Many students gathered recently at Cram Alumni House’s Torrey Barn to celebrate 27 of the graduating class’s 40 out LGBTIQA seniors.
Kate Stern, director of the Resource Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity, organized the Out Seniors dinner, which is held each year in early May. She started off the evening with a story from when she first began working at Bowdoin in 2008. “A first year student came to me and said, ‘I’m gay, and I’ve never said this out loud before.’” The student asked her how many other queer students were on campus, which at that time was about seven. “If you can count it on your hand, that’s not diversity,” Stern said.
Since then, the campus has changed. “It’s not just that we have 40 out students on campus today, but that we have 40 out seniors,” Stern said. She also acknowledged the students who were not at the table: “I want to do another toast to the students who aren’t here, and to hope that someday we get to a place where they can show up.”
President Clayton Rose was also invited to the dinner. He told the seniors, “I want to acknowledge and tell you today how remarkable you are and your journey is one you should celebrate. You help use your energy and time to make us better, both the challenges and opportunities but also to nudge us on how to be true to ourselves.”
Two students were awarded the Rainbow Polar Bear Award for their work on campus. Tim Ryan, Ashmead White director of athletics, presented the first award to Cameron Chisholm ’16 to celebrate his achievements with the athletics department. Ryan acknowledged Chisholm’s work on organizing the Winning Together: Allies in Athletics dinner, and how pivotal he was in helping to create Winning Together: Intersections of Race and Athletics at Bowdoin and Beyond. Through these programs, Chisholm expanded discussions about inclusivity within sports teams.
Kate O’Grady, assistant director of ålumni Relations, presented the second Rainbow Polar Bear Award to Julian Tamayo ’16. O’Grady talked about Tamayo’s work for the Alumni Relations Office, reflecting on his participation at an LGBT panel in New York City, as well as at alumni events in San Francisco and Boston.
Stern also gave a Rainbow Polar Bear Award to Katy Longley ’76, who is leaving the college to work at Jackson Laboratory, based in Bar Harbor, Maine. Longley has spent 14 years at Bowdoin as treasurer. Tamayo read quotes from students who wanted to thank her for creating gender-neutral bathrooms on campus. One student from the class of 2014 expressed to Longley, “Everyone knows about the best bathroom on campus, which was the gender neutral bathroom in the Union. But what many may not know is that it was a safe haven for a lot of trans folks at Bowdoin in my year. Sometimes I would go there just to get away from it all but I always basked in the glory that it was always there just for me. Seeing bathrooms change over time was a wonderful indicator of how Bowdoin was progressing.” Longley has been a part of enacting policy on campus that ensures that all future building construction is gender inclusive.
President Rose captured the spirit of the dinner when he said to the students, “Something that we all have to think about is what is truth and what are we. And I think most of us come up deeply short because we are allowed to go through life without having to face these issues that are essential in life. You have conquered this at least to some essential extent…This notion that you are real to yourself is something to celebrate deeply with.”