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.