On 22 September 2010, Rutgers freshman Tyler Clementi jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge over the Hudson River in New York. The 18-year-old Clementi, a gifted violinist, took his life in despair over being outed as gay after his roommate broadcast live streaming video of Clementi engaged in a sex act with another man in their college dorm room. The suicide was the fourth in three weeks by gay teens who were bullied, harassed, or mocked by peers, and casts a spotlight on issues of school bullying and gay intolerance in America.
On the evening of September 19, Clementi had asked Dharun Ravi for the sole use of the room they shared for several hours. Ravi went down the hall to his friend Molly Wei’s room, where he used her computer to access the webcam on his own computer via Skype. He then broadcast the encounter live, and used his Twitter account to notify others of Clementi’s rendezvous: ”Roommate asked for the room till midnight. I went into molly’s room and turned on my webcam. I saw him making out with a dude. Yay.“
Two days later, Clementi asked for privacy again, and Ravi repeated his surveillance: “Anyone with iChat, I dare you to video chat me between the hours of 9.30 and 12. Yes it’s happening again.”
The following evening, Clementi drove his car the hour from Rutgers to the George Washington Bridge in Manhattan, parked and at 8:42 PM, posted his final comment to his Facebook account: “Jumping off the gw bridge sorry.” Shortly after, he leapt from the bridge. His body was recovered and identified a week later.
The afternoon following Clementi’s suicide, 13-year-old Asher Brown shot himself in the head with his stepfather’s 9mm Beretta, dying in the closet where the gun was stored. Brown had endured relentless bullying and harassment for his small size and alleged sexual preference. Repeated complaints from his parents to the school board of the Cypress, Texas community where they reside brought no response.
On the morning of his death, Asher Brown confessed to his stepfather that he was gay, following a humiliating incident at school the previous day where bullying students had tripped, shoved and kicked him down a stairwell. The attack was investigated, but no action was taken when no one would corroborate Brown’s story.
Four days earlier, on 19 September, 13-year-old Seth Walsh of Tehachapi, California hanged himself from a tree in the backyard, after telling his mother he was going out to play with his dogs. She found him an hour later, unconscious and not breathing; he was rushed by helicopter to the Kern Medical Center in Bakersfield, where he lingered on life support until September 28, never regaining consciousness.
Walsh was openly gay and had been taunted and harassed by bullies in school and his neighborhood for years; just weeks before his death, he had transferred to independent study to avoid the treatment he received at school. As with Asher Brown, Seth Walsh’s parents state they informed school authorities of the harassment on numerous occasions, but received no redress. School spokespersons deny any reports were filed.
Ten days before Walsh’s suicide, on 9 September 2010, 15-year-old Billy Lucas hanged himself from a rafter in his grandmother’s barn in Greensburg, Indiana. As with the others, harassment for his perceived sexual orientation had been a part of Lucas’ life for years. Friend and classmate Nick Hughes described Lucas’ school life this way: “He was threatened to get beat up every day. Sometimes in classes, kids would act like they were going to punch him and stuff and push him. Some people at school called him names. He would try to [defend himself] but people would just try to break him down with words and stuff and just pick on him.”
Another student, Jade Sansing, stated that much of the harassment came from girls, who would taunt Lucas with being “gay, and tell him to go kill himself.” The day before he died, Lucas had a chair pulled out from under him at lunch, and was told to go hang himself. On the morning of his suicide, Lucas fired back at his abusers with an expletive-laced stream of invective, and was suspended from school. He returned to his home to tend to the horses and lambs that were the best part of his life; that evening he hung himself with one of his favorite horse’s leads.
This alarming spate of gay teen suicides was inaugurated by the death of 15-year-old Justin Aaberg just before the Solar Eclipse of July 11, which seems to have set the pattern. The Anoka, Minnesota boy had come out at 13, been the brunt of much bullying and harassment, and had recently broken up with his boyfriend; he hanged himself at home on July 9. Aaberg’s suicide was the fifth at Anoka High within the previous year; at least three of these appear to be linked to issues of sexual identity, but the school board continues to refuse to address issues of sexuality and bullying in the district, preferring a policy of “remaining neutral.”
Numerous asteroids refer to mythic characters who committed suicide, and many of these have been active in recent months. At the July 11 Solar Eclipse, Mercury, ruling students and young people, at 3 Leo was conjunct several of these—Phaedra at 0 Leo, Pyramus at 5 Leo, Niobe at 8 Leo, and Sphinx at 10 Leo. At the same time, Mercury squared Sappho, named for a famous ancient Greek lesbian poet and noted for its action in gay charts, at 10 Scorpio, and sextiled Ganymed, named for Zeus’ underage cup-bearer and lover, at 7 Libra. Mercury was also sextile asteroids Ajax and Thisbe, both at 7 Gemini, while trine Antigone at 6 Sagittarius, Hylonome at 10 Sagittarius, and Byblis at 8 Aries, and squared Arachne at 12 Taurus, inconjunct Althaea at 1 Pisces and semisextile Dido at 1Virgo, all named for mythic suicides.
Deaths among young gay males escalated in September, after Mars (sexuality, death) came to conjoin Ganymed on August 23 atop the spotlighting Quasar at 15 Libra, which gave national prominence to the story. Asteroid Eros, often prominent in gay-themed charts [see my article on Eros in the July 2010 Daykeeper Journal], has also been encroaching on Mars, the pair traveling within a few degrees of each other since early August, just a degree apart for Lucas’ suicide September 9, and exactly conjunct for Walsh, Clementi and Brown.
