Recently, news of Tyler Clementi’s suicide has pervaded most media. The circumstances surrounding his death, as well as his youth and promise, add to the tragedy of his unfortunate choice. We should mourn Tyler fully, use his story as a lesson, and perhaps, in the future, think before we act. It must be understood at the outset that this article is not intended to undermine this heartbreaking incident. However, the omnipresence of Tyler’s story is an opportune catalyst by which I may air a thought that has been on my mind for some time. It is simply this: gay men receive much more attention than gay women. Anyone who has friends or a computer knows about Tyler. But how many readers have heard about Carol and Laura Stutte?
The Stuttes are a lesbian couple from Vonore, TN, and their house burned down in early September 2010. An article detailing the incident appeared on wate.com, and stated that the couple believed the fire was arson – more precisely, a hate crime. This belief seems justified; the word “QUEERS” was spray-painted on their garage, and in August the couple had complained to the police of harassment from their neighbor. The article says the neighbor “threatened to kill them and burn down their house.” It was by sheer luck that no one was home that night; the couple had been too fearful to return to their property. There has been no follow-up story on the police investigation. More details on the story can be found on wate.com, but suffice it to say, this was a serious, intentional, and violent hate crime that went entirely unnoticed.
To be sure I wasn’t the only person in the dark on the Stutte’s story, I typed their names into Google trends, which uses keywords to produce line graphs showing the history and frequency with which those words were searched on Google (or bar graphs showing which countries searched those terms the most, and in which languages.) Now, allow me to give some perspective – if you type “cat banana” into the search bar, you get a fair amount of information; the first searches for “cat banana” start in late 2008 (a stressful year, I imagine) and then stop almost immediately. They do not appear again until early 2009, and those terms have been searched with relative frequency ever since – mostly within the Philippines. Type in “Tyler Clementi” to Google trends, and you will see a huge search spike in recent weeks. Type in “Carol Stutte” or “Laura Stutte” or “Carol and Laura Stutte,” and Google trends will tell you it has too little data to form a graph.
I’m happy for the attention that the LGBT community gets, no matter how it is skewed. Social change sometimes takes baby steps. However, I would hope that members within the community would take measures to rectify this obvious inequity. And then, perhaps in the future, no one will have to point out the obvious irony of unequal attention within a movement fighting for equal rights.
BY SARAH STRYKER