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Gay swimmer said he found acceptance at Texas A&M - The Eagle: News

Gay swimmer said he found acceptance at Texas A&M

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Posted: Sunday, May 26, 2013 12:00 am | Updated: 12:32 am, Sun May 26, 2013.

Amini Fonua, like many Aggies, was disheartened last semester when he learned a group of student senators wanted to de-fund the university's Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgendered Resource Center.

"The first words that went through my head were, 'Oh dear, not again,'" Fonua said.

Unlike most Aggies, Fonua is an Olympic swimmer, a school record-holder in the 100-yard breaststroke and the 200 medley relay and an NCAA All-American. He is also openly gay.

Fonua has been open about his sexuality to friends, family and teammates for years, but two weeks ago he came out publicly in A&M's student newspaper, The Battalion, a few days before he graduated.

Traditionally conservative Texas A&M was thrust into national headlines in March by student senators' attempts to target the GLBT center. Student body president John Claybrook eventually vetoed the senate's bill to "stop the bleeding," but damage had already been done, Fonua said.

In a week of intense scrutiny, A&M was cast as an unwelcoming place. But that couldn't be further from the truth, Fonua said.

"It's kind of annoying when people are constantly berating your school," Fonua said. "I never once experienced anything homophobic or bad. Either I was lucky or it didn't really matter."

When pressed, Fonua could only recall one time he felt uncomfortable, but he said that it wasn't really a big deal. A pro-family organization handed Fonua a pamphlet while he was walking across campus.

"I gave it back to him," Fonua said. "I told him I was gay so it doesn't make sense for me to pick it up. He said he would pray for me."

Fonua, in response to the student senate vote, wanted to let current students, alumni and prospective students know that A&M was welcoming and that as an openly gay man he had never experienced any hate.

"I wouldn't really be surprised if kids turned down a spot at A&M because of its GLBT issues," Fonua said. "I see a lot of GLBT kids out there not wanting to come to A&M because of the reputation it has, and I just wanted high school kids to know you can pursue anything you want given you do the hard work and put forth the effort."

The platform for that message was the student newspaper. The May announcement closely followed the coming out of the first active U.S. male professional athlete, the NBA's Jason Collins, and a similar statement by the WNBA's No. 1  overall pick, Brittney Griner.

In fact, Fonua didn't set out to make a statement. He said the genesis of the public coming-out story was that a friend in a creative writing class needed help on a project. Fonua said the other high-profile coming-outs caused him to reflect on his own situation and experiences in College Station, and decide that coming out publicly could help the university he cares about so much.

What started out as helping a friend is likely now a piece of A&M history. No one can say for sure, as it's not an official stat recorded by Texas A&M, but Fonua's public announcement might make him A&M's first male athlete to come out as openly gay. A&M student leaders, members of the GLBT community and people close to the athletic department couldn't think of anyone prior.

"That's just kind of the way it is and I didn't think one way or another," said A&M's head swimming coach, Jay Holmes. "The part I got out of that is Amini is proud of Texas A&M. He's proud to be here ... How can you not be a fan of a kid who is going to stand up and fight for his university?"

To Holmes, Fonua is a competitor, a swim team captain and a role model. Holmes said he never imagined that the teenager he recruited out of New Zealand would leave A&M as the 2012 100-yard breaststroke Big 12 Champion with a school-record-setting time of 53.44 seconds.

"You want competitive kids," Holmes said. "You want them to compete and want them to care. Amini did all those things. It's really pretty simple."

That competitive spirit carried Fonua all the way to the 2012 London Olympics. Although he grew up in New Zealand, Fonua's father is from Tonga - a Pacific Island chain with only a few thousand more people than the city of College Station. Fonua has Tongan citizenship through his father, and that, combined with his swimming prowess, allowed him to be the Tongan flag-bearer at the Olympics.

Marimar Miguel, another recent A&M graduate, has been friends with Fonua for about three-and-a-half years. They met in a women and gender studies course, and bonded through Miguel's note taking and Fonua's needing of the notes while he succeeded at swimming. Miguel describes her friend as non-judgmental, supportive and lighthearted.

