In a true embodiment of a comet, the UTD student body has fabulously soared above the standards of the Texas government by electing Margaret Belford and Cristy Lopez Aguilar as homecoming King and Queen respectively.
This comes in the wake of the 88th legislative session of the Texas legislature which began on January 10. During the session’s 140 days, 141 bills were introduced into the house and senate which targeted members of the queer community. HB 776 prohibits trans healthcare, HB 631 prohibits discussion of sexuality in public education, and SB 1443 outright bans all books and references to LGBTQ+ topics or identities in schools. SB 17 will soon dissolve offices of diversity, equity and inclusion at colleges across Texas. The student body could do the easy thing and just keel over and let these injustices go uncontested. But by electing a queer couple as homecoming Queen and King, UTD students have shown they are willing to support diversity in the face of adversity.
The state government strives to regress to a time where diversity was not tolerated. 20 years ago you could not say you were gay and still hold a government position, while mid-20th century figures like Harvey Milk, Martin Luther King Jr. and Fred Hampton were killed for advocating for the rights of the marginalized. Those that deviated from the status quo of society had to live on the margins if they even managed to live at all. One by one, the state of Texas wants to roll back these rights that took so long to win. But by electing a lesbian couple as King and Queen of our homecoming event, the students have demonstrated that they do support those society would seek to marginalize. Their election is both a statement of celebration and support for these individuals and the queer community as a whole and a challenge to the injustices we face today.
60 years ago, the leaders of the civil rights movement recognized that one of their greatest obstacles to freedom and liberation was the tacit support of oppression that came from the silence advocated by those not immediately affected by an issue. We still face many of the same issues that existed 60 years ago: racism, xenophobia, homophobia, misogyny, colonialism in the developing world and much more. And if students remain silent in the face of the oppressive bills the state is trying to pass against the LGBTQ+ community, their place in society will backslide.
The student body has made its voice heard in this important demonstration, but that is not to say that the LGBTQ+ community is now secure. The homecoming coronation is a great show of support, but it is imperative that these same notions of support be conveyed to the administration of the school. Because in the coming weeks and months, UTD and the entire UT system as a whole will begin dissolving their DEI offices, possibly affecting institutions like UTD’s Gender Center, which provides students a safe community, resources, and support for life transitions. The University of North Texas already plans to dissolve its IDEA offices, their equivalent of DEI, and other schools across the state have similar plans. And places like Houston University have over-complied, prematurely announcing the removal of offices and resources related to the LGBTQ+ community. We cannot allow administration to over-comply with state law when this would threaten institutions which serve so many Comets.
While it is unfeasible to ask every student to combat every single issue afflicting the world, it is imperative that our campus continue to support marginalized communities through shows of support like the wonderful homecoming victory for Margaret and Cristy. We must demonstrate against unacceptable policy and continue to demand accountability and transparency from UTD administration.