Editor’s Note: The Lavender Letters, a new monthly series, is a collection of open letters written by members of Ole Miss’ queer community highlighting the many joys and hardships that come with being a member of the LGBTQ+ community in the South — and in particular on this campus. Mary Boyte is the assistant news editor.
The color lavender has a long, winding history within the LGBTQ+ community. The “Lavender Scare” of the McCarthy era purged thousands of queer men and women from the federal government following an order signed by President Eisenhower. In the late ’60s and early ’70s, the color became a symbol of hope and resilience as protestors dawned lavender armbands as a way to remember the victims of the 1969 Stonewall riots. At Ole Miss, the annual Lavender Graduation honors graduating LGBTQ+ students with lavender cords.
Regardless of how you identify, being LGBTQ+ on this campus can put you in a box. Whether or not you are openly queer, it can make it harder to be a college student in the South, a part of the country stereotypically known for intolerance.
When I interviewed Jaime Harker, the director of the Sarah Isom Center for Women and Gender studies, last April for my article on the upcoming Lavender Living Learning Community, we discussed being queer in the South. The conversation didn’t make it into the article but has stuck with me.
“The queer community in Mississippi is just amazing and to be a part of it is a privilege,” she said.
I agreed with her, saying that there are hidden pockets in Oxford filled with unbelievably amazing, supportive people. You just have to know how to find them. In these pockets, I have found, we have a remarkable and distinct sense of resilience. The purpose of The Lavender Letters is to illuminate these pockets.
If you want your writing to be a part of this series, email firstname.lastname@example.org to get started.
You can write about whatever you want whether it be happy, sad, frustrating, hopeful or anything at all. Your story deserves to be heard.