What is Lavender Graduation?

By Sarah Chesek, Staff Writer-

Lavender Graduation is an annual ceremony conducted on many campuses to honor lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and ally students and to acknowledge their achievements and contributions to the University. 

Lavender Graduation was hosted at UTC on April 14 at 7:00 pm via Zoom. The Zoom included a presentation with this year’s graduates.  

Many celebrations are made for specialized groups of students honoring not only their academic achievements but also their cultural heritage. This event allows members of the LGBTQ+ community to leave campus feeling recognized. 

Lauren Ouwerkerk, the assistant director of the Center for Women and Gender Equity, stated “the importance of the event is to ensure that we have an event highlighting our queer students on campus.”

It gets its name from the significance of the color lavender to the LGBTQ+ community. 

According to the Human Rights Campaign, the color lavender “is a combination of the pink triangle that gay men were forced to wear in concentration camps and the black triangle designating lesbians as political prisoners in Nazi Germany.  The LGBTQ civil rights movement took these symbols of hatred and combined them to make symbols and color of pride and community.”

Lavender Graduation began in 1995; its creation alone provided a stepping stone for queer rights in America.

According to the Center for Women and Gender Equity, “The Lavender Graduation Ceremony was created by Ronni Sanlo, a Jewish Lesbian, who was denied the opportunity to attend the graduations of her biological children because of her sexual orientation. It was through this experience that she came to understand the pain felt by her students. Encouraged by the Dean of Students at the University of Michigan, Sanlo designed the first Lavender Graduation Ceremony in 1995.”

By 2001, there were more than 45 Lavender Graduations across the United States.

A national Lavender Graduation will be held on June 5 at 3:00 pm Eastern time. It is free and will be live-streamed here, on Campus Pride social media channels, and on PFLAG National’s Facebook page.

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