representative Jason Bartlett is used to being in the
minority. In 2006 the African-American politician won the
assembly seat in his district -- which is 96% white.
This February he officially became one of only six
openly gay black elected officials in the United States
-- and the first to serve on the state legislature level.
While the announcement shocked many people, his
family, friends, and even some of his political
colleagues weren't among them.
because the 41-year-old had been having informal
conversations over the past few months with people who
worked on his campaign, chairmen of the town
committees he represents, and other legislators at the state
capitol. "I didn't make an
announcement," says Bartlett, who also serves
as cochairman for Hillary Clinton's presidential
campaign in Connecticut. "I didn't
gather people together. I just started dropping it into
constituents, on the other hand, weren't brought up
to speed until they picked up the February 20 issue of
The [Danbury] News-Times. The
Advocate sat down with Bartlett days later to talk about
coming out, raising two teenage boys, and how voters
in Connecticut's 2nd district are taking the
You adopted two of your cousins, then ages 9 and 11,
after their parents passed away. Did they know you
I told them after they had been with me for
about a year. They had been through a lot already, and
I didn't want to throw more at them right away.
Both of them had formed some perceptions about what it meant
to be gay, and I had to work on breaking those down
and starting over.
Did you have a boyfriend at the time?
I had a partner the entire time I was raising my kids.
We were together for 12 years -- we broke up a few
years ago. [The boys] were exposed to us as a couple,
and now they have a very healthy attitude about gay
people and gay parents.
When did you decide to come out publicly?
When I won this last election I knew immediately that I
wasn't going to be in the public eye and not
come out -- it was just a matter of deciding when it
would be appropriate.
I originally gave
myself a deadline of coming out in January, but then I
became cochairman of Hillary's campaign in
Connecticut. So I decided to see her through the
primary, and then after that I'd go back to dealing
with this. After the primary was over I decided I had to
come out by [February 20], which I did.
How have your constituents reacted?
Everything has gone well so far. I got an e-mail from
someone who said he was a single white heterosexual,
and "even though we don't have a lot in
common, I think you have courage, did the right thing, and
I'll be voting for you in the next
election." I also got a call from a Republican
leader of one of the towns I represent. She said she
supports me and looks forward to continuing to work
together on the issues that affect our community. That
felt good, because it came from across the aisle.
Do you think your decision to come out as a gay black man
will help bridge those two communities?
I hope so. The black community really has to acknowledge
and admit that gay people are among them. And we in
the gay community have to make sure people of color
and people with different backgrounds are part of our
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