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                On Tuesday, October 7, Gay Porterville, along with many other amazing individuals, protested the city council of Porterville at Centennial Plaza. Our message was clear: we’re sick and tired of discrimination put forth by our elected officials.

                In late September, Gay Porterville submitted a proclamation for the council’s consideration. The proclamation was to recognize Saturday, October 11, as National Coming Out Day in the city of Porterville. Our proclamation was snubbed; it was tossed aside, never to even come to a vote. This was the first proclamation in Porterville’s history to go without sponsorship from a councilmember.



 Protesters Lined the Streets to Speak Out Against the Porterville City Council


Our mayor, Milt Stowe, stated that the proclamation was not “all-inclusive,” so therefor he would not endorse it. The thing about proclamations is that they are not meant to be “all-inclusive.” Proclamations are meant to celebrate certain individuals, groups, social causes, and communities. Most—if not all—proclamations are not “all-inclusive,” and that’s fine. To single out an LGBTQ+ proclamation on the grounds of exclusivity is ludicrous.

Vice Mayor Cameron Hamilton—the gentleman who made you “Grow a Pair” a household phrase—declined to support the proclamation as well, stating that individuals are not to be recognized for their sexual orientations. He claimed that it would be harmful to us. The problem is that Porterville’s LGBTQ+ does, in fact, want some recognition. We’ve been denied it more times that we can count, and we’re ready. We are hard-working, tax-paying citizens of this community, and we bring plenty to the table. Furthermore, for him to claim that he knows what is and isn’t ‘best’ for our community is offensive to the max.

So we gathered. We brought signs, our voices, and plenty of anger. We noticed at the rally that something is changing. We are getting far more support from passersby than we have in the past. Cars honked as they drove by in support, people cheered and encouraged us, and the positive tone was felt. We hope that this is a good sign for Porterville; we hope that change is on its way.



 Straight Allies Vickie Banks and Carol Trueblood Proudly Showing their Support. (Photo by Brock Neeley)


After the protest, we spoke out against our elected officials at the council meeting. The speeches that were delivered were powerful, to say the very least.

Dr. Ann Marie Wagstaff stated, “When we deny equality, justice, and dignity to any individual or group, we violate the constitution.”

In another statement to the city council, Elliot Trueblood had this to say: “You all seem vehemently opposed to accepting the fact that the LGBTQ community in your city so much as even exists. If you can’t even be trusted to do something as simple as represent all of your constituents, or not discriminate, then you are clearly undeserving of your titles, and are absolute disgraces to this city.”

Perhaps the most powerful speech of the night came from a community member by the name of Jesus Garcia. We were moved to tears by his words. “I want you to realize that I am Mexican; I am gay. This city has taken a lot from me and I want something back! I want to be recognized!”

Vice Mayor Cameron Hamilton issued some choice words regarding the issue. “I feel sorry for anybody that needs a proclamation to make themselves feel whole.” We could not be anymore disappointed or appalled by this remark. Not only was this incredibly insulting and hurtful to the LGBTQ+ community that was asking for some form of recognition, but to anyone in this city who has ever received a proclamation. As a matter of fact, that same night, a brave group of women accepted a proclamation recognizing the major social issue of domestic violence. We can’t help but wonder how his words made them feel.



Gay Central Valley's Yesenia Valdez and Gay Porterville's Elliot Trueblood 

            National Coming Out Day aims to break down the doors that keep us hidden away in closets. It aims to celebrate the obstacles that each of us in the LGBTQ+ community have overcome to get to where we are today. It is meant to inspire those that may be feeling lost or insecure. One thing is for certain—on Tuesday, October 7, we came out. We made our presence known to the city council, and made it known that we were done dealing with their antics. We were loud, and we were proud.

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     As many of you already know, Porterville has faced quite the controversy over the past couple of weeks. On Tuesday, May 6, Councilwoman Virginia Gurrola presented an item to the council—a Safe Zone program to be implemented into the community by local students from the Burton School District. Students would be able to place placards on community buildings, designating them as safe places for students who were being bullied to go to for help. What a crazy concept, right? Allowing an anti-bullying program that was requested by the students to make its way into our city seemed like a no-brainer. Unfortunately, other members of the council—including our mayor—did not see it as so. What happened next can only be described as ridiculous, and a total embarrassment to this city.

     After Gurrola presented the item, our oh so lovely mayor, Cameron Hamilton, proceeded to utter his now infamous remarks.

