Aggies join hands to form wall blocking Westboro Baptist Church protesters from alum’s funeral

In an effort of unity and pride, a group of Aggies formed a human wall Thursday to block potential anti-gay hate group protesters from a funeral of one of their own.

The students organized the event after the church announced it would protest former Aggie Lt. Col. Roy Tisdale’s funeral. He was killed during a training exercise at Fort Bragg on June 28.

More than 600 Aggie students lined up in front of Central Baptist Church in Bryan on Thursday afternoon to hide the protesters — who never showed up — from the grieving family, according to BuzzFeed.

As a Texas native, I’ve always been proud of the solidarity the people of Lone Star State display on a daily basis, but actions like this make me truly proud to call Texas my home.

From the event page:

Westboro Baptist Church has announced their intention to protest the funeral of a fallen Ag.

Lt Col. Roy Tisdale

It is proposed that we respond with true Aggie spirit.

In response to their yelling, we will be silent. Like silver taps, like Bonfire Memorial.

In response to their signs of hate, we will wear maroon.

In response to their mob anger, we will form a line, arm in arm.

This is a silent vigil. A manifestation of our solidarity.

We must establish and enforce some ground rules, because Westboro loves pushing their constitutional rights down our throat.

—  Anna Waugh

LGBT community must call on Texas A&M leaders to send message that hatred won’t be tolerated

Administration remains silent in wake of attack on resource center

By TIFFANY CREECY and JOSH COLLINS

In April 2011, Texas State Rep. Wayne Christian, R-Center, proposed Amendment 143 to House Bill 1 — an amendment demanding that public universities that fund centers for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) students also provide an equal amount of funding for student centers that promote “traditional and family values.” The amendment passed 110-24. Though it is unclear whether the Texas Legislature will include the amendment in its final budget, its introduction has created unnecessarily hostile discourse about GLBT issues at Texas A&M University.

Christian’s amendment inspired a group of A&M student senators to author a bill with identical objectives: SB 63-106, “The Sexual Education Equality in Funding” bill. While student governments at other public universities in Texas (e.g., University of Texas at Austin and University of Houston) have openly, adamantly, and clearly rejected the intentions of the Texas Legislature, A&M’s SB 63-106 passed with a vote of 21-21, with the speaker of the Senate breaking the tie in favor of the bill. The Student Government Association at the University of Houston called for the Texas governor to veto the state amendment, citing potential harm to the university’s already-existing diversity initiatives — initiatives similar to the ones in existence at Texas A&M, which have long been met with opposition by conservative Aggie student groups.

Immediately after the passing of SB 63-106, Texas A&M students both in favor of and in opposition to the bill expressed impassioned viewpoints that quickly manifested in emotional and aggressive debates. The fervor of these debates was further heightened by the publication of four GLBT-related articles in the student newspaper, The Battalion. GLBT/Ally students felt empowered by the publication of articles with positive representations of GLBT individuals, especially following the events of GLBT Awareness Week, which took place April 1-15. Some non-GLBT/Ally students felt that the articles contributed to an imbalanced, liberal-leaning perspective on the rise at Texas A&M. Many students from both perspectives on the issue have unfortunately engaged in hostile communications and the use of unwarranted personal attacks.

Texas A&M Student Body President Jacob Robinson vetoed the decision to pass the bill, sending it back to the Student Senate — where it failed to receive the two-thirds majority required to override Robinson’s veto. However, the damage to campus climate as a result of the bill had already been done. Tension between GLBT/Ally students, faculty, and staff and some of the bill’s more vocal supporters has never been higher. The Texas A&M GLBT Resource Center no longer feels like the safe space that it used to be, and although it appears, for the time being, that no funding will be cut and a center for “family and traditional values” will not be established, what has been most alarming about the events that have unfolded over the last month is the lack of public, GLBT-supportive responses from university officials. In perhaps the most critical moment for GLBT Aggies since they won the right to have a student organization on campus in the 1980s, the university has failed to send the message that homophobia, heterosexism, and hatred for the GLBT community will not be tolerated.

—  John Wright

An open letter to the Texas A&M Student Senate, signed ‘An Aggie No More’

A Texas A&M student holds up a sign during the “Hands Across Aggieland” Unity March on April 15. (From GLBT Aggies on Facebook)

Dear Senators:

I once thought that I was an Aggie. Next year will be my 5th year of study. I am a Presidential Endowed Scholar. I attended Fish Camp. I went to football games and yelled until my voice was dead and my ass was red. I joined a FLO. I started two organizations. I received the prestigious Buck Weirus Spirit Award for my contributions to this student body. I have made hundreds of friends, touched hundreds of Aggies’ lives and been touched by thousands more. Yes, I once thought that I was an Aggie.

