On Friday, April 2 allies and others will have the opportunity to hear Aggies share transformative stories not often voiced at Texas A&M. The goal is increased understanding and awareness of how to be supportive of the LGBTQ+ campus community.
Now, more than ever, entering post-secondary education means finding a school that fits each person's needs. With more people identifying as LGBTQ, one resource at A&M working to make sure students of all backgrounds feel welcomed is the Texas A&M LGBTQ+ Pride Center.
One in six members of Generation Z above the age of 18 identifies as LGBTQ, according to a 2020 Gallup poll. A&M has worked to take steps to be more inclusive and welcoming, Frances Jackson, coordinator for the LGBTQ+ Pride Center, said. With the support of the university, the Pride Center is able to put on annual events, offer programs and partner with organizations on campus to spread awareness, educate others and help students get involved in the LGBTQ+ community, Jackson said.
On April 2, the Pride Center will host “The Coming Out Monologues,” an annual event that will again be held on Zoom and streamed on Facebook Live, according to the center’s website.
“It is an event where folks come in and tell raw and transformative stories,” Jackson said.
LGBTQ+ stories are difficult to find for some people, and it’s important to have a night to share these stories, graduate student Bradford Garcia said. After three years of being in the audience for “The Coming Out Monologues,” Garcia said last year was the perfect time to present a monologue. No one ever really comes out just once, and this year’s monologue will serve as an update on how life is going now, Garcia said.
“To have a night where we can all come together and celebrate our personal victories and also our common grief it’s truly a really impactful night,” Garcia said.
Students have also taken matters into their own hands by starting organizations to help other students who are LGBTQ find their place, Jackson said.
“We had two LGBTQ clubs form in the 2019-2020 academic school year,” Jackson said.
One of the clubs is Freshmen Leading in Acceptance Kindness and Equality, a new freshman leadership organization, or FLO, started in January 2020 that welcomed its first class of freshmen in the fall 2020, meteorology sophomore and executive director Ben Gettleman said. Also known as FLAKE, the club joins the 20 other FLOs on campus and currently consists of 40 freshmen and 13 upperclassmen staff members who either identify as LGBTQ+ or are allies, Gettleman said.
“My freshmen year I sat at the all-FLO informational and I realized there wasn’t one specifically for LGBTQ freshmen,” Gettleman said. “And I didn’t know why there wasn’t one for me here.”
Not seeing a FLO geared toward LGBTQ+ freshmen inspired the creation of FLAKE, Gettleman said. Now, he said, FLAKE is an affiliated organization with the Pride Center, which has been helpful in spreading awareness of a new organization for incoming freshmen to join. The Pride Center and FLAKE are not just for people who identify with the LGBTQ+ community; it’s a place for all people to find love and acceptance, Gettleman said.
“I think it’s amazing that we have this place where we can find other people like us and have such valuable resources,” Gettleman said.
Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the LGBTQ+ Pride Center is not physically open right now, Jackson said. Even though students cannot visit the Pride Center in person, Jackson said they can contact the Pride Center by phone, email and the Pride Center’s social channels to schedule a meeting or find resources.
“It’s a resource center, or now as it is called the ‘Pride Center,’ but above all, it is a community center,” Garcia said. “Every student should feel a little responsibility in making this a campus that any Aggie can feel welcome attending.”
For more information about the LGBTQ+ Pride Center, visit studentlife.tamu.edu/lgbtq.