Texas A&M Student and Olympic Swimmer: I’m Gay


Tongan Olympian, former Texas A&M swim captain, and 2012 Big 12 breaststroke champion Amini Fonua has decided to speak publicly about his sexuality and defend his school from accusations of homophobia in an article in Texas A&M's student paper The Batt:

Fonua, a senior telecommunications and media studies major, said many assume maintaining his identity as an Aggie athlete and a gay man would be difficult and controversial. Yet the Olympian said his story has been a “fairy tale” in terms of what others have experienced and not the trial and battle many perceive it would be.

Fonua said problems tend to arise when one must hide his or her true identity. The Aggie honor code, he said, is not compatible with dishonesty about one’s nature. “An Aggie does not lie, cheat or steal,” Fonua said. “And if you’re living in the closet, you’re living a lie.”

From his personal experiences, he has felt the need to defend the school against accusations of homophobia. Fonua’s openness about his status as perhaps the only openly gay male athlete at A&M comes amid a tumultuous time for the LGBT community, both locally and nationally.

Texas A&M has been in the news over a student bill that would have allowed religion-based discrimination against the campus LGBT center. We wrote about it here.

The Batt continues:

In light of A&M’s perception as an LGBT-unfriendly campus, Fonua said others will ask him how he functions in what appears to be a hostile environment. But he said these perceptions of Texas A&M as an unfriendly campus are directly contradictory to the positive experiences he has had as a student.

“I think I feel inspired to defend Texas A&M and my experience, especially with the Student Senate [bill],” Fonua said. “I’m kind of sick of having to try to defend my school to other people, because I think it’s a very small minority. Homophobia is at every university, it’s not just A&M. It’s everywhere. It might be a little more prevalent here, but I do think that people will sensationalize how something really is.”


  1. Francis #1 says

    Happy for this young man on coming out publicly and on swimming at the Olympics, an awesome achievement. I don’t like him glossing over Texas A&M’s homophobia (it’s real and the school hasn’t been listed as one of the most homophobic universities consistently without reason) but I am very happy he was well respected and treated well as an openly gay student-athlete. These are the stories that matter just as much as Jason Collins’ does…..gay college/high school kids who are out, successful and happy.

    Wish Amini well in his future!

  2. theo says

    A brave stand by a clear role model for LGBT youth. I just wish Towleroad (and its commentariat) would show a little more respect and tone down the objectification.

  3. KT says

    Glad he is out and proud but homophobia is a serious problem at Texas A & M. If it was only confined to a small amount of people, then how come that anti-gay bill pass the student senate? The president of the Senate vetoed it in the end.

  4. Ben Nevis says

    Don’t let my name fool ya. I’m not actually the tallest mountain in GB. I was born in Texas and still live in Texas and CB is correct. With the exception of Austin and perhaps Houston, Texas is as backwards as they come. I went to A&M for 100 long years and let me tell ya, that school and community is far from accepting.

  5. Rick says

    Interesting. Cute kid, glad he feels comfortable enough to speak out. If you read the whole Battalion article, he says this:

    ||…When asked if he will be competing in the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Fonua said he is taking an indefinite break from swimming. He said this could be difficult as his identity as a swimmer is part of how he defines himself.

    “It’s a huge part of my identity, and that’s what I think a lot of people don’t understand — that when you swim, and you stop for a period of time, you sort of lose a big part and a big piece of who you are,” Fonua said. “It isn’t everything that I am, but it certainly is a big part of who I am. Much like being gay. Part of who I am, but not everything that I am.”…||

    So this is a young man feeling a bit like a fish out of water, looking for a sense of belonging. Texas A&M more than any place I’ve ever seen sells that sense of ‘Aggie identity’. Not at all surprising that a young man who has represented the school would want to defend it when he feels like it’s under attack, fairly or unfairly. Let’s just see if he can get a picture hugged up against Ricky Perry, speedos optional.

  6. Clarknt67 says

    I’m grateful for him speaking out and inserting himself into the conversation. But the fact remains that ANY institution is best represented by the policies it chooses to adopt.

    And if A&M is adopting homophobic policies, what good is it to gay people that members of the University community will be polite to the faces of the gay people they are discriminating against? Polite discrimination is still discrimination.

  7. Bob says

    Good for him,
    Individuals will be fine with acceptance, but they pass laws, elect officials, and answer opinion polls according to
    “the way a Christian is supposed to”

    Unless a new poll shows progress, Texass is the only large State where a majority of 18-24 polled against marriage equality.

  8. JONES says

    @cdinDC LOL

    Fonua may have had an easier time of being gay at A&M than say a gay techie or a gay non athlete. Glad that was his experience. But he needs to have regards for those in the LBGT community at his alma mater that have faced the hatred of homophobes.

    The student council of Texas A&M voted in homophobic legislation. No other university in the country did that.

    And as Bob said … this is the 18-24 year old demographic that is hugely supportive of LGBT equality in the rest of the country.

  9. andrew says

    @theo, I don’t know if one can consider this particular photo of a mostly-naked guy on Towleroad as objectification. Sure, there are many gratuitous mostly-naked men on Towleroad, but more often than not, they’re presented in a sexual nature, be it via the fashion industry, some kind of beefcake guy doing an otherwise mundane task, or even photos of people who have participated in the adult industry.

    This photo of Fonua isn’t objectifying at all. It’s celebrating the sport that he participates, and excels, in. Swim teams spend hours a day with one another wearing nearly nothing, and this photo in particular has him in his uniform, wearing goggles, and standing in front of a pool. No boner.

    That all happens in the locker room.

  10. says

    Kudos to him. I’m sure it’s tough, no matter who you are or what you do.

    But, in all honesty, it’s garnering coverage due to his looks. Where’s the story of the average gay kid who comes out? It’s just, if not more, relevant to the youth that’s struggling out there.

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