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Gay swimmer said he found acceptance at Texas A&M

COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Amini Fonua, like many Aggies, was disheartened last semester when he learned a group of student senators wanted to de-fund the university's Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgendered Resource Center.

"The first words that went through my head were, 'Oh dear, not again,'" Fonua said.

Unlike most Aggies, Fonua is an Olympic swimmer, a school record-holder in the 100-yard breaststroke and the 200 medley relay and an NCAA All-American. He is also openly gay.

Fonua has been open about his sexuality to friends, family and teammates for years, but two weeks ago he came out publicly in A&M's student newspaper, The Battalion, a few days before he graduated.

Traditionally conservative Texas A&M was thrust into national headlines in March by student senators' attempts to target the GLBT center. Student body president John Claybrook eventually vetoed the senate's bill to "stop the bleeding," but damage had already been done, Fonua said.

In a week of intense scrutiny, A&M was cast as an unwelcoming place. But that couldn't be further from the truth, Fonua said.

"It's kind of annoying when people are constantly berating your school," Fonua said. "I never once experienced anything homophobic or bad. Either I was lucky or it didn't really matter."

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