Oh, Texas

Oh, Texas.

Evidently there is far too much support for queer students at public universities in Texas.

Enter the Texas legislature and Rep. Wayne Christian. Rep. Christian introduced an amendment to a budget bill that would require all public universities with centers that focus on sexuality and gender to set aside an amount of money equivalent to that which the center receives to a separate “family and traditional values center.” A quick search of the Texas Legislature’s website reveals that in this session alone Christian has also sponsored such legislative gems as HB 561, “Relating to a hospital district’s use of tax revenue to finance the performance of an abortion;” HB 1109, “Relating to the time at which life begins;” HJR 51, “Proposing a constitutional amendment relating to the rights of individuals to choose or decline to choose to purchase health insurance coverage;” HJR 55, “Proposing a constitutional amendment to prohibit a hospital district from using tax revenue to finance the performance of an abortion,” etc. He’s also (surprise!) president of the Texas Conservative Coalition.

The appropriately named Representative is apparently concerned that there is not adequate support or advocacy for heterosexual students on these campuses. Or that there is too much support for queer students. Or that these sexuality and gender centers exist at all.

According to an Inside Higher Ed article, a leading member of the group Young Conservatives of Texas, which helped Christian with the bill, is hoping to use this measure to bring about the demise of these centers altogether. From the article:

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). […]

Requiring the creation of traditional values centers would “give the left a taste of its own medicine,” he said. He charged that these centers “are encouraging folks who consider themselves homosexuals to go on considering themselves as such. That’s the point of the centers, and that’s not something Texas taxpayers should spend their money on.”

Clearly they are not actually concerned about the lack of resources for heterosexual or “traditional values” students. This is just the most expedient vehicle they could find for a blatantly transparent attack on sexuality and gender centers as well as non-heterosexual or gender non-conforming people.

There are so many things wrong with the argument that heterosexual students are discriminated against or somehow harmed by the mere existence of sexuality and gender centers that I’m not going to get into them in depth here. I would instead like to simply point out that straight privilege is everywhere, and that non-queer people carry with them the “institutional power”[1] that is given to them based on the fact that they fit into what is considered the norm in our society. People with institutional power like this cannot have their identities used to harm them in the same way that others can. If they could, then calling someone a “hetero” would carry the same insult power as “homo,” “faggot,” or “dyke.”

This is not about giving heterosexual and gender-conforming students “equal access” to resource centers. It’s about the conservative movement as a whole refusing to acknowledge differences in perspectives, beliefs, identities and experiences. It’s about the negation of things they simply do not understand or do not agree with. It’s about the desire to force people by any means possible to conform to a certain way of life that they have unilaterally deemed the best and most appropriate. It’s about using a Republican majority in Texas government to prosecute a culture war. It’s about everyone in Texas, queer or otherwise. It’s about me and my queerness. And it’s about you.

Queer people and others who fall outside of what is considered normal in our society often do not have many places to turn to for affirming, critically conscious, and compassionate services and resources. We do not see accurate or affirming representations of ourselves in media or in many public figures. We do see people similar to ourselves routinely bulliedattackedmurdered, and discriminated against on an individual and institutional level. We need resources such as the sexuality and gender centers at universities in Texas and elsewhere.

Our community should be exploding nationally over this. The HRC and other national organizations should be all over it. It’s not just an unfortunate piece of legislation in a state where conservatives pretty much win everything. It’s not just a few state legislators joking about identities as if they weren’t things we’ve struggled for for our entire lives and continue to fight for. It is an attack on every single one of us that attempts to delegitimize our identities and experiences and ultimately dehumanize us.

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Take action! Tell people this is happening! I’m sure you can think of lots of people or organizations who could benefit from hearing your thoughts on this, but in the meantime here’s a couple:

You can email Rep. Christian here.

You can contact the Human Rights Campaign here.


[1] Pharr, Suzanne. “The Common Elements of Oppression.” Homophobia, Weapon of Sexism. (53-64) http://suzannepharr.org/wp/wp-content/uploads/2008/01/homophobiaaweaponofsexismcondensed.pdf

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One Comment

  1. Posted April 26, 2011 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

    This whole debacle is sickening. I would say I’m happy that they’re being upfront about the real reason for the legislation, but that makes it worse, because a lot of people would support them for that. This is like people getting affronted over ethnic studies in Arizona. Not the same thing, but in a similar vein: what about the poor white kids? Newsflash: American history classes have long been a testament to white people’s accomplishments. That’s why they invented black history month. Of course, that practice is outdated and allows for sloppy handling of racial issues in history classes, but I digress. Anyone who feels affronted by the presence of centers for queer persons needs to check their privilege. The marginalized are not going to take it anymore. Get used to it.

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