Workers Vanguard No. 969

19 November 2010


Gay Oppression and the Suicide of Tyler Clementi

(Young Spartacus pages)

NEW YORK CITY—On September 22, 18-year-old Rutgers University student Tyler Clementi committed suicide by jumping from the George Washington Bridge. Earlier that week, his college roommate had secretly streamed video over the Internet of him making out with another man. Following Clementi’s death, reports of suicides of gay youth around the country came trickling out in the press. The next month saw the kidnapping and torture of three young men in the Bronx because they were suspected of engaging in homosexual sex. These terrible events are not anomalies; they speak to the ongoing oppression of gays, and of all those who diverge from the deeply entrenched gender roles inherent to the institution of the family in capitalist society.

Homosexual youth are up to four times more likely than straight youth to attempt suicide. Almost two-thirds report feeling unsafe at school. The growth of religious backwardness and the reactionary “family values” campaigns pushed by both Democrats and Republicans have further intensified anti-gay bigotry and violence, at the same time that state-sponsored “abstinence only” campaigns and the rollback of abortion rights have aimed to repress every expression of young people’s sexuality.

Confronted by the events of the last several months, everyone from the New York Times, the bourgeoisie’s newspaper of record, to the reformist International Socialist Organization has responded with calls for anti-bullying measures. For public school and campus administrations, the capitalist rulers’ watchdogs, anti-bullying policies are a pretext for further snooping into the private affairs of youth, who are already subject to anti-drug witchhunts. Black and minority students, who especially are branded as criminals by cops and security guards and subject to discriminatory “zero tolerance” policies in their schools, would be among the first targets.

We oppose school administrators having stronger disciplinary powers, and we also oppose “hate crime” legislation. Hate crime legislation strengthens the capitalist state’s repressive powers while promoting the absurd idea that the state will defend the interests of those oppressed and exploited under capitalism. In practice, such laws have been used to persecute anarchist protesters and pro-Palestinian activists while gays, immigrants and black people continue to face cop and vigilante terror in the streets.

We seek to win youth to building a revolutionary workers party that will act as a champion of the oppressed against the barbarism of capitalist society. Only socialist revolution will open the way to an egalitarian, communist society where the institution of the family, the source of women’s and gay oppression, can be replaced because its economic and social functions will be fulfilled by society as a whole.

We print below a Spartacus Youth Club speaker’s remarks at the New York Spartacist League’s October 9 forum, slightly edited for publication.

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What I wanted to talk about is what, probably, you have been reading in the papers, this recent wave of attacks against gays in New York and the surrounding areas. There is the case of Tyler Clementi, the Rutgers student, a tragic suicide. There are also the cases of the brutalized gays in the Bronx that were on the front page of the New York Times, and the attack on a gay man at the landmark of the gay rights movement, Stonewall, in the Village.

It is a vital task of the workers revolutionary vanguard to fight for full democratic rights for gays. In the United States, which is one of the most politically backward advanced capitalist countries on Earth, we see an infestation of Puritanism and religious fundamentalism.

The monogamous family remains the legally enforced social model for the organization of private life in its most intimate aspects, such as love, sex, bearing and raising children. It is the central institution oppressing women, and anti-gay bigotry flows from the need to punish any “deviations” from this patriarchal model.

So what is our program? You can, of course, read more in the Women and Revolution pages of our newspaper, or come to one of our youth classes at City College this semester. To give you a snapshot of our program for women’s liberation and for the complete end to this system of oppression, I would like to quote Leon Trotsky.

We had this in our article “For the Right of Gay Marriage...and Divorce” [WV No. 824, 16 April 2004]. Leon Trotsky wrote a response to the magazine Liberty in January 1933. They were asking him, “Is Bolshevism deliberately destroying the family?” This is Trotsky’s answer:

“If one understands by ‘family’ a compulsory union based on the marriage contract, the blessing of the church, property rights, and the single passport, then Bolshevism has destroyed this policed family from the roots up.

“If one understands by ‘family’ the unbounded domination of parents over children, and absence of legal rights for the wife, then Bolshevism has, unfortunately, not yet completely destroyed this carryover of society’s old barbarism.

“If one understands by ‘family’ ideal monogamy—not in the legal but in the actual sense—then the Bolsheviks could not destroy what never was nor is on earth, barring fortunate exceptions.”