Fonua, 23, who holds dual New Zealand and Tongan citizenship, told the student newspaper, The Battalion, this week that problems arise when people hide their true identity.
“An Aggie does not lie, cheat or steal,” he said, referring to the nickname for Texas A&M students and alumni. “And if you’re living in the closet, you’re living a lie.”
Fonua is perhaps the only openly gay male athlete at Texas A&M, which is seen as a traditionally conservative school.
From his personal experiences, Fonua said he has felt the need to defend the school against accusations of homophobia.
Texas A&M University was recently ranked the seventh-most unfriendly LGBT campus in the U.S. last year by The Princeton Review, but Fonua told The Battalion this was directly contradictory to the positive experiences he has had as a student.
“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.”
Earlier this year, the student senate at Texas A&M approved a bill to allow students to opt out of paying fees that fund the school’s LGBTQ campus center based on religious grounds. That bill was vetoed by the student president, who said it “caused great harm to our reputation as a student body.”
Fonua told The Battalion he has been able to fully express all parts of his identity and feels accepted not only for his talent and skill, but also for who he is.
He said he is taking an “indefinite break from swimming” and likely won’t compete in the 2016 Olympics.
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