Two events celebrating queer students took place on campus on back-to-back days: The Queer Caps Society Tapping and the Lavender Reception.
The Queer Caps Tapping ceremony was held on Thursday, April 11 at 12 p.m. on the steps of Old West. The Queer Caps is a society of LGBTQ-identifying senior class members, and every year each one selects, or “taps,” a rising senior to be part of the society. This year was the Queer Caps’ 10th annual ceremony and they tapped seven new members, two of which are currently abroad.
The Queer Caps formed in 2008 to “encourage visibility of queer activists on campus,” according to the Dickinson College website. Members originally wore rainbow hats with a spinner on top, but now they’ve changed the design of their hats to lavender baseball caps with an LGBTQ pride flag on the front, to be “more inclusive of a variety of hairstyles, so they are comfortable for all to wear,” according to a Facebook post on LGBTQ @ Dickinson College.
Fi Keane ’19 led the ceremony and said the new members were tapped because of their “dedication” to the queer community on and off campus and their “passion” to help “advance the Queer Caps society as it enters its 11th year.”
Gregory Edwards ’20, a newly tapped member who is studying abroad in Japan, said he is “humbled and honored” to be tapped into the new class. Edwards served as an executive board member of Spectrum, Dickinson’s queer student union. He said it is “gratifying” to see his hard work in Spectrum to be recognized. Edwards said that with his new membership in Queer Caps that he will fulfill his “duty as a common link between Dickinson’s queer community, other affinity groups on campus and the administration,” along with an “amazing group of trailblazing students” to make the campus environment more inclusive.
The Queer Caps also tapped two faculty members for their work in the campus LGBTQ community: Diana Dragani, visiting scholar of Italian, and Sarah Niebler, assistant professor of political science. Niebler, who was not in attendance at the ceremony, said she was grateful and humbled to be tapped as an honorary member of the society. “I look forward to continue working with the Office of LGBTQ Services and students in the queer community to make Dickinson’s campus a more inclusive place,” Niebler said.
Nora Dondero ’19, a member of the class of 2019 Queer Caps, said she is very excited for the newest members. “This group of students represent much of the Queer community on campus,” Dondero said. Dondero said also that each new member of the society is “dedicated to queer visibility, inclusion and activism.” Keane said that the new class is “very enthusiastic” and they are “very proud” to get to know the members before graduation.
The next day, on Friday, April 12, the Office of LGBTQ Services held their 7th annual Lavender Reception, which recognizes LGBTQ-identified seniors and allies and their achievements at Dickinson. According to the Dickinson College website, the Lavender Reception is an effort to “holistically embrace each student at the conclusion of their undergraduate journey.”
The lavender reception welcomed Dickinson alumnus Rick Dissinger ’65 as a keynote speaker, who discussed his life as a gay man in the 1960s, 70s and 80s. He was at the Stonewall Riots in 1969 and spoke about the 1978 assassination of Harvey Milk, the first openly gay politician in California. Dissinger also talked about the HIV/AIDS crisis and losing friends to the disease. At the end of his speech, Dissinger received a standing ovation from the audience.
Students honored at the reception thanked their supportive persons, who could be partners, friends, family members or teachers. After their speeches, each student received a rainbow tassel to attach to their graduation caps, along with a rainbow stole to also wear on their graduation gowns.
Maia Baker ’19, a student who was honored at the reception, said she feels lucky to be part of “this group of brave, smart, loving, queer seniors.” Baker said it is important to “acknowledge the particular struggles and triumphs of queer students at Dickinson,” and that she was “moved” by the environment of respect for queer students on campus. “We are going to run the world,” Baker said.