A junior at the University of the Incarnate Word, communications major Aaron Chávez is the first gay student body president at his school.
Chávez says that he does not mind the label since it gives the LGBTQ+ community a platform and a voice, and he hopes that his visibility helps other people like him feel empowered. While he had some reservations about going to a religious university as a gay man, he did not let all the “what ifs” get in the way of what he hopes to achieve in life.
While some UIW students had an issue with his campaign for student government, Chávez made a point to surround himself with love and people who support him and his efforts. His hard work paid off, and he is now the face of UIW’s student body. His main goal is to make his fellow students feel as if they are being listened to, and he wants to make everybody feel like they matter.
In his free time, Chávez is a YouTuber and makes videos to stay connected with friends and fans. For now, he is leaning toward a career in public relations after graduation, but he is always open to new ways of ensuring his happiness in the future.
Kayla Platoff: What is your major and your year in school?
Aaron Chávez: I am a communication arts major with a concentration in media production and I am a junior.
KP: Why did you choose to attend your university?
AC: The cliché is that wherever a person lives they just end up going to the local university, but I didn’t want to go to any of the colleges back home in El Paso. I tried going to UTSA [The University of Texas at San Antonio], but my application didn’t go through for some reason, and my application to UIW did go through.
I didn’t know much about the school, so I took a tour during the Thanksgiving prior to attending and I was fully persuaded by my experience. UIW is such a beautiful campus and I liked the fact that I would be in smaller classes and get more individualized attention.
KP: When did you first realize you were gay?
AC: I realized I was gay around second grade, but I dated girls for a while. I knew it wasn’t really the best thing to do though.
KP: Did you feel conflicted going to a religious school even though you are gay?
AC: I had my reservations, but I’m also horribly ignorant to a lot of social cues, so I went in very headstrong with this attitude that I didn’t really care if people didn’t like me. I’m very self-realized and I know who I am, so I figured why would I want to be less like myself for someone else?
KP: Did you experience any backlash when you were running for student body president or after you won?
AC: I feel like I had less of an issue with actually running. I would have a lot of conversations about it with my predecessor, who I was very good friends with at the time, and he was more concerned with me sitting on the board of trustees, because I am not the typical kind of person who is on the board and I’m not the kind of person that people usually see on our campus.
I was concerned for a while about becoming a very insecure person because of it, and I would say I probably was insecure for the first few weeks, but I never once wavered. Since I am so headstrong, even when I am insecure it doesn’t last very long.
KP: Did people actually react well to you running? What were some of the reactions like?
AC: I tend to surround myself with people who like me and genuinely care about me, so in my inner circles it didn’t really seem like it was a big deal. In a state like Texas, it does become more of a thing when people find out that you’re gay, but my opinion is that sexuality is more of an afterthought, so I didn’t really think anything of it.
I know there were a handful of people who expressed their negative opinions on social media platforms. I didn’t see these things, but my friends would see it on platforms like Snapchat and tell me that people were asking things like, “What is this gay stuff?”
KP: Well I’m certainly glad that you didn’t experience that much homophobia directly.
AC: I really haven’t much in college, but throughout my life I really have.
KP: So how did you go about campaigning for student government and getting people interested in student government?
AC: I attribute a lot of my success to the fact that I am an RA here on campus, so I was already very social with my coworkers and fellow students, which worked out well in my favor later on. I’m also friends with people in Greek life and I was fortunate to have friends in very big sororities who helped spread the word.
I was also running against a person whose mindset was completely opposite of mine, and she also ended up dropping out anyway. But I was definitely seen as being the lesser of two evils.
KP: Now that you are student body president, what goals are you hoping to achieve?
AC: Even though I was relatively good friends with my predecessor, I feel like they didn’t do the greatest job of listening to the people who they were representing, which is, of course, the student body, so a huge goal of mine was to actually go out and listen to people.
Even though I make jokes about me being personally ignorant with social cues, I don’t like reducing how other people feel in certain situations. If you’re paying to go to a university, you want to feel like you matter to that university, so I just wanted to make people feel like they matter.
That’s what I’ve been trying to do, and I would say I’ve done a decent job of listening to students on my campus. I think I’ve also done a decent job at actively showing them that I am listening.
KP: Are you involved in any other clubs or organizations on campus?
AC: I am an RA on campus so I oversee a hallway of people. I’m also a founding member and officer of our Communication Arts Honor Society.
Other than that, I am very occupied with SGA. I sit on the board of trustees, alumni board and athletic advisory council, so I do quite a bit with that organization. I also got recruited this summer to work in admissions, so I will be leading tours for prospective students this summer.
KP: Do you know yet what you want to do after graduation?
AC: I get this question a lot, but I haven’t exactly pinpointed yet what would make me the happiest as a lifelong career.
However, even in this past year alone, I’ve been keener on doing public-relations-related things. I also do a lot of script writing and editing, so I wouldn’t mind video editing, newscast producing, stuff like that.
KP: I’ve read that you’re also a YouTuber, can you tell me a little bit about the content you make and what inspired you to make videos?
AC: Originally, I started making videos because I wanted to keep up with friends in El Paso, but it became a very good place where I could exhume all of my frustrations about life online. You can tell that I’m a very frustrated person, and I feel like I relate to this character on the HBO show “Veep” who is the most frustrated person ever.
It’s so funny that it’s mostly just me complaining in my videos because that is so indicative of our generation and what older people think of us, but I would like to think that we’re complaining a lot for a good reason.
KP: That’s totally fair. Aside from what we’ve already discussed, is there anything else you want people to know about you?
AC: To anyone who is going to read this article, I want them to know that I think it is a great thing to have representation in the world. I think it’s great that I’m able to be a representation of a certain demographic, but it shouldn’t matter at the end of the day and I shouldn’t have to be defined by my sexuality; it should just matter that I care about the people who are hurting in this world.
I also think it should be indicative that leaders should actually represent the people they say they are representing and also have a great desire to improve the circumstances that people live in.