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Thursday, November 5, 2009

I'm NOT Gay (not that there's anything wrong with that*)

You don't want to receive an e-mail from your wife that reads "I always knew you were gay!" It seems my appearance in a recent student video project though, featuring Trinity grad Michael Elder, has spurred some questions. I prefer to think of myself as a good sport. This video was part of Bri McGlammory's Tiger TV project for the "Not So Late Show." I was happy to participate. Sometimes my internal filter doesn't work so well, but I did decline Mike's invitation to spoof the Lady and the Tramp spaghetti scene, and I did pass up on an on-screen back-rub. When Mike asked if I could sit "sexily" on the piano I told him that was the only way I knew how. Having seen the video I now realize that's not entirely true. I fear I have single-handedly taken the sex out of sexily.

I have gotten questions about my orientation lately because I also have a touring bag for when I am on my bike. It is NOT a purse. My dad used to have keys and a billfold. That's it. I have a camera, for my blog, an iPhone, reading glasses, earphones, business cards... I think you understand.

The picture above? Now I can explain that. Again, I was just being a good sport. I passed by this photo op on the esplanade and was in a playful mood so I jumped in. I thought it was funny. I am NOT gay. I didn't actually kiss the guy, and I'm glad, because it turns out he is not even a student. The young woman, Alison Kimura is, and this was a photo project for a Beginning Photography course by Kara Lee Shervanick.

But more to the point... Trinity University has an obligation to accept all of our students for who they are -- and that includes those students who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender. The challenge is to move from being just tolerant to actually welcoming and embracing this population (probably about 5% of the student body, not counting those questioning their sexual orientation and gender identity). Fortunately, recent generations have become much more open to lifestyles that are different than their own and the University has some strong allies for them throughout the faculty and staff, most notably Dr. Richard Reams in Counseling Services. According to Dr. Reams about two-thirds (64%) of the 34 LGB students who responded to an anonymous LGB Campus Climate Survey last semester reported the climate to be somewhat or very welcoming, an increase from 47% in 2004.

Some people worry about this welcoming approach to our gay population. I have had e-mail exchanges with older alumni who feel that THEIR Trinity would never have allowed homosexual students to form a student group. In an exchange that I was accidentally copied on, one person openly speculated that I was probably a "faggot." In my own journey away from homophobia, I discovered I wasn't offended by this.

There are other signs I have evolved. My reaction to the photo above was not "oh my, did I really pretend to kiss a guy," but rather "dang, I need a haircut." I no longer ask Dr. Reams to put an asterisk (*not gay) by my name in the annual Trinitonian ad welcoming gay, lesbian, and transgender students to campus. And, I didn't find the request to do the video that big of a deal. (Out of respect for my wife, I would have actually declined if a female student had asked to do this.) But now my wife and I have other issues to resolve.

In many offices on campus, including mine, there are rainbow signs that state "LGBT Ally." These offices are safe places for students to discuss their lives authentically. I like that. This should be a safe place. I suspect in years to come, when this generation is in charge, those proclamations won't even be necessary. I plan to meet them there.

*Seinfeld reference


The Kemps said...

Dave, your warmth and welcoming professional mentorship and friendship is one of the strongest reasons I list for loving my experience at TU...and why, someday when I've paid off my undergrad and grad school debt, I'll give money to the school.
Fleo c/o '01

David Tuttle said...

Look how far I have fallen Fleo! Rick Roberts will put you on his list now.

Later friend.

Anonymous said...

This is so honest, so authentic and I admire that you admit fault, admit that your life is a journey and that you too are engaging a learning process as a member of this community. It is inspiring.

David Tuttle said...

Thanks! I must admit, many of my posts are accompanied with some reluctance, so affirmations are nice to receive!

Mom said...

Thank you for continuing to be an awesome role model for our children. To show your vulnerability in such an honest and sensitive way is exactly what they ( and ALL of us) need to see and hear. Who knows what the chain reaction might produce!

Digital Subway said...

Choice. That is what this is. When we go to HEB, we have lots of choices while buying a cereal. There are all kinds. Modernism is all about choice. It turns out that this notion of choice has extended to one's sexuality.

People can wake up one day and finally proclaim their sexuality. They know they have made the right choice. This choice was not available in the past.