Clementi’s suicide has received the most national attention, and shows a particular resonance with these asteroids, which plaintively portray his plight. When Clementi posted his suicide note at 8:42 PM EDT, 22 September 2010, asteroids Phaedra at 27 Leo and Pyramus at 25 Leo were opposed Neptune and Chiron at 26 Aquarius retrograde, all points conjunct Black Holes, and forming a Grand Cross with Arachne at 0 Gemini exactly opposed Sappho at 0 Sagittarius.
The symbolism here is unavoidable: both Pyramus and Phaedra indulged in forbidden passions. Pyramus’ doomed love for Thisbe (whose asteroid namesake joins this pattern from 28 Gemini, sextile Phaedra and trine Neptune) was forbidden by their parents, who were bitter rivals (their story was usurped by Shakespeare for his classic “Romeo and Juliet”). Phaedra became obsessed with lust for her stepson, who rejected her. After a series of misunderstandings, both Pyramus and Thisbe committed suicide, and Phaedra hanged herself out of mortification after her illicit love became public.
The similarity to Clementi, who killed himself after his forbidden love for another man was revealed, is stunning. Phaedra’s opposition to Neptune reinforces the aspect of despair which caused him to take his own life, and even underscores the manner of his death, drowning, as Neptune rules water. Chiron indicates the wounding Clementi received, and the outcast, maverick behavior. The square to Sappho confirms the homosexual element to the tragedy, while Arachne, named for the Lydian weaver who hanged herself after losing a competition with Athena, solidifies the suicide theme.
But there is more. Also at Clementi’s death is a potent pairing of asteroids Antinous at 12 Gemini, Askalaphus at 15 Gemini, and Ajax at 17 Gemini, all opposed centaur Hylonome at 10 Sagittarius and asteroid Antigone at 21 Sagittarius, while squared Mercury at 12 Virgo, traveling with asteroids Niobe and Amata at 9 Virgo, and Sphinx at 16 Virgo.
Mercury rules students and young people, establishing Clementi as the protagonist of the tragedy. Sphinx is named for the mythic creature who killed herself after Oedipus solved her riddle, by hurling herself from a height. Antinous is named for a male lover of Emperor Hadrian, who drowned himself in the Nile and was deified after his death. Askalaphus is named for a tale-bearing denizen of Hades who informed on Persephone’s ingestion of six pomegranate seeds during her enforced sojourn there, which then necessitated her annual return. Ajax was a Greek warrior who famously killed himself during the war with Troy. Hylonome threw herself upon her husband’s spear after his death in battle. Antigone, wife of Peleus (not the heroine of Sophocles’ play, daughter of Oedipus) hanged herself out of jealousy. Amata hanged herself when her preferred suitor for her daughter’s hand was killed. Niobe hanged herself from a rock in an excess of despair after the loss of her husband and all fourteen of their children.
The overwhelming emphasis of suicide-related asteroids with Mercury would be enough to support this student’s death, without the eerily reminiscent plot underpinnings of the tattling Askalaphus, who reveals secrets (played in this tragedy by Dharun Ravi, Clementi’s roommate), the Sphinx, who jumps to her death, and Antinous, the young gay man who drowns himself in a river! That these points interact strongly with Tyler Clementi’s natal chart is something about which I have no doubt, although unfortunately, no birth data was available for any of these young men.
Placements for the remaining September deaths are substantially the same, but notice should be made of the startling congruence of Mercury, Niobe and Amata all at exactly the same degree, 8 Virgo, between Black Holes at 7 and 9 Virgo, for the suicide of Seth Walsh on September 19.
Throughout September the Sun was traveling with asteroids Ariadne and Dido, two more prominent mythic women who killed themselves after being abandoned by those they loved, adding further emphasis to the theme of sex-based suicide, and this pair of asteroids came to square the Galactic Center at 27 Sagittarius, providing global notice and notoriety, at just the time that Clementi’s death became public knowledge and a cause celebre for the anti-gay-bashing and anti-school-bullying movements.
Also that month, Saturn and asteroid Jokaste were paired, with the ancient lord of death and the asteroid named for Oedipus’ mother and wife (who hanged herself after she realized she had unwittingly married her own son) traversing the galactic terrain in early Libra, which includes the spotlighting Quasar at 5 Libra and the newsy, media-oriented Pulsar at 7 Libra.
Additionally, when Justin Aaberg committed suicide on July 9, asteroid Ganymed (gay youths) at 6 Libra was squared the Black Hole (loss, altered reality) at 5 Capricorn. Billy Lucas’s death saw Ganymed at 20 Libra squared the Black Hole at 19 Capricorn. Ganymed at 23 Libra opposed the Black Hole at 24 Aries for Seth Walsh’s suicide on September 19. It exactly opposed the same anomaly for Tyler Clementi’s death September 22, and was within a one degree orb when Asher Brown killed himself on September 23, with Ganymed then at 25 Libra.
With Mercury continuing to interact with suicide-themed asteroids, and Eros continuing to travel with Mars, we can unfortunately expect more such incidents of young gay men bullied, harassed and humiliated to the point of self-destruction. The distribution of these tragic events, from coast to coast and north to south of the heartland, indicates this as a problem of epidemic proportions in the US, affecting every geographic region and exposing the extent of our national core of intolerance and prejudice. As Seth Walsh’s mother Amy put it, “Our son is just the extreme case of what happens when (someone is) just relentless,” and then, addressing those who had bullied her son, she added, “I hope you’re happy with what you’ve done. I hope you got what you wanted and you’re just real satisfied with yourself.”