Saturday, September 02, 2006

September 1st School-Board Candidate Review at Tiger Bay

In Bart Birdsall's statement at Tiger Bay, he emphasized that he was running on a gay platform because he wanted to help gay children gain acceptance and feel less negative about themselves. His opponent, Candy Olson, incumbent, has resisted Bart's efforts for years to make the schools a place less toxic for gay children. She appears to show signs of reluctant acceptance of the concept of protecting gay children from savaging in the schools, I believe, because Bart and mother Jane Boles of a gay son never gave up in their proslytizing the homophobes on the School Board. Birdsall's second opponent, Logan Cobb, stated that he accepted the need for teacher training in this area.

In a message dated 9/1/2006 7:48:17 P.M. Eastern Standard Time, writes:
Bart, Andrea asked me about why you didn't include other issues in your spiel. I said, "He's following his soul. He knows his role is to educate these people about the suffering of gay children. Practical politics is not his mode now."
I did it [emphasize the gay issue] on purpose, and probably a lot of people didn't "get" what I was doing. I did it for the following reasons:
1) Children are watching what we adults do. I know being gay as a child makes you feel very, very alone from personal experience. You don't even want to share it with your parents at first. You think you are evil, disgusting, vile, etc. And I was not raised religiously. I was raised by liberal parents, yet I still had those feelings. Imagine children growing up in conservative households! It's doubly worse. You think if everyone actually knew the true you, they will reject, despise, hate you. I did it for those children. I want them to see an adult who is openly gay, who is unapologetic, who is successful, etc. I carried a "Gay School Librarian" sign in the downtown gay pride march in summer 2005 for that reason also.....for the youth who are suffering to see someone who does not give a shit what others think or if he will lose his job, etc. Children are "out" in school now. These issues are in the schools whether people want to accept it or not, and the children are tired of teachers who are obviously gay but not helping them and not "out" and not being role models to them. They view these teachers as hypocrites. The teachers are scared to death to be out.
2) I want other openly gay candidates to run for office and not be scared to be openly gay. I hope young people will hear about what I have done and follow my lead. Sometimes all it takes is one person to do something like this and others will follow. Even if one person follows my lead, THAT person might be more charismatic and cause others to follow him/her, etc.
3) I want to normalize the discussion of gay issues in local politics and take the negativity out of the issue the way Ronda Storms and Brad Swanson have tried to tie negativity to the issue. I stand up as openly gay and running on a platform to help gay children with absolutely no repercussions (I have received no hate mail, no phone calls cursing me out, etc.) That's important. Notice what Brad Swanson attempted to do to Rose Ferlita. It backfired, but when you are not "out," people try to harm you. When you are "out" I think they don't know how to attack you.
4) I want the school board members to see me speak publicly about the issue so that they will finally do something about it and see that it is not taboo, and they will not lose their constituents on this issue. I want them to gain courage from what I do and say. Jack Lamb told me I did a good job as I was leaving. Candy claims there is training. Jennifer Faliero admitted it is just for new teachers. What about the thousands of veteran teachers? Notice how Candy won't even say the word "gay" when she talks about it. She doesn't want a quote tied to her with that word in the sentence.
5) I want gay teachers out there seeing me work alongside them or from a distance at other schools as an openly gay man who also talks publicly about it to give them courage to be more open about it. I know many teachers in the system (and administrators) who are gay, yet they are SCARED TO DEATH to be "out." Some people think there is no place for your private life in the schools. Well, those people should leave their wedding rings, all talk about their children, their wives, their husbands, pictures of their spouses and children at home then. It has to be the same for everyone. Either we all should have to leave our private lives at home or we all get to talk naturally about our lives. It should not be a double standard. I guarantee that when you sit in a lunchroom you will hear everyone talking about their personal lives at work EXCEPT for gays. We are the only people who actually play by the rules and keep our mouths shut about our personal lives at work. Everyone else flaunts his/her sexuality, even in the classroom, "Last night my husband and I went to a movie....." etc.

I don't talk about this to students, but they hear about it through newspaper articles, tv appearances, and they have all complimented me. They have told me, "I read the article in the Tribune about you, and it was great!" Children can often handle these things better than adults can. Basically, I'm tired of the fear in Hillsborough County. Everyone is so damn scared to be who they are (and I'm not talking about just gays), everyone is scared to voice their opinions. When I came out to my mother she did not blink and said simply, "You have to be who you are. You can't be anyone else." and I keep that in my head like a mantra.
6) I want Candy Olson to address these issues that she has run from for years. Ever since she was attacked back in 1994 for answering Equality Florida's questionnaire and responding somewhat positive about gay issues, she has run away from the issues. At least that's how it has appeared to me. She has said and done some really crappy things to me that I will never forgive or forget. Out of everyone I have ever met in my life I consider her a complete coward and a horrible, horrible human being. I actually respect Ronda Storms more than Candy Olson, b/c Ronda at least has an opinion. Candy simply says what everyone wants to hear. I don't know how she lives with herself. From my years of dealing with her I am actually revolted by the woman. I couldn't even eat my whole lunch at Tiger Bay with her across from me. I just ate the asparagus and the cake, and I only got those items down by turning so I could not see her. I believe Candy to be the type of person who would have helped the nazis round up Jews for the concentration camp in WWII and the entire time she is leading Jews into the trains, she would say, "I'm so sorry I have to do this to you, but hurry up before I get in trouble!" That is my assessment of the woman, and I doubt it will ever change.
If this were the 1950s no one would question why a black candidate is running mainly on black issues. Well, I am a gay candidate trying to make gay issues more acceptable, especially after Ronda Storms' ridiculous slap-in-the-face policy. I know so many SCARED gay teachers, scared gay students, scared gays who have no hope of being able to be "out" or open to their family and friends. I don't think that's how life should be. I'm doing my part to make Hillsborough County a better place to live.
I may have dumped my capaign in the trash can yesterday at Tiger Bay, but I did it as a gift to the gay community. Whether they appreciate it or not is another thing.
I believe there are many other issues I am concerned about, but I have been straitjacketed to 1 minute or 30 seconds, etc. wherever I have gone. This time I could speak for a whole 3 minutes, and I decided to speak about an issue that was important to me and many others, an issue very few people want to discuss: gays and schools....I could have discussed nutrition in the schools, but in the end, others can and will talk about that issue. I wanted to talk about an issue that many people ignore or maybe don't even think about.
Anyone who wants to know what it's like to grow up gay and go to public schools and the arguments for forging ahead with this issue should read Kevin Jennings's book *Mama's Boy, Preacher's Son: A Memoir* He is the founder of GLSEN and a personal hero and friend of mine. He will go down in history as a great man, for he began the discussion of gay issues and the schools back when nobody would discuss the issue. He went from living in a trailer park as a boy to Harvard and then to advising President Clinton in the White House on gay issues. This is someone with vision. I have no time for people without vision or passion in life like Candy Olson. I want to surround myself with people with strong passions and a vision of making this a better world. Someone who knows from personal experience about age or fat discrimination can and should take on those issues. I have to carry on with the gay issue, especially since it is still an unpopular topic.

That is the short version, believe it or not, why I did what I did at Tiger Bay yesterday.

Bart Birdsall
2309 W. Bristol Ave.
Tampa, FL 33609
(813) 258-8817 (home)
(813) 362-7937 (cell)


David Ashley Gilbert said...

Your blog entry was very interesting. I am a realtor specializing in Tampa Bay Florida Real Estate .

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