Monday, April 25, 2011

Finally, A Place For Much-Marginalized Heterosexual Students

The Texas House of Representatives has overwhelming passed a budget bill that would require any public college with a student center on "alternative" sexuality to provide equal funding to create new centers to promote traditional values. "Alternative" centers turned out to be Women, Gender, and Sexuality Centers. Alternative to what? Traditional by whose standards? Am I going to end up in an apron? The amendment, proposed by Representative Wayne Christian would apply to any public colleges with a center "for students focused on gay, lesbian, homosexual, bisexual, pansexual, transsexual, transgender, gender questioning, or other gender identity issues." A glaring omission by the Representative, these centers add 'women' to the list.

What services do these "alternative" school centers provide? Well, at UT Austin, for example, "The Gender and Sexuality Center provides safe spaces for all members of the UT Austin community to explore, organize, and promote learning around issues of gender and sexuality. The center also facilitates a greater responsiveness to the needs of women in the LGBTQ communities through education, outreach, and advocacy." It sponsors Women's History Month and provides domestic abuse counseling. So it provides a safe place as well as useful resources and services to all students, regardless of orientation, gender, or sex.

What exactly will a "traditional values" center provide? Heterosexual couples don't need protection from oppressive laws, they aren't bullied for their sexuality, never need to admit their sexuality to others, wouldn't be denied opportunities because of orientation, and have a plethora of resources available for them in their school libraries. Advice and assistance is pretty much guaranteed in their lives; heterosexuality as the norm is engrained in our society, in our customs, and our law. So is this law really about equal opportunity or something more sinister?

From Inside Higher Ed: Lawmakers supporting the bill have said that they favor only equal time for all kinds of sexuality.But the Young Conservatives of Texas, a group that worked with Christian on the legislation, did so with the hope that public colleges would respond to a law, if the bill passes, by ending support for existing centers. Tony McDonald, senior vice chairman of the group and a law student at UT Austin, said in an interview that "we could try to get these groups defunded" in a law, but that the equal funding approach was viewed as more likely to pass (perhaps with the same impact).

Ah. So it's not about providing equality. It's about trying to end the "alternative" centers. Ironically, the need for Gender and Sexuality Centers is most obviously gleaned from the rhetoric of those who oppose them: The Dallas Morning News reports lawmakers "cracked jokes and guffawed" during debate, with one representative asking Representative Wayne Christian what "pansexual" means. Christian urged the lawmaker to visit the centers at the University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M University to find out.

Though it was suggested tongue-in-cheek, this is probably the best proposal of the day. Why don't you, heterosexual-lawmaker-man, go out and find out what a pansexual is? There is a person behind that easily-derivable vocabulary word, a person who would like a college education in a safe environment. Why try so desperately, through a law, to make it more difficult for them?

I am constantly, infinitely confused by Texans' insistence that they value freedom above all. Why so many laws then - particularly the mean-spirited sort? Does empathy fall under "alternative" values?

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