The Sexuality, Women and Gender (SWAG) Center recently hosted its annual Dinner to Celebrate Out Seniors, an evening dedicated to celebrating out students as they approach graduation. The gathering of seniors, allies, and faculty highlighted a community that has grown immensely over the past decade at the College.
A graduating senior first proposed the idea of an LGBTQ event for seniors to Kate Stern, who is associate dean of students for diversity and inclusion and co-director of SWAG. Inspired by celebrations of queer students at other colleges, Stern suggested that Bowdoin host a quiet, intimate gathering for Bowdoin’s out community to recognize the roles of queer students here.
On Thursday evening, President Clayton Rose gave a brief address thanking out seniors for their integral contributions to Bowdoin’s evolving campus culture. Then Stern gave a few seniors a Rainbow Polar Bear award for their contributions to Bowdoin’s queer community. Stern recognized one student for a series of photographic portraits she took that lives in the SWAG Center’s garage, and acknowledged another for his development of the Gender Matters program at the center.
Stern encouraged all students to share their queer highlights from their Bowdoin career as well as their hopes for the future with others at their table. In addition to discussing these “quilights” and “quopes,” students designed a colorful array of plates for the class of 2018 that will live at the SWAG Center for years to come.
Toward the end of the evening, students and faculty acknowledged the work of outgoing Director of Career Planning Timothy Diehl. He was honored with a Rainbow Polar Bear award, and current students surprised him by reading quotes from alumni who were particularly close with Diehl. Many lauded his important work with Bowdoin’s queer community and his ability to help students set off on their professional trajectories.
The night concluded with a recitation of advice from Bowdoin alumni who identify as queer. Faculty and staff members read quotes from Bowdoin graduates from decades past, spanning adages from the Class of 2017 all the way back to the Class of 1948.
The last quote of the evening was from a ’48 graduate: “It’s about being gay as a privilege that our straight sisters and brothers will never have. Their identities are a given that they never have to think about, while we are forced to think about, at some point, whether to be true to ourselves, or to spend our lives denying who we are. Coming out gives a sense of liberation straight people never experience, and which has, at least in my case, been a source of lasting joy.”