Ruth Gowitzke News Editor
Amid the current unsteady political climate among Democrats and Republicans, there was one speaker that visited Eastern on Feb. 27, during an event called, “Being Out in Politics” who was able to give his own story on how he had become a politician and how coming out has affected him in politics.
In the first part of this lecture, three representatives of the Eastern Pride Center talked about Bartlett’s humble beginnings. He had been given up for adoption and had five foster families, but that did not stop him. They said how he has always been interested in politics ever since he was young. In fifth grade, he ran for student council president in his hometown, and continued to run for positions like these throughout middle school and high school. After high school, the Pride Center representatives said how he earned his political science degree from the University of Connecticut.
However, Bartlett did not come out during high school or even college. He came out in 2007, at age 41, after he had gotten the position as the Democratic representative for Connecticut State House of Representatives Office. This was a great achievement, not only for him for being true to himself, but also becoming the first black gay state representative that was out in the nation. He has also worked for the National Black Justice Coalition, which is a nationwide civil rights non-profit that is dedicated to ending racism and homophobia by empowering black LGBT people. He has also been credited to creating Youth Staff. This is a program that helps disengaged youth, and aims to end youth violence, suspensions and expulsions. This program has shown to, historically, create the lowest crime rates in New Haven for the past 50 years. He has also shown his own fatherly side, by taking in two boys into his home who have lost their own father and have raised them to be strong men. Currently, his is in the position of Director of Youth Services in New Haven and might be running for the state senate.
In the next part of the program, Bartlett began to talk about his own experiences in more detail. One of the first experiences that he remembers when getting interested in politics was in fifth grade. He thought that it was unfair that the seventh and eighth graders were allowed to have a dance and the fifth and six graders were not, so he got together a bunch of staff and chaperones and was able to create a dance for the people in his grade and the others in sixth grade. This was one moment that he was proud of and he has always been someone who has gone against what others may believe in order to evoke change. He said, “In today’s world, you have to be authentic. I think that is what people are really attracted to, is authenticity.” He relates this to his own feeling of authenticity of himself, as he felt that he never felt that way when he was in the closet, even though he was doing something he is passionate about. “I never felt, Bartlett said, that I could get anywhere if I came out. That people would take, you know, just by the fact that your gay, they would slice you. And they would take away, from you.”
Bartlett also remarked that he is inspired by Pete Buttigieg. He said that he never would have believed that a gay man could win Iowa, and that as a country, we have made great strides for the LGBT community. But, he said, “We still have a long way to go.” However, Bartlett remarked on how Buttigieg still has a problem with connecting with LGBT people, mainly because of his white privilege. In Bartlett’s opinion, there is a distinct divide between white and African American LGBT individuals, which makes Buttigieg’s position as a white male difficult to relate to for some people, in terms of culture. However, as of Mar. 1, it was reported that Buttigieg has dropped out of the race, which reflects Bartlett’s point that he was making that day.
Furthermore, there was a Q&A at the end of his talk, where he got to speak more about his own views on certain issues such as how youth can be more involved in the community, and more about how people can be more involved in LGBT issues.