The Princeton Review released its list of the “Top 20 LGBTQ+ Unfriendly” schools to attend at the end of August, and for the first year since A&M’s LGBTQ+ Resource Center has been open, A&M was not on that list.
With the removal of A&M from the list, many students and faculty feel that the university is making strides in the right direction.
Katie Stober, current Aggie Allies Vice President and class of 2005, said the campus climate around the LGBTQ+ community was very different when she was enrolled and has improved since.
“Back in the early 2000s when we would do the marches around campus and things like that, there were frequently comments or derogatory slurs,” Stober said. “Some of my friends had experiences where there were certain places they didn’t feel safe going around campus or around town … But, now in the past four years, I’ve been on several of the pride walks around campus … We have never had any negative slurs … We’ve had people applauding us.”
However, numerous people feel that while it has improved, the historically present discrimination still exists, including Stober.
“On an individual basis, I do still hear stories of people being harassed or not being accepted but that seems to be fewer than when I was here a decade ago,” Stober said. “Of course one incident of harassment is one too many, but from what I have seen it is getting better, and I hope it continues to get better.”
Krista May, an adviser for the student group LGBTQ+ Aggies and an advisor for the student group Transcend, said while LGBTQ+ acceptance has improved in large part due to the LGBTQ+ resources available, she is still surprised by cases of discrimination.
“I hear about both good and bad stories, but the bad stories are some things that really still surprise me,” May said. “Homophobia and transphobia happens in the classroom and is not necessarily endorsed by the instructor but is allowed to happen.”
Camden Breeding, class of 2013 and former president of LGBTQ Aggies, said while he had a positive educational experience at A&M, he felt the LGBTQ+ community lacked support institutionally and said he witnessed a lot of individuals — himself included — experience discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation or perceived gender identity.
“When I was on campus I remember that the Texas A&M Student Senate worked really hard to try and defund the LGBT resource center,” Breeding said. “There were some really great opportunities for the university to have taken a side and shown support for the LGBT community, but their silence really spoke volumes about the lack of support that we had on an institutional level.”
Judy LeUnes, former president of Pride Community Center, said while strides have been made she believes A&M can go further.
“I don’t think there is a better school than A&M, but I think we have a long way to go as far as making everyone feel comfortable,” LeUnes said. “I think we are moving in the right direction, but I’m not impressed with dropping off of the worst list. I want us to be on the best list.”
Jeff Liew, Aggie Allies president, said in an email statement that he has seen positive changes at A&M, and believes that with education and dialogue more changes can come.
“Educational workshops provide opportunities for dialogue, for education and for understanding,” Liew said. “For progress toward inclusion and equity to continue, we need continued institutional support from our leaders at the highest levels at Texas A&M.”
Breeding said he would advise prospective students that it is a challenging space to come to if one is openly part of the LGBTQ+ community, however there are resources available for those who identify within that community. Breeding said he is proud of the work that organizations in support of the LGBTQ+ community are doing to continue the progress that has been made.
“Between the LGBT Resource Center, LGBTQ Aggies, Shades of Queer and Aggie Allies — there are really great resources that are available for people who are LGBTQ, or resources if they’re straight and want to become an ally or learn more about the LGBT community,” Breeding said.
More information on the resources available can be found on the LGBT Resource Center’s website, the Aggie Allies’ website and LGBTQ+ student organizations can be found on the student activities’ website.