Ceremony honors GLBT grads

by Dan Haugen

With the setting sun illuminating a pair of rainbow flags in the Carlson School of Management dining hall, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students celebrated the ceremonial closure of their college careers Thursday.

“It’s nice to be recognized,” said Tina Love before receiving a certificate at the Lavender Graduation and Awards Ceremony. “It is difficult to be gay at the University.”

But much has changed at the University since Love first started taking courses in 1986. She points to the creation of GLBT programs and an expanding women’s studies department as signs things are improving.

The sixth annual event, sponsored by the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Programs Office, was the largest yet, with 29 graduates participating.

“It’s important for students to have a community celebration where everyone around them knows what they’ve gone through,” GLBT programs office director Beth Zemsky said. “They’ve earned more than a degree. They’ve learned how to survive and thrive in an environment that doesn’t always favor them,” she said.

Zemsky said it’s up to the student to decide whether the GLBT graduation ceremony serves as a supplement or a substitute for traditional ceremonies.

Graduating College of Liberal Arts senior Brad Hasskamp said he plans to walk again in his college’s ceremony – with the rainbow tassel he and other participants received at Thursday’s event.

“This one’s for me. The other one is for my family,” Hasskamp said.

Several partners, parents and other relatives were in attendance Thursday.

“I’m sure it’s very good for those who are graduating,” said Phyllis Olson, Love’s mother.

A GLBT graduation ceremony will also take place this year at the University’s Duluth campus. Zemsky said the trend has spread since 1996, when a colleague at the University of Michigan organized the first known GLBT graduation ceremony.

Dan Haugen welcomes comments at [email protected]