GSA President Thomas Wesley
Thomas Wesley took a dying Gay-Straight Alliance at the University of Michigan-Dearborn and turned it into one of the more prominent organizations on campus. The 20-year-old student is studying Urban and Regional Studies and Business and plans to graduate this year.
1. Why did you decide to restart the Gay-Straight Alliance at the University of Michigan-Dearborn?
The GSA has been at UM-Dearborn in some form or another since the mid-’90s. One day I decided just to go in, meet everyone and see what was going on. They had a meeting and things were good. It’s kind of blurry in my mind, but I remember just being active for a while. The group didn’t seem to be inspired, so I took action. I wrote a fresh constitution with the help of Patricia (Foucher, past co-president) and then we held elections. I was elected in place of (previous co-president) Voiron and since then we’ve been an entirely different organization.
2. What’s the biggest accomplishment you’ve made with the GSA?
Though I’m reviving the organization, it’s like it’s an infant all over again. And what we needed to do was establish solidarity within the group and refurbish our old methods. We established weekly meetings, bought T-shirts and starting hosting regular events. We’ve had several successful game nights with hundreds of people in collaboration of other organizations.
We’ve had several speakers and events in the past semester, but the biggest thing I’ve done with the GSA is the branding of the organization. We’re known on campus. We’re active. Every week, sometimes twice a week, you can find us somewhere, talking about politics and drinking coffee. We invite everyone, and we’re always a fun crowd to be with. This semester, we have some huge plans that we hope to get many more people to be involved in.
3. What’s the most important gay rights issue to you?
I would put gay rights in the same basket as civil rights. I think the most important thing, and the most challenging thing, is to be recognized as normal human beings. In America, this generally means keeping to yourself and not making too much trouble. Unfortunately, well-behaved queers rarely make history, and therefore, we’re going to have to stir up some more trouble to establish ourselves in the world, the media, and in homes as normal. Civil unions, gay marriage, whatever you want to title it, and the ability to go to any establishment and not be treated like an outsider. Fortunately, this seems to be easier to achieve these days and I think it’s only a matter of time before being anything under the LGBTQ umbrella doesn’t derail families or business deals.
4. How can GSAs recruit more members on college campuses?
UM-Dearborn is a university where you make your own experience. It’s a great university because it offers the education that the University of Michigan offers without the cost. This also comes without the student life. This is where a GSA comes in. We fill that void that Dearborn does not provide. We are the socialites, party-goers, organizers. The biggest attraction on a commuter campus is to be seen in place of that void.
5. How will you continue your work with LGBT rights after college?
I am at a large crossroads in my life but I know that no matter who I become or where I am at, the biggest thing is to tell everyone who I am. Gays exist. We’re everywhere. In the deep South, in communist China, in poverty-stricken Muslim Palestine. And no matter what type of person that you are, if you are just honest with yourself and the people around you, they tend to see things in the light that you want to be seen in. A good honest person is the best impression. Furthermore, I will always stand up for those who do not stand up for themselves. Individual liberties should never be sacrificed.
And on a more personal note, any business that I work with I will do my best to establish benefits for safe-sex couples.