My name is Kelsey Norman. I've been a resident of Porterville for quite some time, but that's about to change. I'm heading to the Bay Area to complete my schooling. As I get ready to move away from the Central Valley, I thought I'd take the time to reflect upon my last few years here as a resident of Porterville. The emotions are mixed. Overall, I can't complain too much about the town in general. It was a nice and cozy place for me to live in while I merged into adulthood.

     When it comes to LGBTQ+ issues, it was a little bit of a different story. I didn't see much change in terms of equal treatment for all in this city, for any age group. Porterville made it into mainstream national media twice in one year, both times being for negative reasons, the first being the whole situation with Virginia Gurrola being removed from office after the rescinding of the Pride Proclamation (the entire Pride Proclamation nightmare), and the second being Cameron Hamilton's "grow a pair" comment when referring to bullied youth, followed by anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric from ex-councilman Greg Shelton and ex-mayor Cameron Hamilton himself. Both of these situations were disappointing, and show that Porterville still has much growing to do.

     There was quite a bit of positive in the LGBTQ+ community, though. I personally got to be involved in a few volunteer opportunities with Gay Porterville. I got to be a part of the Gay Porterville booth at Fresno Pride this year, which was such an awesome experience. I got to meet a lot of other people from the Central Valley that could relate to the struggle that Porterville has gone through. I marched in the parade, proudly holding the Gay Porterville banner. I also got to be a part of the art exhibit Protect Our Children: (Re)Creating Family Acceptance. Artists/Activists Ronnie Veliz and Carolina Alcala created pieces showcasing the many different relationships between queer or trans individuals and their families. This event was a perfect space to offer knowledge and perspective to the community. With this art show being a part of Porterville's monthly art walk, it was a perfect opportunity for residents to be exposed to the topics of Queer/Trans youth and their stories--the true struggles they have faced and overcome.

     In the future, I hope to see more change happening within the city as whole in terms of equal treatment for all of Porterville's residents. It'd be great to come back to a hometown that I could say has made a change for the LGBTQ+ community; it would be great to come back and feel some pride.


--Editor's Note

Kelsey Norman has been absolutely amazing. She has diligently volunteered for Gay Porterville on many occasions, regardless of hectic school and work schedules. Not only that, she quickly became one of my best friends. We wish you the best in every thing you do, Kelsey, and can't wait to see the amazing things you accomplish in San Jose. You rock.

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This is a response to the "Other View" published July 11 by John P. Owens of Porterville regarding the LGBT Community in his column titled "Pride is illogical, misdirected."

Mr. Owens, I would not classify your article as hateful or you as being a "hate-mongering bigot." I say you were misinformed and not quoting factual information, however. You couch your concerns about the LGBT community's desire for self-pride and recognition on a "biologic" basis and you talk about what is "natural" to you in human kind and refer to "birth defects" that need "surgical interventions." You also discuss in detail the goal of coupling to be procreation of the species and you provide your evaluation of the male and female genitalia and their "complimentary" usefulness.

First, let me say I know something about biology, being a physician for almost 40 years. I also know something about procreation since my medical specialty is obstetrics and gynecology and I've cared for countless women and delivered thousands of children over my years of practice. On a personal note, being married for 42 years and having two sons of my own, I also know something about family dynamics.

Being gay is not a "birth defect." A cleft lip is. Being gay is a variation in the way people are born. Throughout the entirety of the animal kingdom and the human race, homosexual behavior has been demonstrated over and over as a naturally occurring biologic event. It is like brown hair or blonde hair and it is biologically related.

I was never taught anywhere in my medical education that the sole reason for sexuality was procreation. Human beings are unique in that we have those "psychosexual" needs you refer to in your article.

Two of the strongest human forces is something we call "love" and something else called "attraction." We don't date to find the best stock for child production; we don't check a potential partner's teeth and bone structure when we date. We are attracted to another person because we have some innate response to that other "someone" that somehow speaks to our psyche and soul, suggesting, "this could be the one I want to spend my life with." It's a complicated and very intense desire to find closure with another person. When same-sex couples have that same response to one another, it's the same "love and attraction" that my wife and I had when we met 47 years ago.

How can you say that the "abrogation" of Proposition 8 is based on bigotry? It is based on the realization that people deserve the right to be who they are, in the daylight and at all times, and have the right to love and be loved. People, by the very nature of being people deserve equality. I would bet, Mr. Owens, that if you were to look deeply inside yourself, you would find that you find the feeling of security and completion important in your paring with a partner, as well (if you are partnered).

What the LGBT community wants is not proclamations or flags or holidays in their honor. They merit full acceptance and the benefits afforded all citizens under the law. The contribution of gay people to our society is as significant as the contributions of any other group. People like Oscar Wilde, Florence Nightingale, Peter Tchaikovsky, Walt Whitman, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Barney Frank, Billie Jean King, Lewis Carroll, Gertrude Stein, Greg Louganis, Harvey Milk, Adam Lambert, Barbara Jordan, Cole Porter, Aaron Copland and so many, many others don't go unnoticed. Why should the group they belong to not feel a sense of pride?

