Tyler Clementi grew up in Ridgewood, N.J., attended Rutgers University, and was gay. There are good reasons to believe that he may have committed suicide because he felt humiliated and alone after his roommate used a webcam to spy on him and another man in his dorm room.
Cason Crane grew up in Lawrenceville, NJ, received a deferment from Princeton University until September 2013 and is also gay. He will spend the next year attempting to become the first openly gay man to climb the seven summits—the highest mountains in the world, one of each on the seven continents. He’s undertaking this endeavor — which he calls The Rainbow Summits Project— to raise money and awareness for The Trevor Project, the leading national organization dedicated to providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention to LGBTQ teens.
Although these two young men never knew each, there are invisible ties in death and life that bind them to each other.
Cason grew up not questioning that he was gay.
“I was always comfortable with myself, and my parents were always very open and accepting of my sexuality,” he said.
Tyler did not tell his parents about his sexual orientation until the two days before he went away to college and never seemed to discuss the subject with his friends.
Cason, who attended private schools, remembers only three incidences of name-calling as he was growing up—one in middle school and two in high school. On all three occasions, an older student called him a “fag.” We have no record of any remarks made to Tyler because he seemed to seek safety in the closet during his high-school years.
Unbelievably, Cason had an “only positive” reaction to the insult that was hurled at him and it planted within him the desire to “combat homophobia.” He was always proud of his orientation, and he served as president of the Gay-Straight Alliance at his prep school. He tells a story of a gay faculty member at the school who thanked him for “changing the culture on this campus and for just being an aggressively comfortable person. … I thought that was one of the nicest things anyone had ever said to me.”
While Cason was in boarding school, Tyler took his own life. For Cason it was a very painful wake-up call. He admits that Tyler’s death “shook the ground under my feet.” So absorbed were they in their own small world, he and his fellow GSA members hadn’t considered the severity of gay teens’ suffering.
Then Cason discovered The Trevor Project and its potential for reducing the high incidence of suicide among gay teens, but he didn’t at first realize the effect its work would have on him in the future.
Cason’s athletic talents helped him gain acceptance among the student body at Choate Rosemary Hall school. He participated in three varsity sports and was the first openly gay captain of the varsity cross-country and track teams. He acknowledged his athleticism was a way to build credibility among his peers.
Being gifted at athletics put to rest the question of “my masculinity,” he said. He didn’t have to act out in what he calls “negative ways to attract attention.”
At first, Cason’s athletic talents led him to his seven summits mission. But it took some time for him to join this feat to the cause of helping gay teens.