The Tyler Clementi case — one of several recently publicized gay teen suicides — has received a great deal of media attention and is causing many across the country to focus on the impact of bullying gay teens in schools. The rally at City Hall, which culminated in a candlelight vigil, was meant to assure local gay teens that they should not feel like outcasts, event organizers said.
Pamela Reed, a transsexual woman who read her poem, "Different," at the event, said she has first-hand experience of just how difficult it can be to be a young person who does not fit neatly into a typical heterosexual mold. Reed said that she had considered suicide as a youth, but now that she is older, she feels comfortable in her skin.
"I've been bullied," Reed said. "I've been beaten. I've been called names. And I got over it. I wanted to let people know that it gets better."
The Mountain View event, called Community Vigil and Speakout for LGBTQQ Youth and Allies, was organized by the Santa Clara County chapter of Marriage Equality USA, a gay rights organization.
Ray Hixson, co-chair of the local Marriage Equality USA chapter, said that he feels the recent suicides of teens like Clementi are "extremely sad and extremely unnecessary."
Hixson, a gay man, grew up in Tennessee, where he was consistently told by adults, children and religious figures that being gay was wrong.
"(Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) youth are unnecessarily shamed for who they are," Hixson said. "We wanted to provide them a forum to recognize that and we wanted to stand up with them."
The event began when Amy Morgenstern, a minister with the Unitarian Universalist Church of Palo Alto, addressed the crowd standing at the corner of Castro and Mercy streets.
"We accept you," Morgenstern, a bisexual woman, told the crowd. "We love you. We celebrate you the way that you are."
Morgenstern said she felt it was important for her, as a minister, to dispel the notion that all religions reject non-heterosexual relationships. She said she wanted to let the crowd know that her church openly accepts gays, lesbians, bisexuals, queers and questioning individuals to be open about their sexuality. Other churches in the area do as well, she said.
Mayor Ronit Bryant was also in attendance.
Clementi, who The Washington Post identified as only one recent example "in a spate of teen suicides linked to anti-gay harassment," took his own life after a college roommate broadcast a video, over the Internet, of a romantic encounter between him and another man.
Eugene Seman of Mountain View, who stopped by the event for about 20 minutes, said that he was concerned for the souls of the gays and lesbians at the event. "They will all go to hell unless they repent," Seman said.
Morgenstern did not share that view. "Morality has nothing to do with gender," she told the crowd.