“I was in the cafeteria, and I had on this cropped hooded sweatshirt. So my stomach was out,” he recalls. “I had on a nice pair of jeans and some sandals. And this boy, a football player, said something that sounded like ‘faggot.’ Before I could even stop myself, I threw my plate of food at him. That’s not even my style. I’m more of a middle-finger kind of person. We ended up yelling at each other for a few minutes, but nothing really came out of it. He could have hit me, but he didn’t. But he didn’t have to. I was already hurt and embarrassed.”
While Diamond insists he’s happier at AIU, his tone and demeanor suggest that he wishes he’d had the opportunity to prove his worth at Morehouse. “I wanted to go to an HBCU,” he says, dipping shrimp tempura into soy sauce. “I wanted the whole African-American experience. I thought it would be a beautiful thing.”
After leaving Morehouse, Diamond would return occasionally to see friends at the school and use the computer lab. Earlier this year, after the new dress code was enacted, he was asked to leave by school security officers. “I had my Nicki Minaj-style Chinese bangs,” says Diamond, a defiant twinkle in his eyes. “I showed them my ID from AIU. I didn’t go to the school, so the dress code should not have applied to me. But they wanted me off campus anyway.”
Kevin Rome, Ph.D., Morehouse class of 1989, is the former vice president for Student Services for the College. He says that people like Diamond are a small minority of the students at the College, and shouldn’t make up such a large percentage of the press the school has received about the appropriate attire policy. “There are nearly 3,000 students at Morehouse, and maybe three that [the ban on women’s attire] applies to. We’re giving such a large influence on a minute population. It’s not representative of the school.”
This is not the first time Morehouse has had to deal with controversy surrounding its gay community. In November, 2002, Morehouse student Gregory Love suffered a fractured skull after being beaten with a baseball bat in a dormitory bathroom shower. A fellow student, Aaron Price, was sentenced to 10 years in prison, and served seven for assault and battery. The attack was reportedly prompted by what was thought to be a sexual advance from Love.
Diamond believes he’s a trendsetter. While the population may be small now, he sees the gender benders as a growing group. And as for the future gender benders at Morehouse, Diamond is hopeful. “Even though I’m gone, the Plastics are still represented at Morehouse,” says Diamond. “And I think as time goes on, the administration will have to accept the different types of men enrolled. They need to look to the future. It didn’t work out for me, but I put in the work for people like me to come to Morehouse.”
Over brunch, Brian Alston, 21, and Michael Leonard, 19, nibble on biscuits, as they discuss the appropriate attire policy at Morehouse College. “This is not a purse. It’s a tote,” sniffs Michael, a junior majoring in business marketing, holding up his Marc Jacobs bag. Both he and Brian (pictured left), a senior majoring in sociology, describe themselves as androgynous. And both toe the line when it comes to the newly installed rules. Today, they’re rocking foundation, tweezed eyebrows, flawless manicures and glossy lips. Michael, a tall, lanky man with flawless skin, is wearing skin-tight denim cutoffs and an oxford shirt unbuttoned to the chest. He peppers his speech with expressions like “turn it,” as in turn it out. Brian, a slight brown-skinned figure in skinny jeans, goes by the nickname Bri. “I don’t see why a man of Morehouse can’t wear makeup,” says Michael, his forkful of grits perched in the air. “And I don’t see why a man of Morehouse can’t wear pumps and a purse.” Michael takes a bite of food, pauses, and smiles. His teeth are super straight and blindingly white. “And I don’t know why a Morehouse man can’t become a woman.”
Michael—who lives with Diamond and his boyfriend, Eric—and Brian, who has an off-campus apartment, are two of the current students at Morehouse who proudly call themselves members of the Plastics. “When I first got here, the androgynous kids were called the Glams,” Brian explains. “And then one day we were all sitting together on Brown Street and some straight guys walked by and called us the Plastics. Straight boys are the ones who gave us the name.”
While the two admit that the relationship between the Plastics and the straight community is fraught with issues, they say the rest of the gay community who can be downright hostile. “The gays hate us,” says Brian plainly.
“It’s because we have a certain aura,” says Michael. “We don’t care what people think about us when it comes to how we dress and carry ourselves. Some people are uncomfortable with it.”