Associate Provost Kim Godsoe’s Lavender Graduation Speech, April 2015

April 28th, 2015

[It is our honor to share the text from Associate Provost for Academic Affairs, Kim Godsoe’s, Lavender Graduation Speech.]

Welcome everyone! What an exciting and beautiful celebration!

My name is Kim Godsoe, and I am the Associate Provost for Academic Affairs. To me, the lavender graduation is a particularly important celebration because it recognizes that our journeys are multifaceted. We are, of course, our academic selves whether we have studied neuroscience, sociology, theater or philosophy. But our journeys are also deeply personal, intertwined with how we conceive ourselves, how we decide to present ourselves, and who we love.

Tonight is a celebration of your journey, your joyous journey to this moment.

So I want you to take a moment to think about what it means to be at Brandeis. As you know, Brandeis was founded on the idea of inclusion. So take a moment and close your eyes. (pause) I want you to think about the year 1948. When you think of 1948, what images do you see? What is apparent about U.S. society and race, gender, socio-economic class, sexual orientation? Ok, open your eyes. With those images in mind, then think of how Brandeis was founded based on this idea of inclusion–that those who have been excluded were welcomed.

Those ideas of inclusion are still central to Brandeis now. I think it is so telling that when Brandeis participated in the 2014 ACHA National College Health Assessment, 19% of our students identified as gay, lesbian, or bisexual, compared to the so commonly quoted statistic of 10% of the U.S. population. So what does this number tell us? We can understand it as Brandeis being a supportive community for the LGBTQI population. Or we can ask the question, does being a place like Brandeis give individuals the safety to self-identify that they might not feel comfortable doing so were they in another environment.

So why is Brandeis this very special place–and what does that tell us about how we should live our lives going forward?

I have a theory which is at Brandeis, we are not afraid to tell our stories. Telling our stories legitimizes our experiences, educates our community, and is the fabric of any social change that occurs. The Poet and Scholar Adrienne Rich once wrote, “Lying is done with words and also with silence.” To me, when we are silent about who we are and what our experiences have been, we are not being true to ourselves and our community. So telling our stories is the root of our power.

So let me tell you a little bit about my story. As many of you know, I am married to my wonderful and beautiful wife Pam. It is not uncommon for people to ask, quite kindly, how long we have been married. On the surface, it is such an innocent question, but in reality, there are so many different ways we could answer. Pam and I have made the intentional choice to say “Since the very first day that it was legal in Massachusetts.” Now of course, this is not what people are expecting. They want some tidy number like 5 years or 10 years, but we have decided that when we tell our story, it is also important for us to acknowledge our history. And that history is a complicated one. When I came out in college, the idea of butch and femme was very prevalent and there was sometimes pressure from some members of the community to select one of those identities. Similarly, in the dialogue of the day, self-identifying as bisexual was regularly perceived as being a traitor to a gay or lesbian identity. Thankfully, much has changed since that time.

So why not give people the simple answer of we’ve been together for seventeen years, and we have been married for eleven? The math is easier, people are happy, there’s not that awkward follow up question of when did gay marriage become legal. The problem with the simple answer is that it works from the assumption that gay marriage always was legal and it will always be legal. It is an answer from a place of complacency. And our lives, all of our lives, yours and mine, are anything but complacent.

And we can’t be complacent—we have to tell our stories. We see this every day both the challenges and the steps forward. We see the challenges with laws like Indiana’s Religious Freedom Act and some of the arguments that went with that. (As an aside, do you really want a florist who doesn’t believe in your union? Can you say half dead roses?) But we also see steps forward in our national dialogue such as the important public recognition of Andreja Pejic and Aydian Dowling. Only a decade ago, the discourse on transgendered issues was very different. And we have to be suspicious of silence and of omission. Maybe I shouldn’t care that Adam Levine’s Sugar video only shows straight couples getting married, but I do.

So we must tell our stories—they are so powerful.   You have to be honest about the times of acceptance and support as well as the times of questioning and rejection. You are soon to be Brandeis graduates, with all of the intelligence, passion, and compassion that has been fostered in you by your alma matter. You have so much to be proud of and there are so many ways that you are going to change the world. So celebrate all that you’ve accomplished, and remember to always tell your story.

