Lavender Graduation is a celebration of graduating lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) students. It is a time to acknowledge the struggles of LGBTQ students, celebrate their accomplishments, and see them onto the next stages of their lives. This ceremony is not in place of traditional graduation, but instead is meant to augment the graduation experience.
As a Lavender Graduate, LGBTQ students will receive a certificate and rainbow graduation cords. During the ceremony, the students are invited to have guests speak about their accomplishments and growth, or they may choose to speak on their own behalf. Allies and friends are encouraged to attend and everyone will be provided with free dessert.
What is Lavender Graduation?
Lavender Graduation is an annual ceremony conducted on numerous campuses to honor lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and ally students and to acknowledge their achievements and contributions to the University. The Lavender Graduation Ceremony was created by Dr. 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, Dr. Sanlo designed the first Lavender Graduation Ceremony in 1995. The first Lavender Graduation began at the University of Michigan in 1995, with three graduates. By 2001, there were over 45 Lavender Graduation Ceremonies at Colleges and Universities nationwide. Graduating students, including undergraduates and graduates, are invited to take part in the celebration, which occurs each year the week prior to university-wide commencement events.
Why a Lavender Graduation Ceremony?
For decades, students at colleges and universities around the country have been celebrating both their academic achievements and their cultural heritages at specialized commencement events. Many of these events are student-initiated and usually occur during the university-wide commencement weekend. These events provide a sense of community for minority students who often experience tremendous culture shock at their impersonalized institutions. For many students, they are the payoff for staying in school, and friends and families find the smaller, more ethnic ceremonies both meaningful and personal.
Lavender Graduation is a cultural celebration that recognizes LGBT students of all races and ethnicities and acknowledges their achievements and contributions to the university as students who survived the college experience. Through such recognition, LGBT students may leave the university with a positive last experience of the institution thereby encouraging them to become involved mentors for current students, as well as financially contributing alumni.
Lavender Graduation is an event to which LGBT students look forward, where they not only share their hopes and dreams with one another, but where they are officially recognized by the institution for their leadership and their successes and achievements.
Approximately 20 WOU students participate in this celebration each year.
The significance of “Lavender”
Lavender is important to LGBT history. It 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 LGBT civil rights movement took these symbols of hatred and combined them to make symbols and color of pride and community.