Saturday, April 23, 2011

Texas A&M Student Senate Forgot That Hate Is Not An Aggie Value

A few months ago I had the pleasure of rolling up to the Texas A&M campus in College Station to do my African American Trans 101 presentation for the GLBT Resource Center.

I have had the pleasure of visiting more than a few GLBT centers on various college campuses around the country over the years as I've done these speaking engagements.   Even though I'm a proud Cougar alum, the second I stepped into the Texas A&M GLBT Resource Center that day it felt like home even though it's been a while since I cracked open a book or took a class on a college the Lone Star State.

I had a wonderful time getting reacquainted with Lowell who I met at last year's TTNS and the Aggie students who were in there working on various on and off campus projects, hanging out, doing GLBT center related tasks or just quietly studying.  In addition to the love I received just for being the TransGriot, I got their insightful takes on what it's like to be a TBLG college student in the 2k10's.  I also got a chance to tell them what it was like for the TransGriot in the early 80's. 

In that room over the 36 hours I was visiting Aggieland (and hope I can make it back up there for the 2011 TTNS they are proudly hosting up there)  unlike the members of the Texas A&M student senate, the GLBT center students were role modeling the Hate Is Not An Aggie Value slogan.

The Texas A&M Student Senate professes to live by it but some members showed by their actions they don't.   

We had discussed the SB 63-106 situation over dinner when I was up there in November.  I was not happy to read that on April 20 the conservafool dominated Texas A&M student senate passed S.B. 63-106, AKA the “Sexual Education Equality in Funding Bill” in support of TX Representative Wayne Christian’s amendment to HB 1

It's a veiled attack on the funding of the GLBT Resource Center since our GOP dominated state legislature is cutting $8 million out of the education budget for the next two years. 

In reaction to this development an open letter to the Texas A&M Student Senate was penned by a gay Texas A&M student and published in the Dallas Voice.    The student signed it An Aggie No More and here's the full text of it..


Dear Senators:
I once thought that I was an Aggie. Next year will be my 5th year of study. I am a Presidential Endowed Scholar. I attended Fish Camp. I went to football games and yelled until my voice was dead and my ass was red. I joined a FLO. I started two organizations. I received the prestigious Buck Weirus Spirit Award for my contributions to this student body. I have made hundreds of friends, touched hundreds of Aggies’ lives and been touched by thousands more. Yes, I once thought that I was an Aggie.

On April 20th, 2011 the Student Senate made it clear that, in their eyes, I am an Aggie no more.
That day, the student senate told me that I was not worth as much as other Aggies. You told me that breaking the Aggie Honor Code and lying to my fellow students was preferable to you deciding to respect me for who I am.

On that night, S.B. 63-106, otherwise known as the “Sexual Education Equality in Funding Bill” in support of Representative Wayne Christian’s amendment to HB 1 passed. And with its passage, the Student Senate made its position clear: that because I am gay, I am not truly an Aggie.

Now you may be saying to yourself that I’m being overly dramatic, that that was not your intention in passing that bill, or something else along those lines. Some of you may have stopped reading this letter as soon as you saw the words “I am gay”. I would expect nothing less from the 17th least friendly campus for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) students in the country (according to the Princeton review). If you’re still reading, then allow me to explain why I don’t at all feel like I am being melodramatic and state my reasons for concluding that the Student Senate no longer views me as an Aggie:

1. Harming the Texas A&M GLBT Resource Center was the purpose of this bill, not, as the authors claim, the creating of centers for the purpose of so-called “traditional values education.” This is made clear in the second operative clause, where the opposition of increased student fees to cover this new “traditional values education” is set forth. The authors of the bill are not fooling anyone, since the drastic budget cuts make it clear that no additional government funding is at all likely for this new “traditional values” education, leaving one clear option: cut the GLBT Resource Center’s budget in half. This barely concealed attempt to attack the funding of the biggest support system for GLBT students and their allies on this campus is not just an attack on some perceived “immoral lifestyle choice” or whatever phrase people might choose to use. It is a direct attack on Aggies like myself, a clear “shot over the bow”, warning us that we are not welcome on this campus.