Sara Brande’s Senior Speech, Lavender Graduation, April 2015, Brandeis University

April 27th, 2015

[Below please find the text from the moving speech delivered by the amazing Sara Brande at 2015’s Lavender Graduation.]

Welcome classmates, friends, family, co-workers, bosses, allies, and graduating queers, to the 2015 Lavender Graduation here at the Intercultural Center.

First of all, thank you so much to everyone who contributed their time putting together this ceremony. I have been a part of the planning process so I have seen exactly how much effort it takes to organize every aspect of food, setup, and breakdown. Especially how much effort it takes to get gummy sharks, which I personally appreciate. Thank you Elba, Tara, Monique, Shannon, Meral, Jace, and everyone on the Planning Committee.

I came to Brandeis University in the Fall of 2011 from the heart of the Deep South in Alabama, unsure of what my future held as a little queer in a big world. My first day on campus, I found myself in the middle of Hurricane Irene. My second day, I found myself in the middle of Hurricane Queer, when Triskelion hosted a community ‘speed dating’ event for newbies and returning students, and I was hooked. I met some of my first and best friends at events like this, and within the week I was elected to executive board, serving as the TransBrandeis coordinator for two and a half years. At the end of my first year I applied and was accepted as a staffer with the Queer Resource Center, and have been a part of that wonderful organization ever since. I worked with the Task Force in charge of securing a Gender and Sexuality Center on campus, and I feel satisfied knowing that our work has not been in vain. I have witnessed the Queer community, hardworking students who somehow manage to balance classes, work, and clubs, create events, programming, new policies, and safe spaces for students who might have never before felt like a part of something. I know that before Brandeis, I had never imagined living in a space where I could openly be myself, or with people who would accept and love me for who I have become.

But it has not been an easy journey to create those spaces. I can list on both hands various projects that still need to be accomplished on campus in order to truly support all students on campus. (Take notes, underclassmen). Working together with our allies in administration is never a quick task, but even in my four years here, we still don’t have gender-inclusive housing for first years, campus-wide accessible gender-inclusive bathrooms, or proper institutional resources for queer students in various processes of becoming themselves. But I keep reminding myself that Brandeis is not a perfect institution. And I am not a perfect human. We all experience transitional phases wherein we figure out what our own personal goals are, and how to achieve them through our real, lived experiences. And my fellow graduates, we are about to embark on our very own journeys, and our goals will reach beyond Brandeis and worldwide. The will always be more work to be done, and if not us, then who? As Laverne Cox so aptly puts it, “By doing the work to love ourselves more, I believe we will love each other better.” I have felt so much love from our community here, and I know that I am a different, and hopefully better, person from when I entered Brandeis, because of that love. I can only hope that through some small efforts of my own, I have been able to create some of those spaces for present and future Brandeisians.

To those of us who have moved through our time here at Brandeis as “out” in any capacity, to those who have not or prefer not to be “out”, to those who are allied with all of us, thank you. For the queers who came before us and for the queers who will come after us, thank you for helping to make Brandeis a safer space for all members of the community.

Thank you.

Welcome to Our New Program Coordinator for Sexuality and Gender Diversity!

January 22nd, 2015

Felix Tunador, the new Program Coordinator for Sexuality and Gender Diversity, completed his MA in Sociology at University of Connecticut, where he also taught discussion sections for the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies program. Felix’s research interests included gender and sexuality, race and ethnicity, and immigration; his master’s thesis centered on queer second generation Latinas/os’ and Asian Americans’ navigation of their transitions to adulthood. Prior to UConn, Felix received a BA in Sociology with a minor in Near Eastern Civilizations and Languages from University of Washington. While in Seattle, he volunteered with Lambert House, a queer youth community center, and GLSEN Washington State. Outside of work, Felix loves to cook, grow plants, and hang out with his (nearly) toothless cat named Grover, a.k.a. Darlene. Felix is excited to join the Brandeis community in supporting LGBTQ+ interests and needs. You can find him in the Gender and Sexuality Center (G105 Usdan) and don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions or ideas you may have.

