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Tampa Bay Times

Here’s what it was like to be a gay student in a Florida high school in the ‘70s | Letters

Paradegoers carry a huge rainbow flag past city hall on Lakeside Avenue during a Cleveland Pride Parade.

What it was like then

Florida has a long history of persecuting gay students and teachers. Part of its culture is built on the abuses of the Johns Committee and later, Anita Bryant’s crusade of the 1970s. I see Florida’s “don’t say gay” law as a repetition of history. It attempts to erase a fundamental pillar of identity from thousands of students. I grew up in the Pinellas County school system. I go by Gale, but that isn’t my legal name. It’s Gay, and I changed it from the traumatic experience of coming out in a culture that persecuted its gay population for decades. As a teen, I understood that my sexual orientation differed from my peers. I was different. Hearing teachers and coaches use my given name was so intimidating that I changed it. In the ‘70s, high school was not a safe place for gays. I hid behind a name to survive homophobia and classmates’ bullying. Innocent people suffer when the dominant culture passes laws that annihilate fundamental aspects of personal identity. It is the responsibility of the people in power, and the voters, to stand up for gay citizens and strive toward inclusivity for all students and all families.

Gale Massey, St. Petersburg

Let me teach where he does

Eyes open | Column, Jan. 25

Can I please teach at the same school as Chris Fulton? I’d love to be where this man is educating our students. I am a new teacher, holding a temporary certificate and am now taking classes to get my permanent certificate. Fulton is correct. Kids do ask hard questions. Our governor should come teach a class or two. He should start off as I did, put in a classroom at a disciplinary school and being given very little information on how to handle them. The questions I was asked the first day ranged from, “What kind of a gun do you own?” to “Are you gay since you are not married?” These questions were from 12- and 13-years-olds.

Anneliese Meier, Tampa

He got it right

Eyes open | Column, Jan. 25

Pinellas high school teacher Chris Fulton’s commentary was spot on. As a fan of columnist Daniel Ruth, I appreciate thoughtful and pointed columns that make you think and give you a chuckle along the way. Ruth is still No. 1 in my book but Mr. Fulton is coming in a close second. Kudos all around.

Bob Hastings, Land O’ lakes

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