On April 20th, 2011 the Student Senate made it clear that, in their eyes, I am an Aggie no more.

That day, the student senate told me that I was not worth as much as other Aggies. You told me that breaking the Aggie Honor Code and lying to my fellow students was preferable to you deciding to respect me for who I am. On that night, S.B. 63-106, otherwise known as the “Sexual Education Equality in Funding Bill” in support of Representative Wayne Christian’s amendment to HB 1 passed. And with its passage, the Student Senate made its position clear: that because I am gay, I am not truly an Aggie.

Now you may be saying to yourself that I’m being overly dramatic, that that was not your intention in passing that bill, or something else along those lines. Some of you may have stopped reading this letter as soon as you saw the words “I am gay”. I would expect nothing less from the 17th least friendly campus for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) students in the country (according to the Princeton review). If you’re still reading, then allow me to explain why I don’t at all feel like I am being melodramatic and state my reasons for concluding that the Student Senate no longer views me as an Aggie:

—  admin

‘Things have changed, and it’s pretty wonderful’

Phyllis Frye appointed Texas’ 1st transgender judge by Houston Mayor Annise Parker

Brian Rogers  |  Houston Chronicle via The Associated Press

Phyllis Frye
Phyllis Frye

HOUSTON — Thirty years ago, Phyllis Frye, a longtime activist for LGBT causes, could have been arrested for wearing women’s clothing in the Houston City Council chamber.Frye, a transgender Houston attorney born as Phillip Frye, fought back tears last week as the mayor appointed her to a municipal bench in the same room where she helped repeal Houston’s “cross-dressing ordinance” in 1980.

“I almost started crying, because I remembered 31 years ago, in that very same chamber, I was subject to arrest,” Frye said.

The 63-year-old will hear traffic ticket cases and other low-level misdemeanor trials. Municipal judges are not elected, she noted.

Frye said she would be the first transgender judge in Texas. She knows of at least two transgender judges in other parts of the country.
Frye applied for the position several months ago and was vetted before being appointed by Mayor Annise Parker on Wednesday, Nov. 17, with seven other new associate judges.

“I think she’s a great addition to our judiciary,” the mayor said. “I’m very proud I was able to nominate her, and she agreed to serve.”
Frye joins 43 other associate municipal judges and 22 full-time municipal judges.

“I don’t want to underplay this, because I understand it is very significant,” Frye said. “But I don’t want to overplay it either. I don’t want people to think I am anything other than an associate municipal court judge.”

Three decades ago Frye volunteered at City Hall where she worked to repeal an ordinance that allowed police to arrest men in women’s clothes and lesbians wearing fly-front jeans.

“Things have changed, and it’s pretty wonderful,” Frye said.

A graduate of Texas A&M, Frye was an Eagle Scout and an Aggie cadet. She also was a husband and a father.

Frye has practiced criminal defense law in Houston since 1986.

She now heads a six-lawyer firm and has parlayed her expertise in LGBT legal issues into a storied legal career — the latest chapter of which is her representation of Nikki Araguz, the transgender Wharton widow embroiled in a legal battle to receive part of her firefighter husband’s death benefits.

Parker’s critics seized on Frye’s appointment to say the mayor, who is a lesbian, is promoting a gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender agenda.

“Phyllis Frye is a very well-known radical transgender activist,” said Dave Welch, executive director of the Houston Area Pastor Council, which represents about 300 churches.

“We don’t think it is consistent with the values of the vast majority of the people,” Welch said. “We think it is an anti-family lifestyle and agenda.”

Her appointment, however, was applauded by Houston’s GLBT Political Caucus.

“Phyllis Frye is a true icon in our civil rights movement,” said Kris Banks, Caucus president. “She is an internationally recognized pioneer, and the mayor is to be congratulated for her choice.”

Banks noted that Charles Spain, an openly gay attorney and chair of the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identification Issues of the State Bar, also was appointed as an associate municipal court judge. Josh Brockman, an openly gay attorney, was appointed as a hearings officer to resolve contested parking tickets.

New judges go through hours of state-mandated training. Frye said she expects to begin substituting for sitting judges in the spring.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 26, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

A former Aggie cadet comes out and comes clean

Clint Hooper is a gay man who went to Texas A&M and served in A&M’s Cadet Corps.

