Saturday May 18, 40 graduating students of SF State’s queer community, along with their supporting friends and families, gathered to attend the first Lavender Graduation at SF State.
In light of the Associated Students, Inc. Queer Resource Center opening last fall, the inaugural ceremony, funded by ASI, was proposed by students to acknowledge and celebrate the accomplishments made within the LGBTQQIA community at SF State.
“There was a little bit of a struggle when first proposing the idea,” said QRC Director Cassidy Barrington.
Barrington, a master’s candidate for sexuality studies, began planning for the ceremony in early November.
After two meetings with the committee, ASI approved a graduation budget of $3,401 to the QRC, allowing the ceremony to be free for all students interested in participating.
With the financial support from the student government and help from her two person planning committee, Barrington was able to bring the idea of the first Lavender Graduation ceremony at SF State to life.
Dean of Students, Joseph Greenwell, opened the ceremony by thanking the LGBTQQIA graduates for acting as change agents on the SF State campus.
“The students (this year) have created a new resource center, conferences, and programs that not only impact the LGBTQ community, but they impact all of SF State — the entire community,” Greenwell said.
According to Deborah Brown, an SF State sexuality studies faculty member and guest speaker at the ceremony, said the first Lavender Graduation in the nation took place at Michigan University (sic) in 1995. Ronni Sanlo, a lesbian and the Michigan University (sic) Queer Resource Center director at the time, organized the event, she said. She had sought out a ceremony that would recognize LGBTQ graduates for their achievements and college survival, said Brown.
The color lavender was chosen by Sanlo to symbolize the combination of the pink and black triangles that queer individuals were forced to wear as persecution identifiers during the Holocaust, she said.
“It feels very empowering to see how many students signed up, I wasn’t expecting this many,” Barrington said.
Among the graduating students were Abel Gomez, the former ASI representative at large and Lexi Adsit, organizer of the Queer Yo’ Mind Conference.
This past school year, both individuals played a major role in representing the voice of students to create the QRC on the University’s campus. The two students were able to address their classmates with encouraging words as the ceremony’s student speakers.
“So many people before us had to endure violence and oppression so that we can be proud of who we are,” said Gomez, in his speech to the students.
The ceremony came to an end after each graduate crossed the stage to receive a lavender tassel and certificate for their participation.
“Words can’t express what this year has accomplished for the LGBTQQIA community,” Lexi Adsit said. “This ceremony is a cherry on top of the year.”
Many students lingered after the ceremony to share hugs with friends, families and fellow students.
“It’s great to be a part of this University’s history in celebrating queer graduates,” Shelly Samuels said, a student graduating with her master’s degree in counseling and an individual who was among the 28,000 gay couples legally married in 2008.
The ASI QRC looks forward to celebrate another Lavender Graduation for the class of 2014, said Barrington.