Gay TAMU leader says Energy secretary bullied him, but isn’t interested in improving campus.
By John Wright
Houston native Bobby Brooks officially became Texas A&M University’s first openly gay student body president on April 21.
Three days before, Brooks spoke with OutSmart about the controversy involving former Texas governor Rick Perry’s March 22 letter that accused Brooks of stealing the election.
Robert McIntosh, the son of a prominent GOP fundraiser who supported Donald Trump, won the popular vote but was disqualified for failing to file an expense report.
Perry’s letter made national headlines, with many observers expressing shock that a presidential cabinet member would meddle in a student election at his alma mater.
Brooks responded by inviting the new federal energy secretary to meet with him—either in College Station or Washington.
As of press time, Perry hadn’t commented on Brooks’ invitation.
Brooks, a junior studying economics, was born in Houston, but moved to Belton at age 2.
“Basically, all of my family lives in Houston,” he says. “Houston is very important to me.”
Below are a few highlights from our conversation with Brooks.
John Wright: Have you heard back from Secretary Perry?
Bobby Brooks: I haven’t heard any response from him. I’m still hopeful to meet with him, because I do think that he expressed—hopefully a sincere interest—in improving the campus climate and working toward making things better. If those interests are still there, I’m not one to turn that opportunity down. So I haven’t heard anything, but I’m still holding out hope.”
It’s been nearly a month. Assuming he doesn’t respond, what does that say about his motives?
Perhaps it reaffirms what my original thought was—that he was too busy for college elections. It’s a little curious that he decides not to take the invitation to actually improve things. I will say I’m a little disappointed that he would throw out negative words so quickly, but then not try to actually fix things. I hope that I’ll be able to work with him to make the campus better.
What has the last month been like, since your victory and the media firestorm over Perry’s letter? Have you experienced a lot of backlash?
I will say there’s something liberating about having everyone hate you from the beginning, because then you can just keep your head down and get work done, and not have to worry about disappointing everyone [laughs]. No, I’m thankful for the national attention at the beginning, because it made me go through a very tough time. Being bullied by someone with the status of Rick Perry really makes you reevaluate what your goals are.
There’s just this respect that’s now had for the leadership on campus. We were put under the spotlight, and we’re moving through it, regardless. We’re not here for the glory, or for any kind of attention. I’ve certainly received quite a bit of hate mail and dirty comments on social media, and a lot of hatred from people that I might have otherwise looked up to. That was a challenge in and of itself, but now that I’ve come through that, it’s this good place I’m in. I can only work to improve things and make things better.
But you’ve also received a lot of support, right?
There’s been plenty of support—not only a generous outpouring of support from the LGBTQ community, but from people that just want to watch things get done at Texas A&M, that want to watch hard work happen, that want to watch our values stay in place. That’s what has been amazing. We’re now in this period of just hard work and silence. I’m extremely content, because [all of the hatred has] definitely made me a lot surer of myself, and what my vision is.
Your opponent, Robert McIntosh, has hired an attorney. Are you worried about him challenging your victory in court?
I’ve got no comment in that direction. We’re moving along. I’ve been sworn in as student body president. I’m getting work done. That’s all I’m ever going to be able to do, regardless of any ongoing litigation. That doesn’t change my goals or plans.
Speaking of your plans, one of your platform planks was increasing inclusion and diversity on campus. Does that apply specifically to LGBTQ issues?
I’m worried that people may only view me as an LGBTQ activist, and nothing else, someone that’s not going to advocate for issues of students of color, you name it. But in terms of LGBTQ polices, it’s just honestly getting those stories shared, because LGBTQ people are in a very interesting situation, where sometimes their existence is denied. There are other minorities, religious minorities or ethnic minorities, where people accept their existence and are hateful based on an acceptance of that. But then there are people that just legitimately do not comprehend that LGBTQ people exist, or what makes them the way they are.
I most certainly am going to work hard for all minority groups. My advocacy for LGBTQ students is never going to die. That’s something I’m very proud to do, and I’m be glad to have a conversation with anyone on this campus about it, any day. But at the end of the day, that’s something that’s just one of many cogs of making this campus a better place. If we can move forward through all types of hatred and bigotry, then we can really help a lot of groups out on the same front.
Texas A&M has repeatedly appeared on the Princeton Review’s list of least LGBT-friendly schools. Does the “Closet Station” nickname for College Station still apply?
Obviously, the “Closet Station” stereotype is very real within the [LGBTQ] community for this town. But regarding the Princeton ranking, we’re no longer on that list. We’re not going to get anywhere by comparing ourselves to other schools. The fact is, we need to acknowledge there’s a problem on campus, regardless of whether we’re above or below other universities on the list. Even the best university in the nation still has issues with accepting LGBTQ students.
You’ve talked publicly about struggling with your sexual orientation in high school. What’s your advice to young LGBTQ people who may be going through that now?
I would say that your potential to cause change grows every day. And the weight that your voice carries as an LGBTQ youth grows every day. It doesn’t have to be today that you tell the whole world about yourself, if you’re not comfortable with that and if you’re not ready for that. But there will be a tomorrow where I want to be there with you and work to create change. I’m so excited for the future.
And what does your future hold?
My goal has always been to enact change in this world and make it a better place. I want to work in global development and diplomacy. I want to go to graduate school to get some more knowledge under my belt. I’m interested in a few programs that focus on economic development in developing countries, because I want to improve human rights in those countries. Human rights usually improve after economic development occurs.
I’ve got very vague plans for the future right now, but my heart will know what’s right when the time comes. I haven’t ruled out public office in the future. I think that’s a great opportunity to serve—especially in the State of Texas, because we need good leaders.
So it’s possible that you could become the second Aggie to serve as Texas governor?
I’d have big footsteps to follow. Governor Perry served 16 years. I’ll do 17.