Equality bus rolls into town
Published: Wednesday, September 14, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, July 25, 2012 21:07
The "On the Road to Equality" bus tour stopped in G. Rollie White Plaza Tuesday to address gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights Tuesday.
GLBT Aggies worked with a nonprofit group, the Human Rights Campaign, to bring the bus tour to town. The event included free frozen yogurt, prizes, support material and guest speakers from around the country who told their stories.
"The Human Rights Campaign has been around since the 1980s as an organization, but this is the first time we have ever done a bus tour," said Candace Gingrich-Jones, youth and campus outreach associate director for the Human Rights Campaign. "We've done polling, the research, we know anecdotally that there is support out there; it's just about engaging people publicly about that support."
Event organizers stopped students walking through the high-traffic area to talk about equality for GLBT students and the importance of ending hostility toward GLBT students. Camden Breeding, senior electrical engineering major and GLBT Aggies president, said he was there to help and offer support.
"The whole point of the Road to Equality is for the Human Rights Campaign to go to some of the toughest states for GLBT equality," Breeding said.
Organizers said the bus tour visits conservative locations across the U.S. with their message. Citing the Princeton Review, Breeding said A&M's reputation as the "single most homophobic public institution in the country" made it a logical destination.
The tour's focus was not limited to GLBT students. The group encouraged heterosexual students to join as allies or supporters of equal rights. Hudson Taylor, wrestling coach at Columbia University and founder of Athlete Ally, a nonprofit organization promoting equality in gender identity and expression, attended the event to talk about being an ally to the GLBT community.
"Truthfully, for a long time I wasn't speaking out. I was complacent as I heard homophobic and derogatory language," Taylor said. "It wasn't until I was a captain of my team — I was an All-American wrestler — I heard the homophobic language used by my teammate and said ‘wait a second, this is not what I want on my team,' this is not what I wanted to hear in the athletic community."
Breeding said many GLBT students face homophobic and derogatory language on campus.
"I can't speak for everyone who is GLBT at A&M," Breeding said. "I've had some harsh experiences; I've had really, really great experiences as well. I think you'll see that there is a wide diversity of experiences, from the homophobic student senate bill trying to get rid of the GLBT student research center to being called ‘faggot' or any of the derogatory terms on campus, but we also have a really strong community here. We have the GLBT resource center and we have GLBT Aggie. There are just a lot of resources."
Gingrich-Jones said that even though there are a lot of resources out there, the big challenge is getting those people who give their support to take action for the things they believe in.
"Part of it comes from experience and comes from the knowledge that all across this country there are a majority of people who support workplace protection, hate crime laws, don't ask don't tell, relationship recognition, but they don't always have an opportunity to act on those beliefs and that support," Gingrich-Jones said.
Those involved with the tour said their mission is to give young people a support system and the ability to come out or stand up for equality.
"I get lots of e-mails, around a thousand, from young, positive kids across the country, especially athletes who don't feel comfortable coming out, who don't feel like they can participate in sports because of their sexual orientation," Taylor said. "So being an affirming voice, being a straight ally who says it's okay to be gay, that makes a big difference. It makes people feel comfortable being themselves."
Breeding said individual courage is needed to spread the message that "hate is not an Aggie value."
"If you're visible and you say, ‘Hey I'm gay, I'm lesbian, I'm bisexual, I'm transgender, and I'm your brother, sister, mother, daughter, father or son … that humanizes that identity that I'm an Aggie and I'm gay and I deserve equal treatment," Breeding said.