Texas Tech’s Office of LGBTQIA Education and Engagement hosted their annual “Rainbow Welcome” event, where queer students and allies alike can learn more about organizations and resources, as well as interact with other members of the community.
Gilbert Carrasco is a Texas Tech alumni and recently became the Director of the Office of LGBTQIA Education and Engagement.
Carrasco said that the event was largely organized by students and he wanted to credit Amy Brown, a student assistant, for helping bring the event to life.
“One of the things that I’m really strong and passionate about is that I like to empower students to get real life working skills,” Carrasco said. “We actually had one of our student assistants who had done it before. She took it on, started working with our different partners, started talking to people who wanted to participate, (she) wanted to make sure we had student organizations like Pride Stem and GSA represented here.”
Carrasco added that Texas Tech’s LGBTQIA+ community is vastly different now from when they were an undergraduate student.
“When I was going to school here, we didn’t have anything like this,” Carrasco said. “We’re now able to be more open and more ourselves, and we need to be able to show that Tech is actually a friendly campus. We’re actually a five star LGBTQ+ friendly campus.”
Carrasco said Texas Tech was nominated as one of the best LGBTQ+ affirming schools in the nation by Campus Pride, a nonprofit that designates colleges based on their attitude towards queer students and faculty.
“We just got nominated as one of the “Best of the Best” 40 colleges nationwide,” Carrasco said. “(We’re) one of two in Texas, none of the other Big 12 schools are. Tech is literally the only one that’s ranked, which basically says that we’ve got policies and procedures in place and that our administration has set up stuff to make sure that our students are welcome and safe.”
During the summer, Lubbock’s congressional representative, Jodey Arrington, voted against protecting same-sex marriage.
Carrasco said that many students and community members are understandably worried about their rights being taken away, and they want to start having open discussions on the topic.
“We have a right to be scared,” Carrasco said. “I got married five years ago. Before then, I couldn’t have done that, and now people want to take that away from me. I think a lot of it comes from inexperience. From people who don’t have LGBTQIA family members or individuals they’re engaged with. Yes, we want to celebrate our differences. But we need to start talking more about what's common and decent for us humans.”
Addyson Damron, a third-year biology student from Lubbock, currently works as a peer educator for the Office of LGBTQIA Education and Engagement.
Damron encourages their fellow students and community members to speak out against attacks on LGBTQIA+ rights.
“I am definitely of the belief that if we’re gonna be quiet about it, it’s gonna be easy to push us over,” Damron said. “Don’t be scared to have what should be rightfully yours. We’re not fighting just to be seen and accepted, we’re fighting right now just to be equal. It’s really important we don’t quiet down about it, because if we do it seems like we don’t care. We’re here, we’re loud, and we should be willing to fight for safety and equality.”
Damron said there are a number of resources for LGBTQIA+ students at Texas Tech.
“We have people that you can talk to at any time, specifically with the peer educators,” Damron said. “We work really closely with Title IX and all of that section. We provide different educational opportunities. We’re there to provide you an idea of what is here and help guide your community.”
Damron said that Rainbow Welcome is to help students be aware of and get in touch with their fellow LGBTQIA+ community.
“We’re super excited to have different people in the LGBT community here at Tech and let you know that you’re welcome here,” Damron said. “The whole point of this and our organization is to make sure that students know they’re heard, allowed and accepted, and we’re happy they’re here.”
Trevor Wilkinson is a second-year student from Abilene who’s studying honors sciences and humanities and university studies. In 2021, Wilkinson was named as one of GLAAD’s 20 under 20 after he successfully protested his school’s dress code policy regarding male students wearing nail polish.
Wilkinson said he ants other queer students to know they have a community that stands behind them.
“Queer communiities often get left out of things like this,” Wilkinson said. “Especially in West Texas, we’re looked at like it’s wrong. Having events like this just show that the queer community has people in their corner and people do support them and they do actually matter.”
Wilkinson is a Senator for the Honors College within the Student Government Association and because of his position, he encourages his fellow community members to stand up against LGBT+ oppression.
“The reality of it all is that every queer person has the right to be scared,” Wilkinson said. “Our officials are literally voting against our basic human rights. But again, there are a lot of people in our corner and there are a lot of people who are in support of gay marriage in Congress. Although it’s scary, we just have to keep moving and fighting the good fight.”
Wilkinson said that while it can be scary, he wants fellow queer students to feel comfortable with coming out and expressing their true identity.
“Taking the first step is always the hardest, but after you get to that point, it’s really so much easier,” Wilkinson said. “You should never conform to what anybody wants. You should always be able to be your most authentic self. There’s so many people who love, support and cherish you for exactly who you are.”