Miguel acknowledged Fonua's statement is not enough to undo the negative associations that have built up over the years regarding A&M's attitude toward homosexuality, but that it was a great step in the right direction. She somewhat jokingly called it damage "clean-up" for the university.

"I think it was a very generous action to do for the university, because the administration did not do a great job on speaking up against what had happened to the students [after the student senate vote]," she said. "[The senators] gathered a lot of bad rap for the university."

It was powerful and personal for an openly gay man, who is also an athlete, to share his positive experience at A&M, she said. And the responses to the article have been overwhelmingly positive, Miguel said.

"I was excited to see the reaction," Miguel said. "All of this negative stuff had happened and finally there was a light at the end of the tunnel. I was excited for him, the university and the future students."

It was a little too early to think about his legacy at A&M, Fonua said, but he hopes his fellow Aggies will lead happy and honest lives and that others realize that A&M is an accepting place. "I really hope that any amazing young athletes that are coming through high school don't feel deterred to come to A&M and excel," Fonua said. "I did, and anyone else can, if they come and work hard."

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31 comments:

  • blahdyblah posted at 1:57 pm on Thu, May 30, 2013.

    blahdyblah Posts: 133

    I'm with Billybob ... I wonder if the other swimmers feel awkward ... gay or straight ...

     
  • blahdyblah posted at 1:48 pm on Thu, May 30, 2013.

    blahdyblah Posts: 133

    when someone says "give it a rest" they are talking to you ...

     
  • blahdyblah posted at 1:45 pm on Thu, May 30, 2013.

    blahdyblah Posts: 133

    This guy just said that A&M is a fine and dandy place ... and someone is surprised? Not me. The A&M "reputation" is stellar.

     
  • subt3xt posted at 1:16 pm on Wed, May 29, 2013.

    subt3xt Posts: 1

    A public forum, among other things, is a place for debate and the expression of opinions. Must you be unnecessarily confrontational, insulting, and closed-minded?

    Such projections only serve to illuminate your own seemingly numerous insecurities.

    Ultimately, not everyone reading this story will agree with the content -- and that's okay! What isn't okay is suggesting to another human being that they aren't capable of love.

    What has led you to believe that the emotional aspects of a homosexual relationship are any different from those in a heterosexual one? Have you a personal experience you'd like to share?

    Why can't two men or two women love each other and simultaneously provide a nurturing environment in which a child can grow and develop? What empirical data do you offer to support these outlandish statements?

     
  • Jeanette posted at 12:56 pm on Wed, May 29, 2013.

    Jeanette Posts: 1

    BillyBob, I'm so glad to know that you're pro gay marriage!

     
  • Daly posted at 3:02 pm on Tue, May 28, 2013.

    Daly Posts: 8

    From the user BryanTX:

    "However, you really miss the point if you think being homosexual is the same as being black or a woman. Race you can't change, sex you shouldn't. I agree that people can't help the way they feel, but they can control how they behave. A guy can be attracted to a guy, or a girl to a girl, or an adult to a child, or a person to an animal, etc. But I submit that those are attractions people shouldn't act on."

    Race relations and civil rights will always be comparable to gay rights, as long as rights and freedoms are denied, sorry.

    Consensual relationships with adult people of the same-sex is not the same as pedophilia or bestiality, thoughtful people know this.

    "I fully expect many to dusters with me on this, and that's okay. Just know that there are plenty of us that disagree with you."

    Don't worry. There's millions of people that disagree with you as well.

     
  • Daly posted at 2:55 pm on Tue, May 28, 2013.

    Daly Posts: 8


    @ billybob:

    "This is so tiring...someone else telling the world their favorite sexual practice."

    There's nothing in this article about his sex life??

    "So. What. Can't wait till we "celebrate" bigamy and pedaphila. Oh, beastiality is popular too. ALL sex outside of marriage is sin."

    This argument is just plain lazy and antiquated.

     
  • Daly posted at 2:51 pm on Tue, May 28, 2013.

