling us we would go to hell for impure thoughts)
.. and this just encouraged the assholes who harassed me and others.

still, if our President of Hope isn't going to say or do squat about it, then it's time to "take out the trash."

Also, publically post photos of the parents of the bullies and 'Drudge" them.

We've been nice too long. The Ghandi thing isn't going to work, in this case.

(i know, this is ill-considered. It's just a gut reaction)

chrisafer (#1,322)

And then on this story about an ELEVEN year old whose arm was broken by bullies because he wants to be a cheerleader, you get related stories like "Do Anti-Bullying Programs Push Gay Agenda."

Maybe I was late for the last Gay Board Meeting, since I don't think I've gotten a copy of the latest Gay Agenda where we take over the world by stopping children from assaulting one another. We are so fucking devious.

r&rkd (#1,719)

Can't we at least sue the arm-breakers civilly? A wage garnishment isn't much justice, but it's something. (Can minors escape civil judgments? That is not something I know about…)

sgagliano (#7,737)

@ bad uncle, There are adults that truley want to protect children from all evils. I am willing to scream what all is wrong w/ a system that lets things like this go on. No one will hear me or let me speak!

Tom Marr-Johnson (#4,415)

That's ex-ADA Andrew Shirvell by the way. I believe he's taken a leave of absence to deal with certain personal issues.

Sobrina Ibo-Chua (#7,755)

We were just discussing this last night, on the drive home, and it's sad that even the people closest to me have biases. Sometimes I wonder if I can completely un-do my biases or the most that I can is act in a civil manner?

Katie Read (#7,756)

it makes me sad to know this world is full of such heartless people..get over yourselves and realize the pain these teens were in was real and is still very real for those who havent killed themselves..yet. people need to think before they talk, act or make judgements.

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