Students, faculty and staff celebrated four years of progress by Georgetown’s LGBTQ community at yesterday’s Lavender Graduation in a crowded Copley Formal Lounge.

University President John J. DeGioia praised the work of graduating seniors in establishing the LGBTQ Resource Center and calling attention to issues facing LGBTQ students.

“You each have helped make our campus safer and more welcoming for all students,” he said. “We are a better and stronger Georgetown for your efforts.”

About 40 undergraduates and six graduate students were honored in the ceremony. In particular, Scott Chessare (SFS ’10), Marion Cory (COL ’10), Olivia Chitayat (COL ’10), Jheanelle Brown (SFS ’10), health educator Danielle Desilvis and Outlaw, a Law Center organization, were given awards for their work on behalf of the LGBTQ community.

“I’m very proud to be receiving [an award], but I feel the award is a recognition of the work a whole group of people have done,” Chessare said.

Chessare said his proudest accomplishment was helping to establish the LGBTQ Resource Center, which opened in 2008.

Keynote speaker Kara Swisher (SFS ’84), who writes for the Wall Street Journal and is a former HOYA reporter, spoke about the challenges she endured as a gay student at Georgetown.

“This was about the worst selection that I could have made,” she said of her choice to attend Georgetown. “There were a lot of attacks on gays.”

Swisher, who lived in the neighborhood after she graduated, has only returned to campus twice since she graduated.

“There was an appalling lack of knowledge about gays,” she said. “[The atmosphere] just encouraged behavior that was just appalling.”

She said she left Georgetown “incredibly disheartened,” but is pleased with the changes that have come about in the past quarter century.

“This [ceremony] happening is a shock to me,” she said.

Swisher said she continued to face hostility after graduating, including from her mother, who kicked her out of the house for being gay and initially refused to attend her wedding. Eventually, she furtively watched the ceremony and gave a toast at the reception. Swisher said her mother’s gradual change of heart was emblematic of the country as a whole.

“You make tiny little progresses, and sometimes you make great progress, but there’s always pushback,” she said.

Swisher said in an interview that writing for The Hoya gave her a way to express herself as a gay student.

“It kept me here despite being unhappy being gay,” she said.

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