Next month, when I graduate from Ithaca College, I'll walk across the stage and receive my diploma wearing my cap, my gown, and something extra: my rainbow cords, a gift from the Center for LGBT Education, Outreach & Services at Ithaca College. The rainbow cords are the college ceremony's message of, "We're here! We're queer!" celebrating the diversity of the Ithaca College student body and providing a show of solidarity in the unique experiences of the on-campus LGBT community.
I received the cords at the Rainbow Reception, an early "graduation ceremony" for LGBT and Allied students at Ithaca College. Dozens of graduating seniors were recognized for their achievements on campus, several awards were distributed to students who have provided excellent service to the local and national LGBT community, and many alumni, faculty, and community members joined in the festivities.
Events like the Rainbow Reception are increasingly popular across the country. They began years ago under the common name "Lavender Graduation," and now schools like the University of Northern Iowa, Indiana University and UCLA all host their own events. Ithaca College's Rainbow Reception celebrated its 10-year anniversary on Friday.
Throughout the night, various students spoke about their experiences on campus and at home being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender - or being an ally who speaks out about LGBT issues. So many students emphasized in their messages that one of their biggest take-aways from their four years of college was that coming out and exploring their sexuality would not have been nearly as easy without such an accepting, inviting, and encouraging campus and community environment.
The Reception kind of forced me to reflect on my own four years in school and realize how my own life and career path could have been influenced by studying at Ithaca. I may not have come out as early, I may not have interned with Bil at The Bilerico Project, and I may not have pursued future work in the LGBT movement or understood the importance of developing and continuing my passion for queer media and politics.
I'm excited for the large, not-LGBT-specific graduation in a few weeks because I'll be able to wear my pride literally on my sleeve and communicate my gratitude for Ithaca - and places like Ithaca - being such an incredibly safe space. I'll also be able to declare my commitment to work toward the development of safe communities across the country, in places that may not be as safe and accepting as Ithaca, after I graduate. The rainbow cords will say it all.
img Courtesy of the Center for LGBT Education, Outreach & Services