When students have the freedom to be their authentic selves, they can accomplish so much more.
Junior Timothy Tignor has learned that firsthand at Lyon College.
Tignor, of Cave City, first visited Lyon as a high school freshman in the APPLE Project, which prepares students to succeed in college. He started to come out of his shell thanks to how welcoming the staff and his classmates were.
“I came out to my APPLE group as a member of the LGBT community in ninth grade,” he said. “They really made me feel comfortable.”
He found the same was true when he enrolled as a Lyon student.
“It was an amazing place. I did not feel like anybody was going to discriminate against me or make me feel like less of a person.”
The first day of classes this August, he wore a skirt, a wig, makeup and platform sandals.
“I didn’t feel uncomfortable at all. One of my professors said I looked beautiful.”
Tignor continued, “I’ve been authentically myself since the day I came here.”
After being the only openly LGBT student in his high school class, he wanted to take advantage of this new atmosphere to get more involved.
“I was motivated to make myself known on campus.”
Tignor began taking on leadership roles. He is now the president of the Tau Kappa Epsilon (TKE) fraternity, the vice president of Spectra Alliance, co-president of the Spanish Club, a resident assistant (RA), a member of the Honor Council, and an employee at the Scot Shop.
He first got involved with Spectra Alliance, a student organization focused on serving the needs of Lyon’s LGBTQ+ community and its allies. He went to Pride in Little Rock with Spectra his freshman year. It was his first time going to a Pride celebration.
“I got to see a drag queen for the first time and almost cried,” he said, laughing. “One thing I enjoy very much is drag in general.”
Since the club did not have a vice president, he took on the role this year. He wanted to support the work Spectra does because it shows LGBT students that their classmates and faculty care about them.
The club tries to involve the campus with LGBT events and activities, such as Transgender Day of Remembrance last semester.
“We held a vigil and put lanterns in Bryan Lake as the club president read off all the names of the trans men and women who had been murdered.”
He continued, “While the need for that day isn’t wonderful, it is wonderful to be able to honor them that way on campus.”
Spectra isn’t the only organization where Tignor has found a sense of community and solidarity.
He was introduced to TKE and “felt very at home” when hanging out with the fraternity brothers. He was initiated as a brother in the spring semester and took on an officer position as secretary.
“There are several LGBT members in TKE!" he said. “I never feel out of place there, which is something I was really worried about at first.”
However, Tignor never thought he would be president of the fraternity.
“It seemed like too much work, and I wasn’t sure I wanted it.”
As president, he is responsible for maintaining a good relationship with the administration and student life, making sure fraternity officers are fulfilling their duties and helping his vice president with recruitment of new brothers.
“Luckily, I already had connections with student life through being an RA,” Tignor said. “I really love personal skills and being so involved in different departments made it easier to be president.”
Being involved also comes with unique challenges, such as balancing coursework with leadership roles.
“Having my brothers to rely on has helped me a lot. That’s why I like Greek life in general. You have such a support system.”
Tignor feels he has improved his leadership skills through his campus involvement. He is learning how to delegate and to accept that he cannot always please everyone.
“I don’t like people being upset with me. The TKE role specifically has helped me realize I can do that and people won’t hate me because they know I have a job to do.”
Through his experiences at Lyon, Tignor has decided he wants to dedicate his life to service.
“My political science courses have helped me realize what a good leader should be versus what they shouldn’t,” he said. “And my anthropology courses have shown me that people are going to be different wherever you are in the world.”
He plans to do AmeriCorps for a few years and then work for a nonprofit organization.
“I would love to be the director of a nonprofit some day.”
Tignor said he will appreciate Lyon and TKE the rest of his life.
“Everyone here has been so warm and made me feel comfortable in my own skin,” he said. “I want to help others feel the same way as a leader.”
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