Lavender Graduation to honor LGBTQ studentsBy Judah Martin | 04/17/2013 11:00pm
Though not as recognizable as a characteristic of the LGBTQ population as the proverbial rainbow, Alex Davenport, a graduate student in American studies, said the color lavender is of equal significance to them.
Once used as a slur directed at effeminate men, the word “lavender” has been reclaimed by the community as a symbol of pride when three graduate students at the University of Michigan hosted the first lavender graduation ceremony for LGBTQ students.
This year Davenport organized the third annual Lavender Graduation ceremony at the Capstone.
Davenport said the ceremony looks like any typical graduation - faculty and students participate, a keynote speaker and student speaker address the audience, and awards are given to students who have made significant contributions to the community.
“Lavender Graduation is an opportunity to celebrate the accomplishments and contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer and allied students,” Davenport said. “Our speakers specifically discuss what being a sexual minority or at-risk population in college means and how those experiences shouldn’t go unrecognized as our students celebrate graduation, the culmination of multiple years of hard work.”
The keynote speaker for the event is is Minnie Bruce Pratt, an award-winning poet, LGBTQ activist and UA graduate.
“Lavender Graduation presents an opportunity for students to celebrate their accomplishments and reflect on their time as members of the LGBTQA+ community at UA,” said Noah Cannon, a student worker for UA Safe Zone Alliance. “We’re thrilled to see Lavender Graduation continue to grow and become a part of LGBTQA+ tradition at UA.”
UA Spectrum Vice President Lauren Jacobs will walk in this year’s lavender graduation. She said the event is an important finale to her experience at the Capstone.
“I am so glad that we have a Lavender Graduation ceremony on this campus,” Jacobs said. “To me it demonstrates the strength of our community by reaffirming the contributions of students whose full identities aren’t always given attention in our overall campus lives.”
Davenport said the planning committee for the ceremony expects more than 30 graduates in this year’s class.
“We live in a culture that normalizes traditional ideas about sexuality and gender in such a way that LGBTQ+ people can become invisible,” Jacobs said. “Lavender Graduation gives visibility to outstanding students while allowing them to be their full selves without fear of mockery, harassment or misunderstanding; but, more than that, it’s truly about the special nature of this community. We have a really great, supportive and downright loving LGBTQ+ community of this campus, and we don’t take it for granted.”
Davenport said Lavender Graduation is a chance to make a lasting impact on graduating LGBTQ students.
“I hope that students see how proud we are of not only of their academic accomplishments but of their individual accomplishments as well,” Davenport said. “I hope Lavender Graduation gives students the sense that great work is being done but that there is still much to accomplish in regards to LGBTQ+ issues at the Capstone.”
Lavender Graduation will be held Monday, at 7:30 pm in the Woodis-McDonald Auditorium (Graves 118).
To register for Lavender Graduation, students can visit spectrum.ua.edu/graduation. The event is open to students graduating in the spring, summer or fall of 2013 with an undergraduate, graduate, or law degree.