Dear Mr. Campfield,
My name is Patrick Hoffman. I grew up in Knoxville, Tennessee, went to Karns High School, was in marching band, theatre, was a editor and contributor for the school's literary arts magazine, and was voted Most Unique by my graduating class. I am smart, funny, and then, I was surprisingly popular, especially considering I was a gay teenager living in "The Bible Belt" and attending one of the more rural schools in the district.
My life did not come easily, as teasing and bullying were issues that occurred on a nearly daily basis. I was both mentally (and physically) threatened, persecuted and assaulted by students who found my natural femininity and flamboyant nature (traits I had expressed since my very early childhood. Ask my mother) to be a point of ridicule and degradation. I was taunted and tormented, slammed against lockers, pelted with mud, and for an entire school year, was terrified of using the restrooms for fear of possible (completely unwarranted) retribution. For what? For being nothing but myself.
Thankfully, I had an amazing support system. My mother and grandfather went out of their way to meet with teachers, school counselors and principals. I was fortunate enough to have the support of several faculty members who took great pride in making sure all their pupils were treated honorably and fairly by their peers. Without them, I may not be alive today, as suicide seemed to me, like it does to so many teens, a way out, an ultimate answer.
But, I prevailed. I rose above adversity and discrimination, paving the road to my future with the help of my family, friends, and an amazing group of teachers.
Not all are as fortunate. In fact, of the many, MANY gay men and women I know, I am a success story, a tale for the ages, the stuff of legend. I was, and am, blessed to have the strength of so many behind me.
However, with the passage of SB049, the "Don't Say Gay" bill, the very system that helped me through years of adversity will be swept aside and left to crumble, wasting away into nothingness... the very same fate that befalls so many of our nations young people, gay, straight, black, white and everyone in between. I feel it is imperative for someone such as yourself to see beyond what your own personal views and feelings are, and see the truth of the world for what it is; school can be a difficult, trying and sometimes dangerous place as it is, without limiting the functioning support system that teachers like I had are able to provide their students.
Beyond learning about the many gay men and women in American and World History, men and women who have helped define and defy, generation after generation, lies the very real truth that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender teens suffer mercilessly at the hands of those who seem them as less than human, as targets for attack, as weak and unworthy and "unnatural" aberrations.
And when these attacks are happening in schools, who do you think will stop them? If SB049 passes, the answer is no one. You will have stripped administrators and faculty of the power to step in and stop the senseless abuse LGBT youth suffer at the hands of their peers, and all because they can't say gay. How can these teachers and staff stop a problem if they aren't allowed to even acknowledge it? How? They can't, and this bill will only lead to more heartache and heartbreak for any child that has to suffer because of who they are. It will lead to the suffering of their families, and their friends.
It will lead to more and more suicides that could easily be avoided. And you, and the supporters of SB049 will be the ones to blame.
I urge you... Do NOT push this bill. It will lead no where good.
And before you attempt to argue about sex being taught to kindergartners, or teachers confusing already vulnerable children, I have read all of your sources, and I, like so many, many, MANY others, have found them to be dated, irrelevant and false. None of your sources are scientifically, MORALLY credible, if, ESPECIALLY IF, you believe in equality, and the health and safety of your constituents.
I leave you with this link, an article you might find enlightening, if one such as you can be enlightened, about the danger of bullying and the refusal to acknowledge homosexuality in schools.
Mr. Campfield, the prejudice and bigotry have to end. You can either perpetuate it, or fight against it, and you have to step back and ask yourself... Long after we are gone, when the world is finally at peace and all men and women are viewed equal, what will historians have to say about you and your time? Did you fight for what is right and true and decent, against the bias and hate that pervades our society? Or did you attempt to squelch freedom and put a blindfold and a gag across the face of Lady Liberty?
Where will you stand, Mr. Campfield?
With all due respect,