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Tyler Clementi a 'culture shaker,' says org. that worked everyday of his life to shake his self-acceptance

by Jeremy Hooper

At year's end, Focus on the Family's "Plugged In" media site assembled a list of the "top 10 culture shakers" of 2011. Here are nine of them:

1. Mark Zuckerberg
2. Justin Bieber
3. Harry Potter
4. Steve Jobs
5. Rebecca Black
6. Tim Tebow
7. Bella Swan
8. Kim Kardashian
9. Charlie Sheen

So okay, regardless of what you think of these names, they are all ripe for pop culture discussion. Sport stars, singers, fictional wizards, reality TV personalities -- they're all part of our shared culture, like them or not. Entertainment, primarily.

But now look at the one other name on the Focus on the Family list:

10. Tyler Clementi

Yes, that's right: The young Rutgers student who completed suicide after being harassed for being gay is someone who the leading, most well-financed, longest running Tyler.Jpganti-LGBT group in America chooses as a "culture shaker." A selection I find incredibly crass, at best.

If one -- anyone, regardless of viewpoint -- wants to discuss the zeitgeist surrounding the Clementi tragedy, then the "culture shaker" would be Dan Savage. After Clementi's death, Savage created the "It Gets Better" project, which caught on like wildfire. People from all parts of culture took part in the project, making the high profile effort a cultural definitive of 2011. The Focus writer who assembled the list (Paul Asay) gives mention to IGB, so he clearly recognizes it as a big point of his intended discussion. So that is what he should have chosen, if he felt a need to choose anything at all.

But Tyler Clementi? He is not a pop culture talking point! This is a young man whose life was cut tragically support because of a culture that sent him destructive messaging about what it means to be gay in America. Let me remind you: Focus on the Family, its Citizenlink action arm, and its nationwide network of affiliate groups are working every single hour of every single day to keep this kind of messaging alive, unwell, and tainting future brains. This organization has a major role in any anti-LGBT idea, message, policy, or pushback that's out there. In fact, if adding up factors like longevity, financing, and commitment, there is surely no single organization in this world -- as in the whole world, the whole planet -- that has contributed more to a culture of anti-LGBT animus than has this one, Colorado-based organization. "It gets worse" has been the one, focused message for decades now.

And yet they now have the nerve to throw this tragedy on a list right next to REBECCA BLACK?!? And not only include Tyler, but further stigmatize the situation by pinpointing this as the key takeaway: "For Christians, [Tyler's] death was a critical reminder that, even when we disagree with someone's choices or lifestyle, we must always treat that person with respect, dignity and compassion."

As I said: Incredibly crass, at best. Although for those of us who know all-too-well what "lifestyle choice" rhetoric and rabidly anti-gay policy work do to the young psyche, even the "at best" position might be too generous.

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