Alison Marks stands against LGBTQ+ bullying

Courtesy+of+the+Counseling+Center%2FTAMU-CC-+Alison+Marks+explains+to+a+student+on+what+the+pledge+cards+are+about+and+informs+her+about+bullying+among+the+LGBT+community+and+regular+bullying.

Courtesy of the Counseling Center/TAMU-CC- Alison Marks explains to a student on what the pledge cards are about and informs her about bullying among the LGBT community and regular bullying.

What started as a pledge to fight against bullying turned into something far more impactful for Outreach Services Coordinator Dr. Alison Marks.

Marks started an LGBT Spirit Day, otherwise known as anti-bullying pledge, back in 2013 in which many have taken an oath to take a stand against bullying for the LGBTQ+ community or bullying in general. Being a clinician with the Counseling Center who specializes in LGBTQ+ issues, Marks’ goal was clear.

“It was important to bring the conversation out into the open and to let people know that were allies on campus,” said Marks. “… Campus was becoming a safer place (for LGBTQ+ students) and we needed to really shed some light on that because it wasn’t something that was publicly broadcasted.”

According to Marks, Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi has had an “up and down rollercoaster” with having a gay-straight student alliance on campus, and she worried LGBTQ+ voices weren’t being heard. This inspired her to take a step to get the conversation started.

“We decided to take a roundabout stance and say there’s a big issue with bullying on college campuses,” said Marks. “And that’s an issue that impacts all kinds of people, so let’s use that as our inroad to have these important LGBT-centric discussions.”

The anti-bullying pledge coincides with GLAAD’s National Spirit Day, which encourages high schools, middle schools, colleges, corporations and celebrities to speak out against bullying of LGBTQ+ youth, who disproportionately face bullying and harassment because of their identities.

It was in 2015 when the Islander Cultural Alliance decided to partner with the UCC for a combination National Coming Out Day/National Spirit Day event. The Pride Alliance (TAMU-CC’s gay-straight alliance) started to come back into the light, and Marks knew things were going to change.

“It became a real natural partnership between National Coming Out Day and National Spirit Day,” said Marks, “and we decided, ‘Let’s use this great opportunity to combine our resources and do one event.’”

Marks remembers when they first started the event in front of the East Lawn, in the rain, and it has been satisfying to see the event become a greater success through the help of ICA.

“My concern one year was that we had a lighter budget and I couldn’t find the funds to offer anything purple and wearable,” said Marks. “The year I knew these efforts were paying off was when ICA actually stepped up and said they would contribute some of their funds to the Spirit Day pledge portion of the event.”

When an individual signs the pledge, they are given a purple item to wear, and Marks added that she wanted it to be something more durable than just a sticker. When the ICA helped with the pledge, Marks felt it was a turning point of seeing a student led group take a genuine interest in the event.

With each pledge that is signed, Marks hears a lot of stories from all kinds of people who were bullied then and now, which leads to enlightening conversations about the topic. One story from this year stood out to Marks and took her by surprise.

“There was an incident where one of the ICA event organizers was assumed to be gay,” said Marks. Somebody yelled derogatory comments at him and he was caught off guard, but he immediately got encouraged to make a stand.

“The ICA leader came up to the table saying, ‘I’ve got to sign one of these cards,’” said Marks, “There was a sense of urgency. … He said, ‘I have to do it right now because I was just bullied,’ and it took me by surprise.”

The event organizer and Marks had a good conversation about what just happened, and he was empowered by signing that card. It showed that there was a reason why he and ICA put so much time and effort into being allies for the LGBTQ+ community.

Senior Cristian Gonzalez recalls an incident that involved more verbal bullying than physical that took a toll on his mental state growing up. But with a strong support system in his life, Gonzalez managed to persevere over it all.

“I’m a really big family person,” said Gonzalez. “They were a really big support system. Whenever things get tough, I call my mom or dad. They are the first people I talk to, and they give me their advice.”

With Gonzalez’s parent’s wisdom, it helped him gain self-confidence and ignore any negative thoughts anyone directed towards him. Gonzalez also added that he would sign a pledge card as well as reach out to multiple organizations and clubs to spread the word about this cause.

It was reported that 1,000 pledge cards have been signed throughout the six years of Spirit Day at TAMU-CC. Achieving this made Marks feel humbled, proud and grateful; but also sad, in some ways.

“It was really bittersweet to have such a momentous accomplishment that felt like my last hurrah,” said Marks. Marks transitioned this year from Outreach Services Coordinator to Coordinator for the Counseling Center’s Training Program.

“The event is going to continue, and I’m still going to be a part of it, but behind the scenes some things are changing, so it was this nice and nostalgic way to cap off the last six years.”

Marks also said that it felt awe-inspiring to know that there were many people that have been touched and persuaded to spread the word about this pledge, and hitting 1,000 cards felt like a huge accomplishment for Marks, considering the number of students that attend TAMU-CC.

The Counseling Center has around 200 recently signed cards to be added to the collection. Marks also concluded that she hopes that TAMU-CC President Dr. Kelly Quintanilla will be able to stop by the East Lawn to sign a pledge card next year.