On Monday, to mark National Coming Out Day, Clint sent a letter to Col. Jake Betty, interim commandant of the A&M Cadet Corps., coming out to Betty as a gay man, and “coming clean” about how he “broke the Aggie Honor Code in every way.”

With Clint’s permission, I wanted to share that letter with all of you in Instant Tea land:

Colonel Betty:

I am a proud Aggie, and as such, I believe it is my responsibility to inform you that as a cadet, I broke the Aggie Honor Code in every way and would like to come clean and come out.

As a closeted gay man in the Corps of Cadets, I lied. I lied to my buddies, to my leaders as an underclassman, to my followers as a First Sergeant and a Company Commander, and to myself. I lied because in a setting that is so masculinized it is “Not a privilege to be gay, sir!” there was seemingly no possible way to be honest.

As a closeted gay man in the Corps of Cadets, I cheated. I cheated during the selection process for leadership positions. I was selected to be company First Sergeant and Commander over my buddies because of my dishonesty. I knew that, should I have been truthful, I would not have been placed in those leadership positions.

As a closeted gay man in the Corps of Cadets, I stole. I stole the learning experience of knowing a gay man from my buddies and fellow cadets. There is a stigma and fear of gay people that only knowing and conversing with a gay person can dispel. I have seen it time and time again, the literal eye-opening experience when a person I knew has had a meaningful and educational conversation with a gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender person and realizes that what they have been told is wrong.

As you may know, today is National Coming Out Day. It is a day where gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender and allied individuals across the national make an effort to make people they known and love aware that they know and love a GLBT person. At this critical time in our nation, and ultimately, humankind’s history, it is imperative that you, the Commandant’s Staff, Corps Housing, cadets and anyone affiliated with the corps know that you are all surrounded by co-workers, friends, family, cadets, classmates, buddies, ol’ ladies, leaders, followers and professors who are openly being discriminated against and forced to live a life of lies. Since 1994, more than 14,000 soldiers have been discharged under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell; 29 states allow GLBT persons to be fired because of their sexuality, and GLBT youth are four times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers.

With nearly 2,000 cadets walking the quad every day, it would be naive to believe that the Corps uniform is not being worn by even a single gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender individual. We are there. We are in the ranks of khaki. We are living on the quad. We are eating in Duncan. We are marching into Kyle Field to the beat of the drums that countless other gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender cadets have marched to for over a century.

Within each fish Cadence and in every Standard is a section of Core Values that states, “We respect others and have regard for their dignity, worth and individuality.” Yet I do not believe this to be so. When young men and women, destined to become leaders in the pubic and private sectors of society, are made to feel rejected, insignificant and outcast, then there is no regard for dignity, worth or individuality.

As an integral part of a university that is constantly working on not only advancement in education and science, but on improving our society, the Corps, as a foundation of the university, should take a stand on the acceptance of GLBT cadets and individuals in general. The Corps of Cadets proudly boasts that it is producing “leaders of character.” These future leaders will undoubtedly lead or be GLBT people. To deny this is absurd. This nation is changing, and the movement is reaching far and wide. People, young and old, are taking to the streets, picking up their phones and writing to their congressmen and women, demanding their own or their loved ones’ rights. One of our own, former president of Texas A&M Robert Gates, is currently working on the process of repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Wouldn’t it be prudent of the Corps of Cadets to be at the forefront of this movement?

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is succumbing to public opinion and will be repealed sooner rather than later; states will change their employment laws that allow people to be fired based on their sexuality, and equality will lead to more public acceptance of the GLBT community. When this happens, should the Corps of Cadets be left behind as a relic of the past? Or should the Corps of Cadets take the necessary steps now to ensure that its former, current and future cadets are proud to say that they received the quality leadership experience and education that I received without having to break the Aggie Honor Code?

Colonel Betty, I am asking you to take a stand for the rights and welfare of the cadets that you advise and oversee. Though they may not be known to you, they are there and they are looking to for leadership. Support the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and make it known that the Corps of Cadets is a safe environment for everyone no matter their race, religion, gender, ethnicity, country of origin, (dis)ability or sexual orientation. That hate is not an Aggie value, discrimination based on sexuality will not be tolerated and that the leaders, destined for the military and for the civilian sector, which are forged and educated in our corps are true leaders of character. To not do so would be an injustice to them, to you, to our Cadet Corps, and to the university we hold so dear.

Clint Hooper, Denton

—  admin