Print

E-Mail Story

Comment

News Letter Sign up


We’re here


June 05, 2018

1 Image

On May 3, in the Georgia Southern University Statesboro’s Center for Arts and Theatre, the first annual Lavender Graduation was held. The color lavender holds special significance to the LGBTQ+ community and Lavender graduations are held across the country to honor students within the LGBTQ+ umbrella.

Made possible by Ted Tucker, Georgia Southern Statesboro alumnus, the event featured a panel of community members and alums from both Statesboro and Armstrong campuses, as well as a series of speakers, including alumni, Ted Tucker, and professor Emeritus Dr. Fred Richter.

When Tucker attended Georgia Southern, it was known as Georgia Teachers College, and had a very small student body. His sexuality was known to him but not to others, and while he loved his experience here, he did not feel he was ever able to be himself. After moving to San Francisco and finding himself in an accepting and widespread community, it became important to him to facilitate those feelings of comfort for others within this demographic. His investment in invigorating our university’s LGBTQ+ community has already, in its nascent planning stages, transformed the experience of both faculty and students alike.

Richter, the first out gay faculty member at Georgia Southern, can be thanked for influencing Georgia Southern to add sexuality to its non-discrimination policy. Furthermore, he spent his career on campus doing much more than teaching English: he became a spokesperson for the community, educating others and, in the process, indubitably empowering allies to join in the quest for equality. He continues to champion the LGBTQ+ community, encouraging acceptance from within and without.

During the ceremony, when the panel discussion opened to questions from the floor, the focus shifted from those who identify within the LGBTQ+ umbrella, themselves, to those who want to support us, but don’t necessarily know how. This is not uncommon for gatherings of queer people and allies, but it is difficult water to tread: where some are patient with those who do not quite know how to offer their support, others have grown tired, over a lifetime of being educators, of being expected to teach others. Not all of us want to or can be ambassadors, and it is never the responsibility of the marginalized to educate.

There are no right answers, particularly none that cover the spectrum of experiences within the LGBTQ+ community, such as those who hold more than one minority status and struggle to find a confluence between the two, which was also discussed on the panel. However, for those who choose to, bringing people into the fold is important. In this particular company, it was evident that people find such education to be a significant step in community-building, and that some are willing to provide such guidance.

At times, I get discouraged by the heteronormativity of Statesboro, such as the way my wife and I are responded to in public: the looks we get, the misgendering, her reticence to use public restrooms, the fear we have of any physical contact. At the movies the other day, watching the cheesy concession stand turn-your-cell-phone-off preview, I started crying while watching all of those couples -- diverse in many ways, but not in this way -- put their arms around one another, lean into one another, practically leap into one another’s laps when afraid. I cried because I want that freedom and comfort, to love and be seen loving without risk. A few days after Lavender Graduation, on the bus to traditional graduation, we slyly held hands by grasping the same strap. Her hand crushed mine and I held steady, happy for that brief moment between us.

This frustration isn’t exclusive to Statesboro; I have experienced some ilk of homophobia in every place I’ve lived, including big cities in the Northeast and Southwest, so events like Lavender Graduation are heartening. Listening to the panelists and the keynotes provided me with perspective on the light years between how things used to be and how they are now. We have a lot of ground to cover before I’ll stop crying at heterosexual public displays of affection, but the fact that I can write here, referring to my wife, is not to be taken for granted. The fact that we held an event last week which honored queer graduates of all stripes, while bringing together those who hope to support us in our quest to be safe and validated is nothing to sneeze at.

Wheels are turning, whether the homophobes like it or not. With every day, with every individual and collective effort, it becomes easier and easier to be out and proud. We might not be able to hold hands everywhere, but the university has created spaces where we can, and has introduced us to those who wish broader freedom for us, and who will fight to see it realized. I am not only out and proud; I am also proud of Georgia Southern.


Print

E-Mail Story

News Letter Sign up

Bookmark and Share
« Previous Story | Next Story »
 

COMMENTS

http://www.connectstatesboro.com/ encourages readers to interact with one another. We will not edit your comments, but we reserve the right to delete any inappropriate responses. To report offensive or inappropriate comments, contact our editor. The comments below are from readers of http://www.connectstatesboro.com/ and do not necessarily represent the views of Publication or Morris Multimedia.

You must be logged in to post comments.  [LOGIN]



You must be logged in to post comments.  [LOGIN]