    Daly Posts: 8

    @ prairiegirl:
    "you are so correct. What this young man and those like him need is counseling. They need to know that homosexuality is a sin and a wrongful choice. It is not healthy. I hope that he is able to get to know Jesus Christ one day and that he will repent and stop living a sinful lifestyle."

    This is an example of a conservative christian judgement. I think this gentlemans lifestyle is going quite well, with the olympics and all. You might...you might want to reverse your 'counseling' view to yourself and a sexuality course.

    @ anneis:
    "...one of our greatest freedoms is the "freedom of choice."

    sure is. And he chose to come out and be visible.

    "We are ALL born in the image of Almighty GOD whether you believe it or not, it is still true."

    of course.

    "No one is born homosexual or any other way . . . we choose what we do."

    Well kinda, scientists are mixed on the science behind lgbt sexual identificaiton.

    "Read about the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah."

    I'm pretty sure most of us have. Those angels didn't really help, did they?

    "If homosexuality is so wonderful..." Well not really, being yourself in the face of adversity is wonderful.

    "...OK and not a horrible sin by choice then GOD owes S&G an apology which has not come in 5,000 years . . . and never will."

    I'm pretty sure Christ dying for humanities sins is some sort of apology.

    "Read the BIBLE to know where we have been, where we are now and where we are going."

    With which revisions and interpretations? I don't believe in the rapture or other 19th century fire and brimstone propaganda.

    Everyone needs sexuality education for the love of god

     
  • Daly posted at 2:39 pm on Tue, May 28, 2013.

    Daly Posts: 8

    Aw man your username is apt. Google 'stonewall riots and then wiki the term 'coming out'.

     
  • Daly posted at 2:37 pm on Tue, May 28, 2013.

    Daly Posts: 8

    @ Just2me:

    He didn't talk about his sex life, did he? Identifying as gay and representing your institution is very admirable. Google 'gay rights movement'. Then take 10 minutes re-read the article, and re-evaluate your comment kthx

     
  • Daly posted at 2:34 pm on Tue, May 28, 2013.

    Daly Posts: 8

    In these debates race is compared because of the oftentimes incomparable parallels of discrimination and history of bigotry. Laramie, Wyoming anyone? It's only been 15 years since Matthew Shepard's death. The reason people 'out' themselves is a cultural tradition and to defy negative stereotypes. It's the lesson of being visible.

    From Billy Bob:

    "Here's the problem duck - worldview. You no doubt believe that we evolved from pond scum; that the world is getting hot and it's our fault; and that BLTs are all born that way."

    I assume your talking about biology, evolution, and climate change. I don't know what 'BLT' means. Sexuality isn't necessarily like the lady gaga song, and scientists are mixed about sexual identification- nurture and nature.

    "All 3 views are not proven and are false. But I will never convince you of that...the evidence be damned."

    You can find evidence of conservative propaganda battling climate change over the past 20 years from hundreds of sources, all the time, for the rest of your life. See my earlier comment about sexuality.

    "To be identified as a homosexual is by definition to be labeled "sexual" above all other labels. Why isn't this story about an olympic swimmer from A&M instead of a homosexual swimmer?"

    Well, technically- but being out as a private person or student athlete/public figure is something completely different and so much more. Google "Coming Out". Also, I think we read two different articles if you don't realize why this piece was written.

    "I'm old enough to have watched the Olympic diver Greg Louganis ...and had no idea he was a homosexual. And hey...I didn't care at the time who he was bedding! He was a great athlete."

    So is this kid. Amini didn't talk about his sex life, now did he?

    "Now the NFL is about to go full PC and reveal some homosexual players. Why? Just like the Boy Scouts are about to lose thousands of boys from their membership, the NFL will lose millions of viewers because of the political views of their leadership. But the BLTs, who are about 3% of the population, will love them!"

    Yes the whole NFL thing is silly but it's also important that young men that love sports happen to identify as gay are given proper out role models. Also- I don't think the NFL will loose viewership, that's not how American Football works. The boyscouts will probably loose a lot of members, but that's just as equally ridiculous for childish reasons, and not relevant to this story. The estimate of LGBT people is 3.8% in the US as of 2011, that's 9 million people BTW.

