When in Rome…

by Jarrett Lucas

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. But, 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. 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 less than. 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 65,000 GLBT 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 into 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 address both ancient and contemporary militaries that allow openly gay citizens to enlist, among those many of the United States’ most powerful allies. It is explained that in regards to military service, sexual orientation is 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 GLBT people has been personalized, and 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 of 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 and 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.

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