Alyssa Green’s Senior Speech, Lavender Graduation, April 2014, Brandeis University

September 10th, 2014

[I’m delighted to post student leader and activist Alyssa Green’s Senior Speech, delivered at Lavender Graduation in April. My thanks to Alyssa for sharing this amazing speech. Best wishes, Alyssa, for a happy and successful life “after Brandeis”! Note: Names of Alyssa’s peers appear with permission. — Thomas A. King]

An introduction from Alyssa:
This speech was constructed for the wonderful people and experiences I had throughout my time at Brandeis, as well as the events which led up to my arrival there. As an activist, I found many outlets for my passion and creativity, and even more people to help me grow into the person I am today. Brandeis was a difficult time; obstacles seemed to present themselves at every opportunity. Even still, I graduated as a proud scholar, survivor, woman of color, and queer person. All of my identities, although oppressed in some way or another, strengthened me and gave me direction.

Senior Speech, Lavender Graduation 2014
Alyssa Green

Four years ago this month I received a large packet in the mail that changed the course of my life forever. It was the spring of 2010, and at the age of nineteen I had already experienced many obstacles others my age had not. Two years prior I had made the decision to drop out of high school. The disapproving faces, negative comments, and stigma I received for being a young woman born to a family that was unable to support her was devastating. I will never forget the day I withdrew from my high school and the overwhelming feelings of shame and anxiety. After taking the GED test I enrolled into community college, and due to financial complications, was forced to drop out school for the second time. An eighteen-year-old low-wage worker with no direction and limited familial support, the feelings of uncertainty and disappointment began to engulf my spirit once again.

I recently visited my hometown of St. Petersburg, FL and as the sunshine greeted me I realized that what they say is true, that sometimes we have to go back to where we started to appreciate how far it is that we’ve come. I visited with my 10th grade high school teacher, the same woman who wrote my letter of rec for Brandeis when I applied. We talked, laughed, and reminisced about the past. Somewhere between the laughter and memories I uttered softly, “You know, I never thought this could be done.” She looked puzzled. I explained that, as a high school student I never thought any of my peers, and certainly not I, could escape the inevitable future that awaited us all. I never thought we could go away to college, attain a higher standard of living, or attain a higher standard of being.
The morning I set off for Brandeis my nanna told me something that I have kept with me throughout my entire academic career. “You don’t have anything if you don’t have a dream, Lyssa. Remember that, promise me you won’t ever lose sight of what you want and where you need to be.” I don’t think I’ve ever made a promise I meant more than I did that day. At that point in time I did not understand the high cost of building your dreams, or the monumental personal effort I would have to put forth in order to attain them. Read the rest of this entry »

Lavender Graduation, 2014: Commencement Address

August 22nd, 2014

LAVENDER GRADUATION: Commencement Address
Thomas A. King, Associate Professor of English and Women’s and Gender Studies
Brandeis University
24 April 2014


[My thanks to Jessica Pedrick, Program Coordinator for Sexuality and Gender Diversity; Monique Gnanaratnam,
Director of the Intercultural Center; Robyn Lederer, Class of 2014 and Intern to the Program Coordinator for Sexuality and Gender Diversity; and to the student organizers of the 2014 Brandeis University Lavender Graduation. I was delighted to speak at this wonderful event and to share my remarks here. During my speech I projected bits of queer writing that I’ve frequently shared with students in my courses (reproduced here). Congratulations once again to the class of 2014! — T. King]
It’s a great pleasure to see so many queer students and allies doing research on queer-specific desires, identities, practices, languages, institutions, populations, and histories; making queer-specific art; doing research on community-specific problems and goals, and the policies that will facilitate those goals, within your various disciplines.
I’ve been noticing for a few years now at Brandeis, roughly corresponding to your time here if you have been an undergraduate, a general shift of energies to the disciplines and away from the interdisciplinary programs where feminist, LGBT and queer scholars whose work had been considered marginal to their disciplines first found a home:

I am working out the vocabulary of my silence.
. . .
But this same silence is become speech.
    –Muriel Rukeyser, “The Speed of Darkness”