    I still don't know what LBT means.

    Everyone needs to take a sexuality class, clearly.

     
  • Daly posted at 2:08 pm on Tue, May 28, 2013.

    Daly Posts: 8

    I think your looking for the articles on the home page on the right. Then scroll

     
  • master of disaster posted at 6:48 am on Tue, May 28, 2013.

    master of disaster Posts: 373

    I know it's a shock to those who bleed maroon, but A&M doesn't have a reputation as a welcoming place to the LGBTQ community. What is nice about this story isn't so much that the swimmer is gay, but that he mentions how welcome he feels here. That everyone seems to focus on his sexuality makes it clear this point is being missed.

     
  • posted at 10:50 pm on Sun, May 26, 2013.

    Posts:

    When you are in love, you are in love...it's as simple as that.

     
  • jer2 posted at 9:35 pm on Sun, May 26, 2013.

    jer2 Posts: 314

    Yawn.....another gay hero for the libs to hold up. Next story please.

     
  • BryanTX posted at 7:08 pm on Sun, May 26, 2013.

    BryanTX Posts: 38

    I'm not that surprised at much of anything.

    However, you really miss the point if you think being homosexual is the same as being black or a woman. Race you can't change, sex you shouldn't. I agree that people can't help the way they feel, but they can control how they behave. A guy can be attracted to a guy, or a girl to a girl, or an adult to a child, or a person to an animal, etc. But I submit that those are attractions people shouldn't act on.

    I fully expect many to dusters with me on this, and that's okay. Just know that there are plenty of us that disagree with you.

     
  • posted at 6:14 pm on Sun, May 26, 2013.

    Posts:

    Zippy....truth to power.

     
  • posted at 6:13 pm on Sun, May 26, 2013.

    Posts:

    We told women and African-Americans to stay in the closet as well...keep quiet, don't bother the man....well they successfully fought for their rights, won and the world is better for it. I support all efforts of LGBTQ individuals to be visible, fully recognized members of society. The vote by student government at A&M convinced me that A&M is still a place of intolerance and discrimination...whatever it takes to change that is fine with me. I love that this guy was a student, swimmer, champion and brave enough to tell his story. Many athlete stories include information about people's love lives (Johnny Football) and we don't mind...opps they are straight. So, what's the problem with this guy's story from the point of view of human interest. You would be shocked by the number of past and current athletes at A&M who are gay or lesbian....there is no reason to hide this....although it clearly makes some people uncomfortable...all the more reason to talk about it....until it is a non-issue, there is no more discrimination and everyone has the same rights and freedoms.

     
  • anneis posted at 5:39 pm on Sun, May 26, 2013.

    anneis Posts: 66

    Well said @prairiegirl and@ohreally one of our greatest freedoms is the "freedom of choice." We are ALL born in the image of Almighty GOD whether you believe it or not, it is still true. No one is born homosexual or any other way . . . we choose what we do. Read about the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. If homosexuality is so wonderful, OK and not a horrible sin by choice then GOD owes S&G an apology which has not come in 5,000 years . . . and never will. Read the BIBLE to know where we have been, where we are now and where we are going.

     
  • Billybob posted at 5:09 pm on Sun, May 26, 2013.

    Billybob Posts: 21

    Here's the problem duck - worldview. You no doubt believe that we evolved from pond scum; that the world is getting hot and it's our fault; and that BLTs are all born that way.

    All 3 views are not proven and are false. But I will never convince you of that...the evidence be damned.

    To be identified as a homosexual is by definition to be labeled "sexual" above all other labels. Why isn't this story about an olympic swimmer from A&M instead of a homosexual swimmer?

    I'm old enough to have watched the Olympic diver Greg Louganis ( May have mispelled his name ) and had no idea he was a homosexual. And hey...I didn't care at the time who he was bedding! He was a great athlete.

    Now the NFL is about to go full PC and reveal some homosexual players. Why? Just like the Boy Scouts are about to lose thousands of boys from their membership, the NFL will lose millions of viewers because of the political views of their leadership. But the BLTs, who are about 3% of the population, will love them!

