Lavender Graduation- University of Richmond 2017

12 Apr

Greetings, welcome, and happy Gaypril to all: guys, gals, and non-binary pals.

I am honored to give the speech for this year’s Lavender Graduation as a way to reflect on my own time here at UR as well as using this opportunity as a springboard for everyone here.

I want to also give a brief content warning since the LGBTQ+ story is not always rainbows and unicorns. Even though the thoughts that emerge may be troubling and dark, they are necessary and an integral part of our identity and will be treated with the utmost respect.

Despite the apparent hostility towards LGBTQ+ persons in this pressing time, it is important that there is strength in our adversity. While our identities may bring us distress and challenges, these hardships allow us to shape our life in ways that make us unique and beautiful. I say this because being a part of this community is a blessing.

My time here has allowed me to explore my identity and create an environment that allows for mutual growth and flourishment. Each one of us here has been a part of a network that embraces what it means to be “queer”.

I use this term openly because of its linguistic merit and the importance of reclaiming a warped identity. Stemming from the German, “quer” meaning, “crossways”, “queer” allows us to break free from the binary and occupy a liminal space that does not inhibit expression or identity. Queer to me is a way to encompass my being without having to marry it to a specific ideology or dogma.

I am here and I am queer.

I want to acknowledge that my journey has been fortuitous in having a support system that allows me to love and be loved. Being a part of SCOPE and Common Ground has landed me opportunities and a network I would have otherwise been unaware of. I am grateful to also have so many faculty and staff members who are willing to advocate for Safe Zones as a means of inclusion and solidarity. I fondly remember being a part of events such as Field Day, Q-Summit, Big Queer Night, Day of Silence, and the various days celebrating and remembering all parts of the LGBTQ+ spectrum. I was especially thankful for having such a close sense of comradery when I wore a rainbow dress to Pigroast this year. The overall reception to my outfit was positive and I only hope that gives people the comfort knowing that living your authentic life should not be sacrificed for arbitrary norms.

Unfortunately, the same sentiment and opportunity is not the same for everyone else. To put it not so subtly, the theme I wish to speak upon is understanding adversity through privilege.

I stand here as a testament to my own luck. I am able to live my life as a gay, cis-gendered white male fairly openly. Even when I can’t, my ability to code prevents me from having to endure prejudices in hostile areas. Others are not as fortunate. For this reason, I want to commend those who are able to face these challenges head on but also recognize the thousands of people who lost their lives trying to live in an authentic way.

Lavender Graduation is an effort to recognize all backgrounds and stories, not just my own. So, here’s to those of trans* and non-binary gender identities who are the next step in fulfilling the true “gay agenda”: equity. Here’s to the queer people of color who not only have to struggle with the oppression associated with heteronormative culture, but also that of an achromic one. Here’s to the women who have to inherently bear the burden of dismantling the patriarchy. Here’s to those who are still struggling with a balance between their faiths for their sense of self. Here’s to the developmentally different people who may not march with the same physical or mental capacity but are here with us every step of the way. Here’s to the people who can’t come out for fear of their lives. And finally, here’s to all of us who have to come out every single day and realize how amazing we truly are.

My charge to you all moving forward is to keep the fight strong and keep hope and love alive. The advancements towards gender inclusive housing is a dream I never thought would come true during my time here at UR. But with our two steps forward we were accompanied with one step back. And as I am grateful to have lived in Gateway my senior year, I was also constantly reminded of the dangerous politics surrounding our campus as the new admissions building was erected in front of where I lived. Keeping this in mind, I would request that people constantly question the motives and integrity of this school so that we avoid this kind of needless controversy in the future and to celebrate achievements that are not accompanied with troubling remarks. The next step, if I may say so myself, is the dismantling of the coordinate college system. Hopefully that wish will come to fruition soon as we move towards a more inclusive community. Even though Queally’s remarks are burned into our memory, I hope we utilize that feeling of fire to fuel are efforts for the future. The mockery of his statements only highlights how our skin is our fag jacket and we are proud to wear it.

So, whether you stand in solidarity through a rainbow flag, an exuberant YAAAAS, or event cherishing moments with the people you love (yourself included!), the LGBTQ+ community is meant to be a safe space to call your own.

Through pride and discovery, I hope to continue this story with you all by adding just a little bit more flavor and fabulousness to it.

Peace, love, and gay merriment for all.

Thank you