TRENTON, N.J. – The parents of a Rutgers University student whose roommate allegedly used a webcam to spy on his intimate encounter with a man, say their son told them he was gay about three weeks before his suicide.
Joe and Jane Clementi told People magazine that they were surprised that Tyler Clementi came out in 2010, a few days before the 18-year-old moved into his Rutgers dorm room. He'd been living a lie, he told them, and had known since middle school that he was gay.
"You have dreams for your children," Jane Clementi told the magazine. "When someone tells you this, your dreams are kind of shattered for that moment." She said she was still "processing" the revelation from the violinist, who also taught himself to ride a unicycle. But, she said, she still loved him — and had no inkling that he was depressed or suicidal.
Their interview, which appears in Friday's issue of People magazine, is the family's first with the media. It came as they launch a foundation in their son's name to address acceptance of gay youth, suicide prevention and online civility. The foundation's first activity was last month when it co-sponsored with Rutgers University an academic symposium on how young people use — and misuse — social media.
Clementi's suicide in September 2010 sparked a national discussion on the bullying young gays can face.
His roommate, Dharun Ravi, is charged with 15 criminal counts, including invasion of privacy and bias intimidation, a hate crime that is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
Ravi, now 19, has pleaded not guilty and rejected a plea deal that came with a recommended prison sentence of 3 to 5 years and the possibility of avoiding jail entirely.
He is due at a court hearing on Friday. A trial is scheduled to begin in February.