SCHOOL: In 2008, the University of Texas staged its first Lavender Graduation ceremony for its LGBTQ students. In 2011, it added a post-ceremony reception in tandem with the congruent Texas Exes affinity network. This year, UT Vice President Gregory Vincent introduced a Community Leadership Circle Award that echoes similar prizes honoring influencers in the African American, Latino and other constituent communities. I was humbled to receive the first of those honors during the recent social reception. At the same ceremony, Erin Burrows won the Lynn Milburn Award, given out by the Pride & Equality Faculty Staff Association.

Allow me to share my short remarks, given at the Alumni Center.

"Thank you to Dr. Vincent and the Texas Exes. In 1972, I came out. The same year, a dear friend from high school days, a freshman at UT, took his own life. I am convinced it was because of his sexuality. Forty-two years later, we are still urging young people: ‘It gets better.’ By any objective standard, it has gotten better. In 1972, we could not even imagined marriage equality, the seismic shifts in social and cultural attitudes, or the gorgeous diversity of our own community. I credit three generations. The pre-Stonewall group that fought most bravely, often from behind closet doors due to legal and social sanctions. The post-Stonewall generation, to which I belong, whose main job was to be visible and out in our careers and communities. Then this one that spreads out before me, perhaps our greatest generation, who might not face as much stigma as in the past, but still face many fights for dignity and equality. I think their main job will be to reach out to communities around the globe who have suffered marginalization or even persecution, as has ours. By helping others, we help ourselves."

FOOD: Never turn down an invitation to the Gateway Guesthouse. You’d be sorry. Travis Heights hosts Blaise Bahara and Bess Giannakakis understand setting, dining, drinking and matching guests. Their most recent dinner party saluted Italian cheese-maker Stefano Sarti (Il Forteto brand) and his daughter Elena Parti. The hosts had toured Sarti’s operations in Tuscany last year. He was in Texas to promote his products at seven Texas Central Markets. Among the lively guests were serious and fun food types familiar to readers of this column: Electra Avellan, John Fitch, Sonya Cote, David Barrow, Ben Runkle, Natalie Davis, Paula and Glen Foore and Kristi Willis. We talked about urban farming, ethical harvesting of animals, including game, the great cookbooker Diana Kennedy, old cheese shops, butchering techniques, wine clubs, vegan travels and what not. Meanwhile, the Gateway gals took us on a culinary tour of the continental United States, bopping from New England to California and New Orleans.

ARTS: Photographer Micky Hoogendijk sees in dreams. From my story in the Statesman: "A figure drapes a jeweled, chain-metal mesh over his pale features. Lower in the frame, black leather gloves half cover fingers tipped with roughened nails. Below a white fringe of hair, the subject’s eyes reflect deep, unaffected sadness. The lips are parted slightly, as if prepared to speak some line of elegiac poetry. Just as arresting are the image’s title, "Death Becomes Her," and its subject, fashion designer and former columnist Stephen Moser, who has survived a diagnosis of terminal cancer for more than six years. He is currently under hospice care. "His story deeply touched me, and this portrait is my tribute to him," says photographer Micky Hoogendijk, who often uses Photoshop to enhance her large, haunting portraits. "I did not need any layers in this photo; this is the raw, real image. Again a mask, a veneer. Very symbolic." http://shar.es/SLZNO

BUSINESS: Tony Trungale leads the Elite 25. From my story in the Statesman: "The howls could be heard from the green hills in the west to the blackland prairies in the east. When the Travis Central Appraisal District revealed a sharp hike in property appraisals last week, neighborhood message boards lit up like Christmas trees. ne group of Austinites could have predicted the unsettling upsurge. Last year, an elite squad of 34 local real estate agents collectively sold more than $1 billion in Central Texas homes. That’s right, $1 billion in one year. Or more than $29 million in sales apiece. Each agent in the club sold at least six $1 million houses. Tony Trungale, a branch manager for PrimeLending mortgage company and host for the misleadingly named Elite 25 — an honorary group of 34 agents who meet once a month to discuss trends over lunch — says that the area’s stratospheric luxury home prices might not mean exactly what we expect. "I saw a flier that read ‘Old Austin,’ and that was crossed out," Trungale says. "Then ‘New Austin,’ and that, too, was crossed out. What was left: ‘Our Austin.’" http://shar.es/SLw4h