You are among the first who may choose to think of yourselves primarily as historians, sociologists, anthropologists, neuroscientists, biologists, visual artists, writers, literary critics, and policy makers, without always being marked out as others-within your discipline and your craft: without always being marked as gay historians, lesbian sociologists, queer anthropologists, trans* visual artists, bisexual writers. . . . you get the point.
It’s been a long time coming. Read the rest of this entry »

Elizabeth Bradfield, Olga Broumas, Stephen McCauley: Introducing Three Brandeis Writers

August 13th, 2014


Trio: Elizabeth Bradfield, Olga Broumas, Stephen McCauley

Wednesday 23 April 2014

Pearlman Lounge

Brandeis University


[My happiest event of the 2013-14 academic year was a trio of readings by Brandeis writers Elizabeth Bradfield, Olga Broumas, and Stephen McCauley. “Trio” brought our first SQS speaker series to a brilliant close. My thanks to Maura Conron for the beautiful SQS speaker series poster design; to Lisa Panella and Becky Mahoney, for their help with set up; and to Shannon Hunt, our program administrator, for her many contributions to the speaker series, the program, and our students. Here are my introductory remarks. –T. King]


Welcome to the final event of the spring 2014 SQS Speaker Series.


Introducing any one of the three writers you’ll hear today would be an honor: most pleasurable, if most humbling. Introducing all three at once is surplus:


  • The Jacob Ziskind Visiting Poet-in-Residence at Brandeis Elizabeth Bradfield;
  • Poet, Professor of the Practice of English
Poetry, and director of creative writing at Brandeis Olga Broumas; and
  • Fiction writer, associate director of creative writing at Brandeis, and Chevalier in the Order of Arts and Letters of France Stephen McCauley.


Liz Bradfield, Olga Broumas, and Steve McCauley have each given their readers compelling ways to imagine, reconfigure, and laugh at desires both fulfilled and unfulfilled, sexual pleasures both ecstatic and ordinary, and couplings both gratefully sustained and thankfully temporary.  Their writings are a Roget’s Thesaurus of queer expression, from Liz Bradfield’s serial praise of the butch’s swinging arms, shoulders, sunglasses, cigarettes, and walk—


When I spot them on the street, in line

at the movies, unmistakable, here

is what happens: love floods me.

(Bradfield, “Butch Poem 5: Recognition and Praise);


to Stephen McCauley’s reminding us that the pleasures of housekeeping have been as crucial to the long history of the novel as sex, real estate, and coupling—“All of my previous addictive behavior had been of the most deeply shameful kind,” confesses William Collins in Alternatives to Sex: “an obsession with vacuum cleaning; a tendency to furtively clean a sink or bathtub when I went to someone’s house for dinner [. . .]” (13); and to Olga Broumas’s metaphoric transports: a beloved’s knees dancing, during oral sex, like “dimpled, five-year-old chins,” like “nuns / in their delirous habit, like / runaway needles on a multiple graph, / the first organic model of / seismographs” (“Caritas”). Read the rest of this entry »

Introducing Gayle S. Rubin (Brandeis University, 4 April 2014)

August 7th, 2014

“A Conversation with Gayle S. Rubin”

Friday 4 April 2014

Sponsored by the Minor in Sexuality and Queer Studies

Brandeis University


[I was honored to introduced Gayle S. Rubin, who spoke at Brandeis in spring 2014 as part of the first SQS speaker series. Here are my introductory comments (including some extra material deleted because of time limitations). Citations refer to Gayle Rubin, Deviations: A Gayle Rubin Reader (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2011). –T. King]


I am delighted to welcome to Brandeis Gayle S. Rubin, who is Associate Professor of Anthropology and Women’s Studies at the University of Michigan and currently F. O. Matthiessen Visiting Professor of Women, Gender, and Sexuality at Harvard University.


It is a strong measure of the field-opening quality of Gayle Rubin’s work that many of us remember where we were in our lives—academic, activist, erotic—when we first read her. I first encountered “The Traffic in Women” in a graduate seminar called “PostMarxism as Poststructuralism” taught by Nancy Fraser at Northwestern University around 1990 – “The Traffic in Women” being an essay reorienting, or better, returning, sex and gender from structural analysis to a social framework. The urgency of that essay made me want to write ethnographies of radical sex/gender practices demonstrating that poststructuralist theories of difference, deferral, and jouissance had first been lived in the streets and in our bodies. Gayle Rubin made that impulse possible by showing social scientists and the humanists who read them how to consider lesbians, gay men, sadists, masochists, and fetishists, not as “clinical entities or categories of individual psychology,” but as “social groups with histories, territories, institutional structures, [and] modes of communication” (307).


