Gay Straight Alliance inspired personal, community changes

When I came to Texas Christian University in 2008, I was nervous about what would happen.

More weight was on my shoulders than the average student at TCU. How could I live as openly gay, and where could I safely express that?

I was blessed to find the Gay-Straight Alliance, without which I might still be hiding who I am today.

GSA was the first group at the time that gave me the chance to unveil the real me. I was welcomed and loved unconditionally. Once I was comfortable enough in my skin, I began to share with others. After only a few meetings, I came to the realization that I wanted an identity beyond my sexuality.

Then, it felt as though our sexuality was all that identified who we were and what we did. I am partly to thank, and partly to blame, for changing the group to what it is now. I was patient, and I spoke as a general member on issues that I could. I waited for my turn to be a part of the executive board, where I could spend time working on the campus climate and these men and women who made GSA what it was.

I soon found myself as an executive chair, and a semester later I became vice president. For the 2010 calendar year, I was elected as GSA president. During my time in these offices, we came up with many programs and events for our members and for the campus community.

My pride and joy came in the spring when I was president and we implemented the first drag show on campus. The controversy over the event was irrelevant to us. Students had a place to express themselves. Where was ours?

On April 27, 2010, we made that space for ourselves and for our friends and family.

My direct activity in GSA was short-lived, mainly because I was building my identity as president for Lambda Theta Phi and as a resident assistant in various freshman communities. I learned in my time as GSA president that my role was never to be the face of it.

I was there to light a fire in others, and one of them would come along to take that role as the face of GSA and lead the organization with a fire beyond my own.

Since my presidency, Jamal King and Aaron Hampton have done a fantastic job with making GSA different from my time as president. I am thankful for their efforts because it reminds me that my involvement in GSA was meaningful to the right people.

I am confident that the future Horned Frogs who come to the university will have a place to express and live openly as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, intersex, pansexual, queer, questioning and/or allies because of the Gay-Straight Alliance. The doors are open. Come as you are.

Juan Martinez is a senior communication studies major from Uvalde.