Rainbow Tassel

Our University’s LGBTQ Center hands out rainbow tassels during graduation week for queer folks who want to wear it instead of their regular black tassels.

Having come to my queer identity post-graduation, I looked with a slight bit of envy as the the tassels were being handed out to graduating seniors. I jokingly told my friend K that I “kind of wanted one.” He turned to look at me and with such a genuine tone, offered to get one for me. No, I shook my head, saying that I didn’t really want a rainbow tassel. Now that I think back on it, I think what I really wanted was the ability to confidently put on that tassel when I was graduating — to be the type of person who was confident and unapologetic about who I was, a person with a solid queer community behind them, and perhaps even a someone who was warmly embraced by their family, the queer parts and all.

I know that the tassel does not mean all or any of those things to everyone. For some, it’s just another ornamental decoration on their black gown. But I have seen the tassel bring about tears, anger, and abandonment. And in response to those attacks, I have also seen the wearing of that tassel as a firm refusal of leaving pieces of themselves behind for their family or acquaintances. It has been about standing up for themselves and demanding respect for their humanity. The rainbow tassel is both an intimate point of connection with other queer students and a silent scream of existence into the homogenous black-gowned student body.

Perhaps what I want is something far greater than a simple rainbow tassel.

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