Professor Rubin’s work has been a model of radical scholarship, both laying bare the root terms, assumptions, and conditions that obstruct analysis of queer knowledges and practices in the academy  (which means she hasn’t always made the institution, or the disciplines she represents happy) and pushing the boundaries of what can be considered a properly academic inquiry or object of study. (Few of us would have the courage to publish an essay titled “The Catacombs: A Temple of the Butthole.”)   “For the most part,” Prof. Rubin has written, “our society treats the pursuit of physical pleasure as something akin to taking out the garbage” (239). Read the rest of this entry »

“Intimate Transgressions”: Upcoming Conference Presentation

May 9th, 2014

On May 24, 2014 I will present a paper at the annual conference of the Latin American Studies Association, in Chicago, USA.  The paper is entitled “Intimate Transgressions:  Lesbian Sex in the Times of Polyamory and Same-sex Marriage in Mexico City.” In this paper, I look at the ways in which sexual and relationship norms have changed in the lesbian community in Mexico City over the past two decade after the implementation of NAFTA, the Chiapas uprising, processes of democratization and the intensification of debates on sexual citizenship. I suggest that some narratives and practices that were deemed as transgressive in the 1990s are now being normalized in queer communities in relation to legal, economic and cultural changes. I center my discussion on polyamorous practices and casual sex that were the object of discussions in lesbian spaces during fieldwork in 2009-2010, at a time in which same-sex marriage was being debated and ways to rule intimacy were being questioned and renegotiated. My paper is based on ethnographic fieldwork, which included 40 interviews with women aged between 23 to 65 years old who participated in queer spaces in Mexico City.

The paper will be presented in the context of a panel entitled “Sex after Neoliberalism: Mexico City, Globalization, and the Rise of the Sexual Marketplace” and co-organized with Jennifer Tyburczy (University of South Carolina). The panel explores the relationship between neoliberalism and sexual urban culture in Mexico City. It will investigate the potential influences of macro-economic policies and events of the past thirty years (e.g., the North Amercian Free Trade Agreement) to examine everyday rituals of sex and sexuality that occur on the ground.

Anahi Russo Garrido, Allen-Berenson Postdoctoral Fellow in Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies, Brandeis University

“Being queer just made me more Brandeisian”: Halee Brown’s Senior Speech, 2013 Lavender Graduation

May 2nd, 2014

[We’ve created the SQS Blog as a space to share thoughts, circulate news, and document queer life and scholarship at Brandeis.  Preserving Brandeis queer history is crucial.  In May 2013, WGS major, Triskelion board member, and student leader Halee Brown (B.A., 2013) delivered the senior speech at Lavender Graduation.   Halee’s words to graduating students can inspire us all:  “if people walk in with good intentions, the best thing I can do is have them walk out with even better ones.”  I’m grateful to Halee for sharing this speech with us. — Tom King]

Halee Brown

Senior Speech, Lavender Graduation 2013

Looking back on Brandeis, and Queer Life at Brandeis . . .  I realize there’s no denying it; for me, queer life at Brandeis is Brandeis. My second week on campus I decided to join the executive board of Triskelion, completely unaware of how much of a decision I was making. I quickly joined the other branches of Trisk, falling in love with SASS and the conversations we had in the back lounge of the ICC about every imaginable topic in the universe of queer. As I ran for “Sanity” coordinator (the position that used to be the “vice president”), I realized that this community was my passion. I declared a women and gender studies major and engaged students in SASSY discussions daily. I struggled with my identity when I first arrived at Brandeis, and learned to embrace the struggle as a part of a community that knew how to support me and take support from me. In my time here, I have witnessed endless occasions of subtle homophobia and gender policing, and have over time learned to problematize the things that people say. I have come to applaud every student that knows the word “heteronormative” and appreciate every opportunity to explain to someone the difference between gender and sex. Maybe this seems silly, but the conversations that I have each day about gender, sex, and sexuality, have completely shaped who I am and who I have discovered myself to be. Read the rest of this entry »

