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Dining with the
Corps at Texas A&M

Dining with the
Corps at Texas A&M

Jarrett_lucas_0

The Equality Ride visits Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas, not to protest college policies but to confront the largest ROTC program at any nonmilitary school. The result is productive dialogue on "don't ask, don't tell" and religion.

This is the fifth in a series of Advocate dispatches from the Equality Ride. Sponsored by Soulforce, the ride is taking 33 young LGBT activists on a nationwide tour of college campuses with policies that call for ejecting openly gay and lesbian students. Its first several stops--including Jerry Falwell's Liberty University and Lee University in Cleveland, Tenn.--led to a lot of constructive dialogue as well as some arrests for "trespassing."

This dispatch was written by Equality Rider Jarrett Lucas after the Ride's visit to Texas A&M University. As a state school A&M does not eject LGBT students, but it does host the Corps of Cadets, the largest Reserve Officers' Training Corps program outside of the military academies--and the U.S. military, as we know, does eject openly gay and lesbian service members.

We pour onto Texas A&M's campus, an army of individuals connected by a common dream: We wish to live in a world devoid of discrimination. The diversity of our group is quite apparent. Even more visible is our unity. With affable smiles and sincere greetings we allow our shirts to ask the question, "Would you serve with me?"

Rain does not delay our Wednesday morning rally, nor does it scare away the audience. Students, cadets, and faculty approach us, excited by our presence and interested in our message. [Equality Ride codirector] Haven Herrin and I both speak. Although we cannot amplify our voices, we make ourselves heard: "It is time to end the ban."

Our nation's leaders have written into law the notion that gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people are abnormal and inferior. Our nation's legislators have codified the very prejudice we seek to end. Our military, which seeks to promote and protect truth in the world, asks its own soldiers to lie about who they are so as to ensure "unit cohesion." Although we cannot make people listen, we make the voices of many people heard. The "don't ask, don't tell" policy dishonors the service of its approximately 65,000 LGBT service members and discredits the intellectual potential of their heterosexual comrades.

After the rally Commandant John Van Alstyne proudly invites a group of Equality Riders to have lunch with Corps members in Duncan Hall. It is clear that his pride extends to us as well as his cadets. He says we are brave for acting on our beliefs. He knows we are servicing society by advocating our own liberty. Constantly quieting salutes, he traverses the large dining hall captivated by our honest, articulate discussions. At a dozen tables, Riders successfully engage the minds of students whose individualistic cerebration is often suppressed. Simple conversations about military policy quickly lead to the exchange of curious inquiries, personal testimony, and scriptural understanding. This is why we are here.

At one table a cadet asks, "What if the entire military were gay?" Despite his dismal tone, Riders respond by saying, "Then the uniforms would be more stylish."

The Riders proceed to discuss nations that allow openly gay citizens to enlist in their militaries, among them many of the United States' most powerful allies. It is explained that in regard to military service, sexual orientation is as benign a characteristic as skin color. Perhaps the cadets at that table leave uncertain of where they stand. But one thing is sure: The issue of serving with LGBT people has been personalized; the human element of prejudice can no longer be denied.

A forum is held in Rudder Tower later in the evening. Gay students and straight allies, including the commandant, arrive to show their support for the Soulforce Equality Ride's current and future endeavors to end injustice. I have never seen such a diverse group gathered for a single concern: a three-star general, a straight cadet, a gay student leader, a former soldier, and dozens of youth activists. But we put our differences aside to recognize that which threads our lives, our humanity. And very much like the Corps at Texas A&M, we honor ourselves with dignity, courage, and integrity.

30 Years of Out100Out / Advocate Magazine - Jonathan Groff & Wayne Brady

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