2. The purpose of this bill was not to promote equality of funding for support for all students. If that were indeed the goal, then allow me to point you to several areas where there is a severe problem. First of all, why is there a Women’s Resource Center on campus but no Men’s Resource Center? Applying the same logic that has been applied in the passage of S.B. 63-106, it is clearly unfair that my student fees, as a male, go toward funding the Women’s Resource Center, especially if I disagree that women need any special attention. I should demand equality of funding towards a center that supports me and my needs as a male. Likewise for the Department of Multicultural Services, because I as a Caucasian Amercian have no need of their services. Where is my Department of White American Services? Clearly, the student body does not have a problem offering support to the communities of women and multicultural students within the Aggie family. Thus, singling out support for GLBT students like me sends a crystal clear message: “you and people like you are not worthy of our support. Women, multicultural people, those groups deserve support. You do not.“

3. The assertion that there is not already “traditional values” education related to sex on this campus is laughable. Anyone who has taken a KINE 198 class can tell you that only heterosexual examples are given when discussing romantic or sexual interactions and the health guidelines related to them. And a mandatory class is far more pervasive in educating the students of Texas A&M than a resource center buried in Cain Hall that never requires people to pass through its doors. The programming that the center offers is optional for those who wish to attend. There is no requirement that straight Aggies listen to a discussion of sexual safety for gay men or lesbian women, but clearly the same is not true for GLBT Aggies. We are treated to a discussion of straight sexual safety and relationship guidelines whether we want to be or not. Thus, the assertion that “alternative sexual education” is being funded more than “traditional values” sexual education on this campus is not only patently false, but demeaning to those of us who are consistently maligned for being attracted to (a) different gender(s) of people than the Student Senate apparently feels we should be.

Senators, let me reiterate what I said at the beginning of this letter. Next year will be my 5th year of study. I am a Presidential Endowed Scholar. I attended Fish Camp. I went to football games and yelled until my voice was dead and my ass was red. I joined a FLO. I started two organizations. I received the prestigious Buck Weirus Spirit Award for my contributions to this student body. I happen to be gay. I am also a strong Christian, attend a local church, and have a wonderful relationship with my father.

A year ago, all of that almost vanished. I almost became a name read out at Silver Taps Senators, because I was so tired of living the lie, feeling controlled by fear. And the voices that were in my head were delivering the same message that the Student Senate is delivering to the GLBTQ students of this university: you aren’t worth as much as everyone else. I’m not accusing the Student Senate of causing suicides, but the passage of this bill simply reinforces a message that many GLBT people have been hearing their whole lives. Will it take a Tyler Clementi here at Texas A&M before this becomes apparent?

You may think it’s a sin, that I chose to be gay, and that I’m having wild, promiscuous, unprotected sex every chance I get. You may think of me as a faggot, a queer, a poof, a fairy, or a dirty homo. You may think that I will certainly die of AIDS…some of you may even think that I should die because of it. I know people on this campus and in this community who think that I deserve the death penalty for being gay. That is the reality of being gay on this campus, Senators. Even if a GLBT man or woman never once experiences outright discrimination, the knowledge that if it weren’t for Texas politeness they almost certainly would stays with them. It is fear, a constant awareness that we have to have when we’re on a date or walking across campus, an undercurrent of uncertainty about how people will react to us holding hands, wearing a GLBTAggies t-shirt, or standing in front of an Aggie Allies table by the Academic Building.

That is why the GLBT Resource Center is essential. It was part of what kept me alive a year ago, having a community where I knew I could find support, be able to talk to people who knew what I was going through and had the funding and resources to help get me (and every other person who visits the center, gay or straight) the information and support that they need to make it through a day, a week, a year, a lifetime.
Because guess what Senators? Somehow, most of us still love Texas A&M. Despite everything, we still bleed maroon. That’s why we are still here, why we haven’t just up and left, packed our bags, and hit the road for California or New York. The people who work at the GLBT resource center could have just given up years ago; it would have been easier. GLBT Aggies and their allies are still bettering this campus through our involvement in the student body. But we will continue to fight to be recognized fully as Aggies, despite the Student Senate’s clear position that we are not.

In closing, you will notice that my name is not attached to this letter. You may accuse me of cowardice, of choosing to hide behind the cloak of anonymity as I take potshots at you. Then again, you may not. But let me be clear: I have chosen to withhold my name not out of fear, but because you, as a senate body, have lost my trust. Choosing to come out to someone, which is what I would be doing if I included my name, requires trust. However, I do not trust you with my name any more than you as a senate trust that the GLBT students of this campus honestly need the support and resources that the GLBT Resource Center offers. You clearly no longer represent me, so you are no longer entitled to my name.

Maybe when you are willing to repair the damage that you have done to the Aggie Family I might be willing to trust you again.

An Aggie No More

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