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Texas A&M Aggie Allies provide safe haven

Published: Friday, September 21, 2012

Updated: Friday, September 21, 2012 01:09

Aggie Allies

Tanner Garza

Texas A&M consistently ranks among the top universities in the country for a great value, established research programs and prejudice toward members of the GLBT community. Aggie Allies work to maintain the excellence of Texas A&M while providing a safer environment for students discriminated against because of their sexual orientation.

Aggie Allies held their annual Allies across Aggieland event Thursday evening that featured Krista May. May is an associate editor for the World Shakespeare Bibliography at Texas A&M and the recipient of last year’s Rainbow Award, which is given to an individual who is committed to serving as a role model and providing education to the students of Texas A&M about GLBT individuals and topics.

May said that though she sees an uncomfortable amount of discrimination on campus, Aggie Allies truly do make a difference. Allies are staff, faculty and students at Texas A&M who support, listen to and provide a safe space for students that identify as members of the GLBT community. May said that these individuals provide a vital lifeline in a hetero-normative environment.

“Allies are crucial links in our support system for GLBT people who are here at Texas A&M,” May said. “Allies are crucial to the growth and development of our campus as we attempt to make our campus truly inclusive and welcome to everyone.”

Darius Tanner, a freshman architecture in visualization major, said that he became an Ally to give back to the community.

“I’m an Ally because I’ve been through the same things that everyone is going through, so I really wanted to help out and get involved,” Tanner said.

May said that though Allies have made a huge difference, the discrimination is very apparent on a campus renowned for its established position on the Princeton Review’s LGBT-Unfriendly list and that this discrimination calls into question values that Aggies have traditionally believe they uphold.

“Though a lot of time, effort and resources at A&M are spent installing the virtues of the Aggie Spirit and upholding our Aggie family as an example of how we should all be treated, I and many others have questioned what it really means to be part of the Aggie family,” May said.

George Cunningham, the president of Aggie Allies, said that this discrimination against individuals based on sexual orientation creates a society that is equally destructive to everyone in the community.

“If you think about the effects of homophobia, sexual prejudice, heterosexism, they negatively affect everybody involved,” Cunningham said. “It lowers morale, it creates inequalities, it generates conflict and devastates a culture.”

May recalled the story of a student who identified as gay experiencing discrimination on campus. She said that after this student had repeatedly been the victim of derogatory slurs and anti-gay harassment, he began to be concerned about the behavior of his fellow Aggies, especially within his major. The student made an appointment with the dean of his college to discuss issuing a statement to reiterate the college’s commitment to diversity.

“The dean told him that the college could not issue such a statement, because doing so would imply that there was a problem, and there was no problem,” May said. “It’s things like this that reinforce the importance of Aggie Allies.”

May also said that the battle against discrimination would be easier if minority students could find an ally in the administration.

“It would also be nice if our administration could step up every now and then to stand up to the bullies, not issuing some bland statement about diversity after something awful has happened,” May said.

Not losing hope, May said she continues to propose a firm, proactive stance for equality among conscientious members of the community. She said that the people she meets gives her this faith.

“There are some things about Texas A&M that keep me hopeful,” May said. “They’re the things that keep me going every day, and they all have to do with the people I connect with.”

Those students that struggle with their identity are the ones that William Rapisand, a freshman physics major, said he would like to see being more accepting of themselves within Texas A&M.

“I want to see people more comfortable with who they are,” Rapisand said.

 

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