So, Mr. Owens, there is no misguidance on the part of the LGBT community, nor are there are surgically removable birth defects to deal with; nor is there "willful ignorance" that has rendered the LGBT community equal in the eyes of the legal system by the Supreme Court's decision. I believe, Mr. Owens, it's only "natural" and it should be.

Dr. Steven L. Palmer is a Visalia resident and co-founder of the Tulare the Kings counties chapter of Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays. 


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gfm-visaliaMy name is Georgia Robinson, and I'm a sixty-nine years old, disabled widow on a fixed (Social Security) income. I'm not writing this for me, though. I'm trying to come up with enough money to give my exhausted, stressed out care provider (my son) a few days away for his birthday.

I know that this might seem frivilous on the surface, but I'm begging you to please understand how much he needs to get away, and how much he deserves to.

I suffer from post-polio syndrome, as well as several other health problems. I've had over a half dozen cancer scares over the years. As my health has gotten worse and worse over these past twenty years, my son, Amos, has had to sacrifice more and more of his own life to take care of me. He can't work outside the home anymore because of my needs. He has absolutely no social life anymore, much less a romantic life. He never goes out! He's mentioned wanting to go back to school (to take some college classes), but my health and our finances make that impossible. I have someone who comes in through In-Home Supportive Services, but the State only allows about two hours every day, and this is while Amos is asleep. When the IHSS care provider is gone, and I need something, I ring this bell and Amos comes to help me. Some days are better than others, but I don't think he's gotten a full night sleep in years! 

Every morning, my son helps me out of bed, and into my wheelchair. sometimes he has to help me onto, and then off the toilet. He Sets up my shower for me, and helps me get in and out of it, too. Sometimes he has to help me get dressed, especially since the arthritis in my hands stop me from being able to fasten buttons, or tie my shoes. Amos cleans the house. He cooks for me. He takes me to the mall to exercise and so that I can socialize (I hate going to the Senior Center here! It's so depressing!). I know he hates the mall, but he sits patiently, waiting until I'm ready to go. 

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It gets better. That’s what all the videos from celebrities and a myriad of other people from different professions across the globe are telling our gay youth. “It gets better.” My question is probably the same as every kid out there who sees these video messages: Does it? Really?

Don’t get me wrong here — I think it’s amazing that so many people from all walks of life, both famous and non-famous, are rallying around the gay youth of our nation. But words can only do so much. It’s similar to trying to tell someone who has just gone through a painful loss that everything will be okay. They’re just words.

Saying “I know how you feel” has an artificial ring to it that someone in pain can sense a mile away. Sure we can identify with the struggle against bullies and the uphill climb to become who we truly are, but just like the details of a death in the family or an excruciating break-up, every situation is different.

How can a gay kid from Dogpatch, U.S.A. Feel that a celebrity ensconced in a Bel-Air mansion can possibly know the pain and the isolation of being the only gay person in a hundredmile stretch of corn and ignorance? What these young people need is a physical manifestation of what they can become, but the problem is that it may not exist. And if it does, the person who may be able to help them is still hiding in the closet afraid of what might become of them if they step into the light and tell the world who they really are.

Bullies like to use strength or power to intimidate those who are weaker. And when you hide your head in shame it makes you weak. If you want to show our gay youth that it gets better you need to make sure the world knows who you are and who you love.

Be an example to someone who may have no one to turn to in their time of need. Let them know that bullies will never win and that bullies are just sad, brainless products of our society and their own cowardice. The funny thing about the word “bully” is that is comes from a Middle Dutch word boele, which actually means “lover”. As Alanis would say: isn’t it ironic?

So what makes a bully a bully? Bullying isn’t something that appears out of nowhere. It is bred into people who believe they need to lash out at things they perceive as different or things they fear. Let me cast a wider net by saying you can see a bully’s violent stripes in terrorist cells. You can see their fear of diversity in the religious right. You can even see the pleasure they take in tormenting others in the Legion Of Doom. But heroes stand up against these bullies and show them they can’t win. Bullying won’t end because we expel vicious football players or lock up religious extremists. The reason they are bullies in the first place is because that’s the way they were raised.

When parents decide to raise their children to embrace diversity — whether it’s the colour of someone’s skin, who they choose to love or even the waist size of their classmates — then bullying will die a lonely, well-deserved death. Along with teaching our children that people who are different are just like everyone else, we also must teach our youth that there’s no need to jump on a bandwagon when other, less educated kids are bullying those who are different. Even if you fall into the category of what this world considers to be normal, it’s okay to stand up, speak out against hate and be exactly who you are.

