In dribs and drabs for the last decade, retired counselor Tranquil Calley has put money away in memory of her son Kalyn.
But it wasn’t until she heard about a UC Riverside senior who is gay and could no longer afford to pay for school that she knew what she’d do with her modest savings.
In December, Calley established a fund in her son’s name to help homosexual students in need at UC Riverside.
“This is exactly what he would want,” she said of her son, who died of AIDS complications in 1994. “It would be a tragedy for these students to have to drop out.”
Kalyn Smith-Tranquil’son, whose name was Colin Smith before he changed it to honor his mother, was the victim of physical gay-bashing twice while attending the university. Instead of withdrawing, he became an activist and fought for gay rights on campus.
Almost 20 years after he attended UC Riverside, the campus is more tolerant, and his mother’s gesture serves as an extension of what Smith-Tranquil’son fought for.
The first beneficiary of the Kalyn Smith-Tranquil’son Memorial Fund scholarship is Janean Hinrichs, who found herself short on money last quarter and was on the verge of quitting school. She said she couldn’t go to her parents because they had stopped financially supporting her three years ago when she told them she is a lesbian. It was a decision based on their religious beliefs.
“I was thinking, ‘Oh no, the world’s going to end and I’m going to have to drop out of school,’ ” said the 20-year-old senior.
Calley, a Moreno Valley resident, had told the school’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Resource Center that she wanted to help gay students, so when Hinrichs asked center director Nancy Tubbs for help, Calley was contacted and the scholarship was born.
Calley remembers how angry and disappointed she felt when Kalyn told her he was gay. She cried for three weeks. She was angry and blamed gays for “corrupting” him.
Reading the book “Loving Someone Gay” helped her understand that her son was the same person she knew.
“I can only hope that in time, like me, other parents will grow up,” she said.
At UC Riverside, Smith-Tranquil’son was openly gay, but not particularly political until he was beaten by at least three members of the university’s baseball team in 1981. The students were ordered to attend sensitivity classes.
Smith-Tranquil’son and about 40 students began pressuring the administration to foster more campus tolerance.
A few months later, Smith-Tranquil’son was pushed to the ground and threatened by an unknown male on campus.
The incidents, Calley said, were an awakening for her son and the whole campus.
After Smith-Tranquil’son died Sept. 18, 1994, Calley wore black and grieved for months, and then realized she “needed to do something to say he contributed to this world.”
Soon afterward, she began putting away money, at first not really knowing what it would become. Ten years later, she launched the fund.
Said a grateful Hinrichs: “To come out and then try to do it all on your own, it’s very hard for students to keep their heads above water.”