Sunday, December 12, 2010

For Tyler...

Happy Yuletide Family and Friends!

It feels rather odd saying that given the nature of this entry.

Recently, a very gifted young man by the name of Tyler Clemente jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge after his fellow classmates secretly videotaped him engaged in an act of intimacy and posted that video on Youtube. Tyler was gay.

I can't even begin to imagine his parent's agony, especially now during this holiday season. Apparently, they were unaware that Tyler was homosexual.

A few weeks after Tyler's death, I made it a point of talking to my kids about their sexuality. Oh yeah, I went there! Turns out, it wasn't the awkward conversation one might expect.

You see, we are very fortunate that our kids share a lot more than we ever did with our parents at their age. I feel grateful for the level of trust they have in us as parents.

As Wiccans, we believe that all acts of love and pleasure are sacred and to whom that love is shared is not necessarily determined by gender, societal pressures or by mainstream religious beliefs. Our kids, while not practicing Pagans, have grown up in an atmosphere that embraces sexuality as an expression of love, beauty and devotion, rather than a source of fear or embarrassment.

We didn't want our children to be overwhelmed by feelings that they didn't quite understand and wanted them to feel assured that we would love and support them whatever their sexual preference. We also made it clear that the rest of society, as yet, may not be quite as accepting of their choices as we are. We further explained that, much like being openly Neopagan, choosing to openly practice an alternative sexual lifestyle was not for the faint of heart. Still, we didn't want them to view their sexuality as a source of fear or anxiety, but instead, was a natural expression of who they are. Most importantly, we wanted them to be safe.

I've thought often about Tyler Clemente, as well as the other children who've taken their lives for the same reasons. As a parent, my heart breaks to think that he felt that taking his life was better than having those in it learn that he was gay. How different things might have been had he shared his "secret" with those people who loved him. I also can't help but wonder if there was something in his background that prevented him from sharing the same. Was it his religious beliefs or perhaps something in his upbringing that caused him to feel that the truth being revealed was worth dying for.

Adolescence is a time of transformation. It's neither easy, nor painless.

I implore you as parents, speak to your children. Listen to them with open minds and hearts. They may tell you things that you never wanted to know or that go against your moral or religious beliefs. If what you hear is difficult for you, just imagine how hard it may be for them to share. They need to know that not everyone will be on their side, but not everyone's opinion of them matters.

In Darkness, Light!