The media is flush with reports of how schools and communities are finally going to put an end to bullying. The sad news is it will never end. Bullies will find a way. They always find a way. It’s the same as saying that one day we will win the war on crime or the war on drugs. It won’t happen. Not until the entire world somehow shifts their way of thinking. The death penalty hasn’t stopped people from murdering each other and prison time hasn’t dissuaded drug dealers from pumping our nation full of poison, so what hope does an anti-bullying crusade have? The hope that teenagers decide they would rather graduate or play basketball as opposed to torturing their classmates? Does anyone really think about the consequences when they are caught up in the moment? Not always. And by then the damage is done.

We are all scarred by what happened to us in high school. Whether you were an acne-spotted theater geek or an all-American running back, if you are gay, back then you lived a lie to survive. Maybe you bullied someone who was more like you than you’d care to admit because you saw your reflection in their frightened gaze and even though you weren’t on the receiving end of taunts and harassment, you were stuck in your own prison of denial and deception.

Was I bullied in high school? Constantly. I was 98 pounds of skin, bones and braces who barely looked up in the hallways. That Matt still lives inside of the confident 190-pound muscle-bound lothario I am today. But I haven’t forgotten him. And the fact that my training and knowledge has blessed me with the ability to cripple or kill a man only fuels my fire of rage when I hear about my young brethren being tormented by half-witted, weak-willed oxen.

Does it make me the same as them when I think about teaching these pathetic bullies a lesson by giving them a bloody taste of their own medicine? Maybe. But I think it makes me more of a champion, a vigilante, a hero who wants to protect and save the children he will never have. I look at it this way: how do you feel about someone who kills for the fun of it compared to a person who kills someone in self-defence? If I thought giving some Cro-Magnon bully a black eye or a busted molar would prevent a gay teen from killing himself, I’d say wrap my knuckles in some tape. Sometimes it’s the only language bullies understand.

I firmly believe that violence is never the answer to anything, but sometimes fighting fire with fire may be the only solution. Unfortunately some kids who are bullied believe the same thing and that’s when tragedies like Columbine happen. When violence breeds violence it can escalate and spin out of control. On the flip side of this violent coin, when kids are afraid to be who they are in the town where they live, they seek out companions on the internet. These predators are often not who they say they are and sometimes these trysts end in murder. Because of these unfavourable consequences people who truly want to help are wary of how they will be perceived. If I said that my home was open to any teenager who was lost and scared how would that make me look? Like a Good Samaritan or someone from To Catch A Predator? Unfortunately the sword cuts both ways.

My parents always taught me “living well is the best revenge”. I never really knew what that meant until I saw one of my bullies where he belonged: pathetic, broken-down and working behind the counter at a fast-food restaurant. Did I take pleasure in this? You bet I did. But when he was shoving me into my locker and spilling my lunch tray I had no idea that I would have this moment of clarity. The other thing my parents taught me was to stand up for myself, but that was a harder road. If I knew then what I know now, I can guarantee there would have been a lot of broken bones and an expulsion for yours truly.

No matter what happens, there will be a continuing wave of young people emerging into a world that fears and despises them. There’s no way anyone can stop it or beat the gayness out of any of them. The time for ignorance is over. It’s time for all of us to rise up — just like our brothers at Stonewall did — to show the world that we are not going anywhere and that we will protect our young like a lioness on the African veldt. There’s a new era coming and I am going to do whatever it takes to gay it forward and cement my legacy. What are you going to do?

So… What do I have to say to young gay people who are out there feeling scared and alone? Yes, it does get better. But don’t take my word for it. Stand up and see how beautiful and amazing you are. Life isn’t for hiding, life is for living. Life gives you the chance to laugh, to love, to dance and even time to look up at the stars. Follow your heart and jump to your feet because when you finally stand up and take a stand for what you believe in, that’s when people will show up and stand with you to take your side. If no one’s around to help you, help yourself. Do your push-ups and make sure you keep your left up when you deliver that right at eyebrow level.

If you think you can’t fight, then pack your bags and run to a place where your gay brothers and sisters will help you. Remember that strangers aren’t always a threat but use your common sense and let people earn your trust. Most importantly, if you are thinking about ending it all, please, please don’t do it. Hold on. Don’t let those dicks win. Show them how wrong they are by becoming who you want to be. Who you dream of being. The world needs you. Have you ever seen a Christmas tree with one light missing? It throws everything off. We need your light in this world to make it complete.

I know it hurts and I know it feels like there is no one out there who cares about you, but you are wrong. Someone’s waiting to be your friend. Someone’s waiting to be a part of your whole new family. Someone’s waiting to hold your hand and kiss your lips and show you that every ounce of pain you’ve ever felt has been worth it. Maybe our churches and our government want you to believe that you don’t matter, but they are spineless cowards hiding behind words they twist to suit their needs. Don’t listen to them. Instead, heed the words of all the people out there who care about you by saying: “it gets better”. Better yet, take a look at yourself in the mirror and tell that person you see and the person you will become: “I’m going to make it better.” It’s a long, hard road to get to the Emerald City where all your dreams will finally come true, but we are here waiting for you. So, come and get it. I can’t wait to meet you.

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