SASS Addresses LGBTQ Issues

April 29th, 2014

SASS addresses LGBTQ issues

Republished from the Justice

By Hannah Wulkan

News Editorial Assistant

Published: Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Sex and Sexualities Symposium held its sixth annual Undergraduate Sexualities Research Conference on Thursday, April 10. The conference included a keynote speaker, Psychology Professor Sharon Horne of the University of Massachusetts, Boston, followed by several panels that addressed issues of gender, sex and sexuality. The event concluded with breakout discussion sections on a range of topics.

SASS is a student-run group that is part of Triskelion, the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer interest group at Brandeis. It is intended as an intellectual discussion group that “is dedicated to more theoretical and academic style discussions related to gender, sex and sexuality,” said SASS Coordinator Scott Kluger ’15 in an interview with the Justice.

Horne spoke of her research on both national and international issues of LGBTQ rights, focusing particularly on Russia and Africa.

She began by addressing LGBTQ issues in the United States and said that the New England ideology is that LGBTQ rights have already won and are natural. Horne said that Americans have seen so much political and social progress on the issue in the past few years and that political acceptance of gay rights seem inevitable at this point. However, she said that even in the United States there is quite a bit of backlash to this progress and that people are trying to pass legislation in some states to restrict LGBTQ rights, including not allowing discussion of LGBTQ issues in schools. She also pointed out that 33 states still have a constitutional ban on gay marriage.

Horne moved on to talk about LGBTQ rights outside of the United States. She pointed out that although many countries do fully support gay marriage and rights, in many places in the world, people are still persecuted for their sexuality.

Because Horne’s studies focus particularly in Russia, she went into detail about the problems that the LGBTQ community currently faces in that part of the world. She said that, in the past, Russia was actually fairly neutral in terms of issues of gay rights and that the LGBTQ community was basically left alone there. However, she said that under Russian President Vladimir Putin, persecution of members of the LGBTQ community begun.

The Russian Parliament hosted American anti-gay activist Paul Cameron, who recommended that LGBTQ individuals should not be allowed to teach in schools because they are likely to be pedophiles.

The Parliament also passed the gay propaganda law in June of 2013, which essentially forbids the distribution of information about homosexuality to minors. Horne said that the history of anti-Semitism in Russia has exacerbated the anti-LGBTQ sentiment because, in the past, people often thought that being Jewish and being gay were related to one another.

Horne told the group that in 2012, a law was passed in Moscow that banned pride parades for the next 100 years in all of Russia. She said that this anti-gay sentiment has since spread widely, and that a recent poll even concluded that 63 percent of Ukrainians believed that homosexuality is a perversion or mental disease, while only nine percent supported rights for the LGBTQ population. This lack of support for LGBTQ rights is largely due to the fact that Western news is censored from the general population, so people only consume Russian media and propaganda, according to Horne.

Horne also spoke of the severe anti-gay sentiment in many parts of Africa, including Uganda, Malawi and many other countries. She said that people are persecuted for their sexuality and in some places the penalty for homosexuality can be as extreme as death.

She finished her talk by explaining that there are several websites to get involved with and ways to support those struggling for freedom of sexuality in other parts of the world. Specifically, she mentioned the International Network of LGBTQ Concerns, as well as several Russian LGBTQ support websites. She also said that a great way to help is to donate to support asylum seekers who have to flee their countries due to intolerance for their sexuality.

Three panels followed Horne’s lecture. The first was titled “Reproducing Gendered Bodies,” the second was called “Intersectionality and Intersexuality” and the third was “Solving the Injustice of Tradition.” Each panel addressed a different aspect of LGBTQ life and theory. After these panels, there were themed breakout discussion sections, during which each group could engage in conversation about sexuality in a certain context. The groups discussed media and literature, religion and culture, policy and politics and queer theory.

“I hope that more people are inspired to get involved in or share research that they have done related to these topics,” said Kluger in an interview with the Justice about the purpose of the conference.

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