With thanks to my ever vigilant muse katancelt:
Good Afternoon Everyone, my name is Matthew Lee Schwartz. I serve as a student member on the Gender and Sexual Orientation Committee which is a board composed of some of the most dedicated people I have ever had the pleasure to work with. It has been my distinct honor to work with them to bring this ceremony to the University at Buffalo Today and it is my greater honor to address the University, our Community, All of our Families and my Peers Today as we celebrate the First Annual Lavender ceremony here at UB.
Some people questioned whether such a ceremony was necessary; in fact, many did when I first told them about it. Questions were raised, “why do you have to be separatists? Why does everything have to be a Gay issue with you people” and the answer, so simple, so succinct was provided for us by a fallen hero in the Queer community who wrote a play that rocked a generation, that transformed how people perceive us and the world around them and who brought the world of high brow theatre down to Generation X and the MTV Generation who were disillusioned with the hate and homophobia they were seeing around them:
Today is about being an us for once, instead of a them.
The man was Jonathan Larson. The play was RENT.
And while Mr, Larson passed away at 3am the day that the lights were set to go up – he was 35 – the show still went on and it gained international attention and recognition for it’s powerful, accurate portrayal of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans communities for what we are, with all of our quirks, with our faults and with our beauty. To so many who have never had contact with our community, he became an ambassador for us, introducing us to them as humans, with feelings, with lives and with history.
And like the message Jonathan Larson sent around the world, Today is a beautiful celebration of our community, of our accomplishments, of our hard work, of our solidarity with each other and the strength it took us to get to where we are Today. Looking around me Today at my peers and the audience, I’ve never seen something more beautiful or a crowd so good looking and the beauty that I’m seeing shining before me is coming from the inside out.
This event is also to honor those who paved the way for us to have the courage to come out. I can tell you from personal experience that it certainly wasn’t easy when I was outed at my High School eight years ago and I can’t begin to imagine the strength it took for those a generation before me to pick up the receiver, put a quarter in a pay phone and call their parents and say “Mom…Dad…I’m…” and you can fill in the blank with Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans or other because it’s never been easy but thanks to the hard work of these dedicated activists it’s getting a lot easier. I thank you and I salute you. You’ve set a high bar and some deep footprints for us to follow in and I hope that we live up to your expectations as we enter the world around us and begin to take lead of the movement towards our liberation.
When you come out you inevitably end up with two families; one family helps you take your first footsteps as a child. Your other family helps you take your first shaky steps in high heels. Today I’d like to the time to recognize our Straight Allies who are with us Today: they are the Green Berets of our community, providing support, encouragement, a shoulder to cry on and they’re there for you when at times your other family, sadly, is not. They are the Swiss Army Knives of the Gay Community who can handle any emergency with tact, compassion and grace: whether it’s a drag nightmare — your wig is in Toronto, you’re missing your left stiletto and your big number is on in ten and you need the cash to pay your bills this month — or you’ve been Gay bashed and then they’re the first one’s to put a comforting arm around your shoulder after you get out of the E.R. and take you to the police station to file a report: to the Men and Women who are our Straight Allies, you are some of our best advocates. I am indebted to you, and I thank you for providing the warmth and security that our community sometimes needs. We couldn’t have made it here without you.
To my peers, you have been a constant source of support and inspiration. We’ve been through so much together; through the ups and downs at our University and the gains and – at times – losses, within the LGBT community: I couldn’t have done it without you.
As we begin to venture into the world, with role models like Leonardo DaVinci, Walt Whitman, Oscar Wilde: Lower your head to no one; bow before no dignitary, let no one shame you because you are different, instead hold your head high because you are.
History has proven time and again that it’s those people who march to the beat of their own drum that change the world and I am proud to say that we’re ready to leave our mark, to make a difference and to grab the reigns as we take control of our destiny.
Before I close Today, I’d also like to take a few seconds to recognize someone who has stood up for me at every turn in life, who accepted me without question or hesitation when I came out, and who traveled a great distance to be here in the audience Today: my younger brother Sam, you’re doing pretty well for yourself kid.
To the class of 2007 we’re going to change the world, indeed we’ve made history here Today…and to the world we’re about to change, perhaps a bit of a warning: we’re fearless, and we’re coming.
“No day but Today!”
We did it!