Published: Wednesday, April 7, 2010
Updated: Wednesday, July 25, 2012 23:07
Some Aggies do not feel accepted in some traditions near and dear to Texas A&M; traditions such as the Century Tree and Midnight Yell.
"I went to Midnight Yell once in the beginning and it would seem really awesome to go, but because I'm afraid to take my girlfriend, I feel like I'm missing out on one of A&M's really cool traditions," said Destiny Winning, a freshman environmental geosciences major. "It's sad because I can't do that like everybody else. It's really a letdown."
The Texas A&M University campus is in the heart of a homophobic region of the country, said Lowell Kane, director of the A&M Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Resource Center.
Kane said the reason "Closet Station," or the concept therein, exists is a false pretense most people have about GLBT individuals.
"I think there is a huge stereotype that exists out there that the defining quality in GLBT people is sex or sexuality. The stereotype is they're constantly looking to date people and that is just not the case," Kane said. "That stereotype is very hindering and damaging to the community."
Winning was lucky, she said, in terms of her "coming out" experience with her family.
"My parents took it really well, and most of my other family," Winning said. "‘As long as you're happy, we're happy,' they'd say."
About five times a semester a student will visit the GLBT center because their family has disowned them; sometimes it is a temporary thing, but other times it is permanent, Kane said.
"At 17, 18, 19, even 20 years old, to lose the support of your family, not just the emotional support but also the financial support, can be a very scary time for students," Kane said.
While Winning's parents were O.K. with her choices, Winning's first girlfriend's parents were not, and that is why they broke up. Senior accounting major Diego Arvizu did not tell his parents about his sexual orientation until two years after his first relationship.
Arvizu grew up in Crockett, Texas, a "technologically backwards" place, he said, and most in his family are devout Catholics.
"This was my own adventure that I could take, one that my brothers could not go," Arvizu said. "It was something to get out of the house and venture to my own world. This was new to everyone in my family: ‘gay son, online, boyfriend, what is next, not Catholic?'"
MOST CONSERVATIVE STUDENTS
The Princeton Review's latest rankings put A&M on the top of the list for "most conservative students;" usually not a favorable thing for GLBT individuals.
"We talk about ‘We are the Aggies, the Aggies are we,' but that might not always be the experience for individuals here," Kane said. "One of the most common concerns I hear about is not feeling a connection, when so many students do feel that connection to being an Aggie."
To Winning, sometimes it's the unspoken messages she gets that sting the most.
"People won't come up to your face and say anything, but if you wear a certain T-shirt or act different, you can just see it in their eyes," Winning said, "like, ‘Oh god, look at that shirt.'"
Arvizu agrees and said he usually "brushes off" the verbal attacks.
"I'm usually too busy to pay attention to [people saying insults], plus they can only bark like dogs, it's the silent dogs that I pay attention to," Arvizu said.
Arvizu and Winning have been warned about not being received well at some places in the Northgate area.
Arvizu is a very adventurous person, he said, so when he was told of a place not for "his people," he wanted to check it out. When Arvizu and two friends walked towards Daisy Dukes, they were silently ‘deferred' by two large white men, Arvizu said. It took him a minute to realize what had just happened.
"They put all the puzzle pieces together for me and I was surprised that such acts of violence that happen in the news and across the world was inches away from happening to us," Arvizu said.
Winning said she received a similar warning about the Dixie Chicken, much to her dismay.
"It kind of bothers me because the Dixie Chicken is a big A&M thing so I want to try that out, but now I'm a little tedious, cautious to try that out," Winning said.
LIVING NOW AND LOOKING AHEAD
Winning said she has lost friends because of her orientation, and feels many people just want her to go away and is more stressed because of the populace's view of GLBT relationships.
"It causes a little more stress and it makes you more weary to trust somebody," Winning said.
Kane said many GLBT individuals are forced to conceal themselves and relationships because of the atmosphere around A&M. While GLBT
individuals have extra stress in their life because of their sexual orientation, Kane said this speaks to their resilience.
"[A&M] is a difficult place to be, but they are here and they are thriving," Kane said.