Wednesday was an emotional day for me. I attended two memorial services (one interfaith ceremony for all students who have died at my university in the past year, one for my cousin’s other grandma) and I had Rainbow Graduation, which honors the achievements of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer identified undergraduate and graduate students and acknowledge the challenges and triumphs experienced in their careers at my University.
Every year, awards are given to a handful of seniors. The LGBT Taskforce Award is given to student leaders who have been devoted members to the LGBT community during their time at the University. Three of my friends won this award. Yay!
On Monday afternoon, I received a phone call from Jenny, the Director of our University’s Center for Soocial Justice Education and LGBT Communities saying that I was the 2012 recipient of the Lionel Cuffie Award for Activism and Excellence. I was a combination of super excited, super shocked, and super guilty that my other friends hadn’t won. As per the Center’s website, “Each year this award is presented to a graduating senior who has been selected from among a number of nominees for service to LGBT communities on-campus and off-campus and who has maintained a grade point average of at least 3.0.”
Jenny & I at Rainbow Graduation
Finding out I was receiving this award was mind-blowing. I wasn’t allowed to share this news with anyone (okay, so I called my mom and then my Professor Mom, who has known me for 4 years, I’ve taken class with her 7 times, and she has written me dozens of letters of rec over the years). On the night of the ceremony, I still couldn’t believe I had won. Even more surprising? Professor Mom came to the ceremony! She lives in Brooklyn and going to Rainbow Graduation was completely out of her way. However, her hubby actually told her, “You’ve known Kailynn for awhile. I think you should go.” I was completely shocked to see her at the graduation ceremony, and even more shocked when Jenny called her up to the stage to talk about me.
I promised myself I wouldn’t cry at Rainbow Graduation. I promised myself I would remain composed. I was doing really well with this until Jenny called Professor Mom up to the stage to say a few words about me.
A really terrible photo of Professor Mom talking about me
Talk about a surprise! I did not expect for her to give a speech. Her speech is a blur, but it made me laugh, cry, and turn bright red. (Yay ginger-ness!) She talked about the first time we had met, how she had helped me edit a poem about my sexuality (which you can see the video poem of here), how I’ve taken class with her seven semesters in a row, and how she’s watched me grow as a person and a poet. The memories got me teary eyed, but what really got me crying were the things she’s never said to me before. “I’ve never told Kailynn this, but she has made me the teacher I am today.” How can you not cry at this?! She concluded her speech by saying, “Kailynn is an ordinary person who does extraordinary things.” That made me BAWL. Looking at my life, I don’t think I do anything extraordinary. I just feel more compelled than most to lend a helping hand or offer an ear. If someone needs help with something, I’ll be there. We’re all in life together, we might as well work together, smile, and make things a little easier for one another.
When my name was called, everyone cheered, woo’d, and hollered like there was no tomorrow. Honestly, I was quite overwhelmed by it all. I didn’t have a speech prepared, and I sort of rambled about Lady Gaga, bubble tea, and how my university has made such an impact on my life. I’ve never been good at speaking in front of crowds who are recognizing me for something, and I definitely appreciate you all for putting up with my rambling speech!
The only photo I’ve been able to find so far of me talking. I know there are more!
Words can’t even begin to describe how humbled, blown away, and shocked I am by the amount of love and support I felt at Rainbow Graduation, and in being the 2012 recipient of the Lionel Cuffie Award for Activism and Excellence. Of all the seniors graduating, it blows my mind that I was chosen for this honor. There are so, so many students worthy of this honor, and I want them all to know how proud I am of not only the Class of 2012, but of all the members of our community. It’s been an interesting four years, with both ups and downs, but at the end of the day we were a phenomenal, amazing family and community. I have found so much love and support in every aspect of life through these wonderful people.
All of the Rainbow Graduates
I know that each and every person who attended Rainbow Graduation is going to go on to do remarkable things with their lives because they are all remarkable people. It’s an honor to know each and every one of them. I’m so grateful to have been a part of this community, and so incredibly honored and humbled to think that others think I’m worthy of being recognized for being me.
Thank you to everyone at the Center, all of my fellow Rainbow Graduates, my friends, my loved ones, and everyone who has continued to support me over the years. You all mean the world to me! <3