Lavender is only one color of the rainbow

If there is anything I have learned the past four semesters at The Daily Utah Chronicle, it is that no one issue is black and white. There are as many ways of seeing a news story as there are hues of a rainbow.

One common thread throughout the tapestry of open discourse is the notion that people stand behind the issues-human beings with rights, freedoms and privileges secured by the Constitution. It is important for each of us to remember that fact as we approach others with the intent to share our own perspective. We must be vigilant in raising our voices and standing up for what we feel is right. But we must also learn to listen with an open mind and allow others to exercise their rights to speak their minds.

I have been especially intrigued by the recent discourse between homosexuals and those who are opposed to the practice of homosexuality and/or gay marriage. Clearly proponents, opponents and everyone in between have made it clear where they stand in what has become perhaps the most controversial issue of our time, but too many have failed to follow Voltaire’s admonition to defend others’ right to speak their minds.

What seems to be a major problem in the gay debate is that everybody is speaking and most people claim to be listening to other viewpoints, but few really take in and process what is put on the table for discussion. We must remember that the words “discussion,” “discourse,” and “debate” connote a two-way form of expression. This can only take place when all parties are more willing to hear than they are to be heard.

Another facet of understanding one another and learning from each other’s differences involves physically coming together in order to achieve that end. If we remain polarized from those who don’t see things the way we do, we will continue to remain figuratively polarized from “the other” and no common bridges of understanding will be built.

This requires an extended effort from each one of us. That is why the upcoming Lavender Graduation-a separate commencement for gay students-is so disheartening. In the wake of a serious movement to legalize gay marriage and to procure the same rights and privileges granted to heterosexual married couples, one would think that the gay community would do everything in its power to “come together” with others who are not convinced of the power of their message. The idea of a segregated graduation ceremony stands as a roadblock in the homosexual movement to garner understanding.

The U has always sought-and more so in recent years-to increase the “diversity” on campus. This usually refers to a variety of skin colors, but the intended result is to bring to the classroom myriad ways of seeing the world and our place as human beings in it. Diversity means difference of thought and experience and is brought about by students with varying racial, religious and socioeconomic backgrounds. Few people can dispute the fact that a diverse group of individuals representing a rainbow of ideas and experiences is far more interesting and exciting than a group with a paucity of unique experiences.

The most brilliant rainbows have an array of colors and hues.

But if we are to learn and grow from diverse individuals and groups-including homosexuals-it is clear that we must coexist, at least to the extent that we can learn from each other in a civil manner. Gay and straight students alike have played on the same teams, enrolled in the same courses, eaten in the same food courts and studied in the same libraries. Why not graduate, together, in the same convocation?

The Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Resource Center is blowing it on this one. Graduation is not about recognizing individual students for their hardships.

There are no special awards given for physically or mentally challenged individuals, none are presented to those who have lost a close friend or relative or have struggled to make ends meet as a student. The honor comes in knowing that each person, regardless of his or her circumstances, has achieved something great.

Everybody has personal challenges to cope with and overcome, but we all wear the same cap and gown. Some graduates will have additional ribbons or other distinctions to wear on their person. But on this one day of the year, graduates come together to celebrate, together, what they have accomplished as a graduating class-not necessarily what sets each of them apart from all of the other graduates.

Lavender Graduation could set a precedent for other groups and individuals who feel they are not accepted by the majority.

There could be a separate commencement for Latter-day Saints, one for Jews, Baptists, Muslims and atheists. Asians could have their own graduation ceremony, as could African Americans or people of European descent.

Maybe all students who wear glasses or contact lenses should be segregated from those who have perfect vision. If the aforementioned examples seem ludicrous-and they should-then why is a commencement for homosexuals any different?

The minute any group removes itself from everyday aspects of public life, it can no longer expect to receive mutual understanding and respect from other groups.

If we cannot co-mingle in society-if only for a couple of hours in a cap and gown-then we can no longer learn from one another and what makes each of us unique.

Lavender Graduation sends the message that homosexuals are different, that they cannot put aside their differences to celebrate together with the rest of society on a day when everyone celebrates each other’s graduation. Nobody will look beneath anybody’s cap and gown and ask what is really going on beneath the graduation garb.

That’s not what graduation is all about.

It’s about celebrating a class of students who have achieved an academic goal and will be recognized solely for that accomplishment-not for which clubs they were apart of, not for where they live or how they arrived at the U, not even for their sexual preferences.

We’ll miss the members of the LGBT at graduation who choose not to attend. We’ll miss them not only because they are every bit as important as all of the other graduates and they should be there to celebrate with us, but also because their decision to hold their own graduation ceremony widens the chasm that already separates them from the rest of us.

On May 7, one color could be missing from the rainbow, but there will always be another storm, another chance for lavender to find its way back in.

[email protected]