When most people imagine lavender, they imagine a flower, or a purplish hue. But for many queer graduates at SF State, lavender represents something more personal: an accomplishment.
Forty-nine graduating students of SF State’s LGBTQQIA community gathered in Jack Adams Hall of the Cesar Chavez Student Center for the second consecutive Lavender Graduation ceremony on May 17.
Jack Adams Hall was decked out with rainbow lights lining the walls, a delicious buffet and white-cloth tables with purple flower arrangement centerpieces, ready to recognize and celebrate the accomplishments of the queer graduates.
Cassidy Barrington, director of SF State’s Queer Resource Center, organized the Lavender Graduation at SF State.
“We host this ceremony so queer students have a space to openly and unapologetically celebrate their achievements with their fellow queer peers,” said Barrington.
The Lavender Graduation ceremonies are not new to the LGBTQQIA community around the United States. The ceremony originated in 1994, but it is relatively new at SF State.
“Many students approached me last year with the request of starting the Lavender Graduation tradition here at SF State, and I was surprised that a campus as queer as ours didn’t already honor Lavender Graduation,” said Barrington. “So I happily coordinated our first celebration for May 2013.”
With a 43 percent increase in student participants, the ceremony has grown tremendously in comparison to its first year. Having a larger number of participants made it easier to secure a larger and better venue.
“It was almost a completely different ceremony from last year,” said Barrington, “with the change from theatre-audience to banquet-audience.”
Associate Dean of Ethnic Studies Amy Sueyoshi opened the ceremony with a few empowering words.
“When the time comes, will you become normal or stay queer?” Sueyoshi said to the audience.
Naimah Mumin, graduating computer science major and Lavender graduate, was touched by Sueyoshi’s words and felt reassured that she was not alone in the struggle for queer equality.
“Though I wasn’t a very active member of SF State’s queer community, being a part of the Lavender Graduation reminded me that I am not alone in this rough journey through college and life,” Mumin said. “Associate Dean Sueyoshi’s speech spoke to an aspect of my queer identity that I don’t normally reflect on, and altogether the graduation reassured me along my journey.”
While munching on fajitas and sipping horchata, attendees of the ceremony enjoyed musical performances by graduating student talents, Lysander Valenzuela and Ariana Tibi.
“I was already feeling pretty excited at the ceremony; surrounded by my best friends in the city, most of whom are queer, at a ceremony honoring such qualities with beautiful people,” said Tibi. “I was touched to be exiting my college career this intimate way.”
Following the performers, Sueyoshi handed out the certificates of graduation and lavender tassels to all participating graduates.
“I am most proud of this ceremony when students approach me afterward to thank me for putting on this event, and to share with me how meaningful it is for them,” said Barrington. “I’m not just proud of my success in programming, I am also proud of the community of students for whom the event is held because my job is to serve them and their needs. When they express their joy and gratitude, I feel like I have done well.”