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

Trevor Project calls for moment of silence for suicide victims at 7 p.m. Dallas time today

We aren’t aware of any specific events planned for Dallas in response to the suicides of six teens in the U.S. who were gay or perceived as gay in September, but it looks like a National Safe Schools Day of Action will take place next Tuesday, Oct. 5. Also, there will be a Stand Up to Youth Suicide Rally and March in San Francisco on Friday, Oct. 8, and rallies are reportedly being planned next weekend through the “It Gets Better” project, in advance of National Coming Out Day on Oct. 11. Does anyone know of anything that’s planned for Dallas? As we reported earlier, many plan to gather around Big Tex at the State Fair at noon Saturday, Oct. 9 during the unofficial Gay Day, so perhaps this would be a good time to do it. Just a thought.

Anyhow, The Trevor Project is calling for a moment of silence and reflection at 7 tonight Dallas time in remembrance of the victims. Here’s the full press release:

The Trevor Project Asks All Americans for a Moment of Silence at 8pm ET, 5pm PT Tonight

(West Hollywood, CA, October 1, 2010) – Statement from Charles Robbins, Executive Director of The Trevor Project:

Late last night, The Trevor Project learned of yet another young LGBTQ person who died by suicide. Raymond Chase was a sophomore at Johnson and Wales University in Rhode Island when he took his own life on Wednesday. Words do not adequately describe the tragic loss felt across the country for the five promising young individuals who were so isolated and felt so alone and cut off from their peers and society that suicide became an option.

We encourage all people who feel connected to these tragic events, whether friends, family, peers, community members, and sympathetic human beings to pause today at 8:00 PM Eastern, 5:00 PM Pacific for a moment of silence and reflection in remembrance of Raymond Chase, Tyler Clementi, Seth Walsh, Asher Brown and Billy Lucas. Events are being planned across the country in the coming weeks to mourn the loss of these young people, and to take action to stop bullying crimes that lead to suicide, and a website http://makeitbetterproject.com/.

To help stop the cycle that leads young lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning people to feel they are alone, connect them to The Trevor Project. There is a place that’s free of bullying and judgment online, where young LGBTQ people, their friends and allies ages 13-24 can connect safely and be themselves. More than 13,000 young people already belong to TrevorSpace.org, and more youth join every day. If you or someone you care about shows warning signs for suicide, please do not hesitate to call The Trevor Lifeline at: 866-4-U-TREVOR (866-488-7386). The call is free and confidential.

We mourn the loss of these 5 young people, and today we will stand in silent solidarity for an end to the unnecessary loss of young lives.

—  John Wright

Thankfully someone took it upon themselves to declare Gay Day at the State Fair — Oct. 9

Big Tex loves his gays.

Last year, people were asking us about gay day at the State Fair, but we were as much in the dark. When Big Tex started rolling around this year, we were bracing ourselves for the inquiries. And then Facebook saved the day — or rather, Mike Weaver did.

Weaver, who hails from Watauga, started the Gay Day at the State Fair Facebook event to begin getting a consensus on when it should be. Of course, one date wasn’t going to make everyone happy, but he made the final decision to say that Saturday, Oct. 9 is the day. I say it’s not such a bad day to pick. It doesn’t compete with LifeWalk on Sunday and is two days shy of National Coming Out Day on Monday. He proposes that LGBT peeps wear colors of the rainbow and meet at noon at Big Tex.

Although he didn’t make it out last year, Weaver wanted to be part of the community coming together. “We can show people who are GLBT that it is OK to step out of the box and be with your fellow GLBTs and supporters. Maybe this could be a day for people who stay in because there scared to get them to come have fun.”

I’m there. That is if I can break away from the just close-enough Belgian waffle stand.

—  Rich Lopez

Patti hits the red carpet

This year’s Fruit Bowl host offers some advice on being glam and sporty

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer lopez@dallasvoice.com

Patti Le Plae Safe
STRIKE HER UP | Patti Le Plae Safe knows how to vamp it up — even for a bowling tourney.

RED CARPET FRUIT BOWL
USA Bowl, 10920 Composite Drive. Aug. 15 at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. $30 individual, $100 team.
HRC.org/FruitBowl

Unless you’re George Clooney or even Pamela Anderson, the red carpet treatment doesn’t come everyday. Film openings, swanky parties and awards shows up the ante by giving guests a fancy entrance, so why not a bowling tournament, too? This year, the annual Human Rights Campaign’s National Coming Out Day Projects adds a little scarlet glamour to Fruit Bowl. And host Patti Le Plae Safe has some advice on what to wear for those flashing cameras.

“This is all about the paparazzi,” Plae Safe says. “People will be taking pictures and asking for autographs. Since it is the red carpet, people should have on their finest bowling attire.”

She figures all the big designers will be making an appearance on Fruit Bowl players: Prada, Ralph Lauren and Gucci — if they actually designed bowling wear. Shoes are both an accessory and equipment, so the trick is making high fashion also utilitarian. Plae Safe will play it safe, but she’ll nix her usual glam heels for a regular pair of sporty flats.

“I’m gonna have to wear bowling shoes,” she says. “I don’t wanna fall! The rest of me though is going to be all red carpet.”
Despite the encouraged attire, she wants people to come out for some lane action and support the HRC. She was on board with this event since last year, which turned out to be fortuitous for both parties.

“I have a strong connection to the event and to HRC,” he says. “Plus, I’m on a bowling team and people know me, so I think it really was a perfect fit this year.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 13, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas