higher ed

The Drag Queen Trying to Save Southern Methodist U. From Its Homophobic Rep

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Should a single male staff member who dresses in drag be enough to lift Southern Methodist University out of the rankings of homophobic universities? Joe Hoselton, aka Jenna Skyy, certainly thinks so.

Hoselton is the graduate admissions coordinator for SMU’s Meadows School of the Arts. He was also recently crowned Gay Miss Texas. And he’s not so happy about SMU’s No. 14 spot on the Princeton Review’s list of homophobic schools — the same ranking it had last year. (Not to be confused with the Review’s list of gay-friendly schools.)

Among the other honorees: Brigham Young University (Mormon), Baylor University (Southern Baptist), and the University of Dallas (Catholic), all of which seemingly place intolerance right up there with physics and engineering.

But does the 11,000-student SMU, which offers domestic partnership benefits to staffers, deserve to be in their company? Uh uh, says Hoselton.

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He said when he returned from Houston with the Gay Miss Texas crown, the dean sent him an e-mail with congratulations. The e-mail from the dean at other schools on the most homophobic list, he suggested, might have been a termination notice.

Karen Click is director of the Women’s Center at SMU, which also houses Spectrum, the LGBT student organization. Click said she was also somewhat surprised by the school’s ranking. She rattled off a number of programs and events on campus in the last year.

She said SMU has a non-discrimination project called “Every Student Deserves Respect.” The campus has held programs for National Coming Out Day, Transgender Day of Remembrance and Gay Pride, and it hosted an LGBT job fair sponsored by Resource Center Dallas. An LGBT mentoring career program helps students learn about being gay in the workplace. In addition to Spectrum, Allies is a group of on-campus LGBT supporters that holds regular social hours. Complaints of discrimination at SMU are taken seriously.

But, Click said she trusts the ranking somewhat because it’s based on student surveys. She said it’s “a mixed bag” of students who come into her office.

“Some have had positive healthy experiences on campus. Others have not,” she said.

And while the Princeton Review turns to students’ surveys, we’ll turn to students’ stories. Like this one, from Andrew, who last year talked about how coming out would mean “he will lose his friends and face ridicule.” Then again, he is in a frat. “I’ve seen these guys around gay people. They tease them beyond belief, make them feel like they are nothing. And God forbid a gay guy might smile at one of them. They will talk about wanting to beat up that fag for the rest of the day. I know they would never accept me.”