The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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LGBT Aggies talk about growing A&M community

Photo by Aimée Rodriguez

History Junior Zach Roethlisberger, member of the LGBTQ community, believes understanding and listening to one another is vital in integrating the LBTQ community with the Aggie family.

In 2014, the Princeton Review named Texas A&M University one of the least LGBT friendly campuses in the country. But for the last two years, A&M has been left off that list and the local LGBT community, while small, has established a considerable presence on campus.
Although biomedical sciences sophomore Drew Scowcroft said his identity as a gay man initially caused nervousness about coming to Texas A&M, his experience at Fish Camp calmed his nerves.
“Once I got in all my friends were like, ‘Drew, you realize it’s on the list for one of the most LGBT unfriendly schools?’ Which at the time it was, but now it’s not. After that I was nervous about it, but Fish Camp made me not nervous anymore,” Scowcroft said. “Fish Camp is such a great organization when it comes to diversity. They really got a good message across.”
Scowcroft said being gay is not his most defining or important characteristic, but it has affected his growth as a person, his sense of empathy and his political stances.
“It’s definitely made me the person I am today. I’m a lot more sympathetic because of it because you just go through hardships that others don’t go through and it forces you to find yourself early on,” Scowcroft said. “I’m very left-leaning, and maybe that is because of my sexuality. I’m very passionate bout fighting for the little guy.”
Chad Mandala, program coordinator of the GLBT Resource Center at Texas A&M, said it’s important to respect and understand all Aggies, regardless of their sexual orientation or identity.
“We are really striving to promote the idea of an individual human’s inherent sense of worth and dignity,” Mandala said. “Gender pronouns are the most basic way of validating someone’s existence and by correctly utilizing pronouns you’re providing a level of affirmation for someone’s humanity.”
For history junior Zachery Roethlisberger, who identifies as gay, the trepidation he felt before attending Texas A&M was more intense.
“I was incredibly scared,” Roethlisberger said. “The only other person who went to college in my family graduated from here, so I was expected to go here, but I was very hesitant. I’ve been pleasantly surprised, but I’m not blind to the fact that there are a lot of people here who don’t agree with my lifestyle.”
Sociology sophomore Hannah Kellen, who identifies as lesbian, believes communication is key to improving relations and understanding of the LGBT community.
“I wish people knew that it’s not necessarily what you think it is,” Kellen said. “I would encourage people, even if they aren’t gay, to come out to LGBT stuff and some of their questions may be answered.”
Kellen has had a generally positive experience being an Aggie who is also lesbian, though she sometimes wishes others understood that her identity as a lesbian woman does not make her a fundamentally different person.
“So far it’s been a really great experience, and I wouldn’t say that me being gay and going to Texas A&M really changes my experience,” Kellen said. “I just wish that people could see that you can be completely normal, completely like everyone else, and you can still be attracted to the same sex. It doesn’t change the way that you are as a person.”
Mandala said there are ample opportunities on campus for students to learn more about the LGBT community.
“For folks that are looking for resources to learn more, they can definitely start with the GLBT resource center, and we are able to provide a number of different presentations, consultations for different groups that are interested in it as well as answering questions,” Mandala said.
According to Mandala, understanding and respecting the LGBT community should be a part of being a good member of the Aggie family.
“No matter where an Aggie comes from, the idea of human dignity and respect is something we all inherently relate into; it really goes, I think, to the idea of being one big Aggie family,” Mandala said. “Being a family means that we may not always agree, but there’s always that level of respect and dignity and love that goes into it. I think that’s really all anyone is looking for, regardless of how you identify.”
Despite differences in opinion, Roethlisberger said he maintains friendships with those he does not agree with, because he believes having an open and friendly dialogue is the best way of improving relations and understanding on both sides of the issue.
“There are some people who say they’re very religious and they don’t agree with my lifestyle, but we’re still good friends because I don’t ever let it deter me,” Roethlisberger said. “We need to practice more love and acceptance of one another and listen to one another. We’re never going to get anywhere if we’re set in our ways. We don’t learn through opposition, we learn through communication with one another.”

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