    Look duck. No one I know wants to bring harm to homosexuals or anybody else ( well...i do want to bring harm against radical Islam, but that's another post). But your sexual preference is not my business. Keep it to yourself.

     
  • Oh Really posted at 5:09 pm on Sun, May 26, 2013.

    Oh Really Posts: 155

    yeah, make sure you get that message to the pedophile priests.

     
  • Oh Really posted at 5:08 pm on Sun, May 26, 2013.

    Oh Really Posts: 155

    being gay is not a choice, gays are born gay, and no matter how hard you and michelle bachman's husband try, you can't pray the gay away.

     
  • posted at 3:43 pm on Sun, May 26, 2013.

    Posts:

    So, Billybob, glad to hear you support marriage for everyone...thanks for the confirmation.

     
  • posted at 12:10 pm on Sun, May 26, 2013.

    Posts:

    The people who need counseling and guidance are the homophobes among us who don't the great damage that is done through bullying, referring to sexual orientation as a sin, gay bashing and the like. The point you miss is that sexual orientation is not a choice, no more than being straight is a choice. Of course we accept Gumpyhome's sexual preferences, as we accept those of the Aggie in this story. If he wasn't truthful about who he is, he would be contributing to the code of silence. This issue, like issues of race, religion, disability, etc. will not go away until there is universal tolerance and acceptance that humans differ in their fundamental characteristics. Their is nothing illegal about being gay or straight, only a bunch of prejudicial laws that penalize people who are gay. These same laws were once applied to women, African-Americans, and people from many different ethnic groups who migrated to the U.S. during our history.

     
  • Justme2 posted at 10:36 am on Sun, May 26, 2013.

    Justme2 Posts: 2

    Why is this even news worthy? Who cares what they choose to do behind closed doors? Give it a rest already.

     
  • grumpyhome posted at 9:16 am on Sun, May 26, 2013.

    grumpyhome Posts: 19

    I am going to come out as a heterosexual. I hope you will accept my sexuality.

    Seriously, why do gays seem to feel a need to make their private affairs so public? What we all do in our bedrooms (with men, with women, or by ourselves) should stay there.

     
  • prairiegirl posted at 7:59 am on Sun, May 26, 2013.

    prairiegirl Posts: 424

    Billybob, you are so correct. What this young man and those like him need is counseling. They need to know that homosexuality is a sin and a wrongful choice. It is not healthy. I hope that he is able to get to know Jesus Christ one day and that he will repent and stop living a sinful lifestyle.

     
  • posted at 7:49 am on Sun, May 26, 2013.

    Posts:

    So, if Miguel were married all would be okay? Then we have a further rationale for Gay marriage.and Billybob would be among its first supporters. [beam]

     
  • posted at 7:48 am on Sun, May 26, 2013.

    Posts:

    A&M is a place of diversity...diversity in race, gender, ethnicity and sexual orientation. There are many LGBTQ individuals who are students, staff and faculty...It is nice to know that a Gay man can represent the university at the highest level, is proud to be an Aggie, and is supported by so many Aggies on campus and around the world. Normally this would not be a big story....Miguel isn't the first LGBTQ athlete to have played for A&M...and certainly not the last. Some day his coming out will not be big news. But right now, it is news since so many on campus are full of hate and fear when it comes to LGBTQ individuals. Miguel is helping us understand that there is little to fear, much to know, and a campus that needs to further its understanding of acceptance and tolerance.

     
  • Zippy posted at 7:45 am on Sun, May 26, 2013.

    Zippy Posts: 91

    Yeah. In a crazy, right wing, intolerant Taliban world, it is a sin. In a normal sense, sex is fun and healthy, and none of your Christian business.

     
  • Billybob posted at 7:23 am on Sun, May 26, 2013.

    Billybob Posts: 21

    This is so tiring...someone else telling the world their favorite sexual practice.

    So. What.

    Can't wait till we "celebrate" bigamy and pedaphila. Oh, beastiality is popular too.

    ALL sex outside of marriage is sin.

     

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