     “I mean, I am against bullying, but I am getting damn tired of it being used as a mantra for everything that ills the world when all most people have to do is grow a pair and stick up for them damn selves.”

     The emotional damages inflicted upon those that are bullied range from anxiety and depression, and can lead all the way to suicide. Imagine being bullied to your breaking point, reaching out to an adult that you trust for help, and being told, “grow a pair.” It is safe to say that if a student is to reach out to an adult, the bullying has already spun out of their control. They are likely already feeling the fears, intimidations, and feelings of hopelessness that come along with being bullied. The last thing they need to be told is to “grow a pair.” They need intervention, support, and a solution to the issue they are facing. Perhaps, you know, a safe place to go for help. Kind of like a safe zone. Cameron Hamilton’s remarks were a huge slap in the face to anyone who is being bullied, has been bullied, and to anyone who has lost a loved one to suicide that was brought on by a bullying situation. He has issued no public apology, and continues to stand by his idiotic statements. This is a true embarrassment to the community.

     One question that has been brought up again and again is, “How is this an LGBT+ issue?” This is an LGBT+ issue because the LGBT+ community was used as a tool by the councilmembers to block the Safe Zone item from reaching fruition.

     In a painfully obvious inference to the LGBT+ community, Councilman Greg Shelton asked Councilwoman Gurrola if the Safe Zone initiative would cater to one specific group over another:

     “Listen…is this thing discriminatory at all? Is it for everybody? It doesn’t favor one over another? […] I just wanna make sure we’re not going down that path.”

     If you are even slightly familiar with Porterville’s councilmen, it is simple to understand what he is getting at. Of course there is no anti-bullying program that would only cater to one specific group. Even nonprofit organizations like The Trevor Project are all-inclusive, and would not turn away anyone who needed help. Unless Shelton is truly that ill-informed on how society operates, he knew that as well.

     Later, during the oral communications segment of the meeting, townspeople got their chance to speak. This is when individuals came forth and asserted that these safe zones would be indoctrinations into a certain lifestyle. It was said that if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it’s probably a duck. I wonder what they could have possibly meant by that?

     To fully understand how and why this was painted as an LGBT+ issue by the council and the community, you can check out the video on Gay Porterville’s YouTube Channel. I cannot express enough the importance of watching this video. It’s a real gem; a perfect introduction to the attitudes and unprofessionalism of our city councilmen.

     To sum up, the LGBT+ community and our dedicated allies were once again dragged through the mud by our city councilmen. This is how this whole ordeal got painted as an LGBT+ issue. Are you frustrated with that? Trust me, so are we.

      We’ve been dealing with this kind of nonsense for years, and the homophobia is getting real exhausting. So far, under our belt, we’ve got quite the collection of shameful anti-LGBT stances from our city government. In 2008, Porterville was the only city in all of California to openly endorse Proposition 8. In 2013, we were faced with the reprehensible rescinding of Porterville’s Pride Proclamation. As a direct result, Virginia Gurrola was removed from her seat as mayor, seemingly for supporting the LGBT+ community of Porterville. That’s how we ended up with Mayor “Grow a Pair” in office. He’s been a real pleasure, as you can see…Next, in October of 2013, the council voted against recognizing National Coming Out Day, effectively belittling the struggles and hardships associated with coming out of the closet. This brings us to the “Grow a Pair” controversy, in which councilmen and community members employed harmful rhetoric pertaining to “the gays” as a way of opposing the Safe Zone initiative, throwing Porterville’s LGBT+ community under the bus once again.

     Unfortunately for the children of Porterville, the Safe Zones will not even be considered again until July. This was revealed at the May 20 meeting; the same one from which Cameron Hamilton bolted from during oral communications for a news interview (yet another slap in the face to his community). If you screw up royally, and the constituents you represent want to voice their frustrations with you, you grow a pair and you listen to them. You don’t take off in the middle of the meeting to go defend your backward remarks to CNN and Fox News. This action displayed his true colors.


     Out of all of this, one thing is for certain. Cameron Hamilton owes every single member of this city a public apology.

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As we scrolled through twitter the other day, something caught our eye. We saw a national LGBTQ program had sent out a link on how to help an anti-bullying program…FOR FREE! All you have to do is submit a picture to this site! PFLAG—A national nonprofit made up of parents, family, friends, and allies of LGBT people with the goal of moving equality forward—has teamed up with Johnson & Johnson to create an anti-bullying program called Care With PRIDE, an ALL-INCLUSIVE PROGRAM that carries an emphasis on offering help to LGBTQ students, their straight peers and allies, as well as anyone being bullied for any reason. They aim to raise awareness of this social issue, and GLAAD points out that, “Bullying among children is connected to a range of problems including a negative impact on academic performance and social and emotional development, with half of all children reportedly experiencing bullying during their school years. THAT NUMBER IS AS HIGH AS 90% IN THE CASE OF LGBT YOUTH.”




They go on to explain the purpose of the program:  “[Care With PRIDE] efforts include ‘Cultivating Respect; Safe Schools for All,’ which places trained PFLAG members directly into schools to give them the support, resources, model policies and programs necessary to stop bullying and harassment of youth in its tracks. Last year's campaign was nominated for a GLAAD Amplifier Award, which recognizes groundbreaking images of LGBT people in advertising and public relations.”


Much has been done in the way of countering bullying here in Porterville as of late. Back in May, after our Mayor made some highly controversial comments regarding bullying, we’ve had many wonderful people come forward to shine light on the fact that bullying is an issue in our city.


In the meantime, there is an anti-bullying program out there that is offering $1 donations in the form of PICTURES! Simply submit a picture to their site, and Johnson & Johnson will donate $1 on your behalf! It’s as simple as that! The picture can be anything! A selfie, a picture of your pet, a picture of a flower…whatever you’d like! Just submit the picture, and a dollar is donated to “Care With PRIDE.”


Anything aimed at helping and protecting LGBTQ youth has been met with almost nothing but opposition in the past here in Porterville, and sadly, will likely continue to be met with such negative attitudes. As a matter of fact, the main argument against the infamous Safe Zone debate last month was that they would cater to just LGBTQ students, that they would introduce propaganda, and would be indoctrinating children into a “certain lifestyle.” We would like to point out that absolutely none of those claims were true. Anyone with a sound mind must realize that any anti-bullying program is going to be all-inclusive, and that this false notion that the LGBTQ community has some sort of hidden agenda is harmful rhetoric—it’s Porterville’s anti-LGBTQ attitude at its best. Plus, the Safe Zone program that was aimed to be implemented into our community was not even LGBTQ affiliated. Furthermore, if the Safe Zones had ACTUALLY been aimed at helping LGBTQ children, why would that be a bad thing? It’s all about the children, right? Is there some sort of asterisk to that? Protect ALL children, regardless of sexual orientation. We can’t believe we’re even having to remind people to do that.


Regardless of the oppositions facing anything that would help LGBTQ youth overcome their struggles, We’ve got William VanLandingham of The Trevor Project  working tirelessly to provide youth and young adults with helpful resources, help lines, and support for youth and young adults struggling with bullying due to their sexual orientations, or even PERCEIVED sexual orientations. VanLandingham has been putting forth efforts for The Trevor Project for over 5 years now. The Trevor Project is also all-inclusive, and is there for absolutely anyone who needs help. It is a free and local resource.


resources trevor logo


As Porterville struggles to maintain proper resources for their community, we can at least help other cities in their anti-bullying endeavors. This brings us back to “Care with PRIDE.”


A representative for Johnson & Johnson states that: “In our tradition of caring for families for 128 years, we’ve continued to partner with today’s leading LGBT advocates to make the world a more caring and accepting place for all. This includes taking on issues like bullying, which impacts all families and their children. With our CARE WITH PRIDE initiative, Johnson & Johnson Family of Consumer Companies seeks to raise awareness about the negative impact of bullying on the overall health and well-being of our youth, with particular emphasis on cultivating respect and equality for all families.”


Alright, get those cameras ready, and help this amazing program garner donations from Johnson & Johnson! Let’s see how much Porterville can raise for their cause!




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Let us not be so quick to forget this past summer of shenanigans our community endured from our local government. There will be a couple of seats on City Council up for election this coming spring. The seats up for election will be Greg Shelton's and Pete McCracken's. A potential 3rd seat to be vacated will be that of our fearless leader Virgina Gurrola whom is running for a higher seat in local government. 

Ms. Gurrola (as well as Shelton) is running for Tulare County's 5th District Supervisor. Please take a moment to "like" the page on Facebook so you can stay up to date on upcoming speaking engagements, fundraisers, and other information regarding Gurrola's run for Supervisor. That page can be found HERE

Please support the woman who supported us so fearlessly and unapologetically. We love her for taking a stand with is time for us to take a stand with her. 

The LGBTQ community has made tremendous progress in recent years. The only way we will continue to grow is if we pay close attention to who we are putting in these positions of power. This election cycle will be a big opportunity for us. 

Register to vote HERE




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