Lavender Graduation celebrates LGBTQ campus community

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Sprigs of lavender, lavender tablecloths and lavender stoles decorated Jack Adams Hall May 17 for the Queer and Trans Resource Center’s third annual Lavender Graduation. For SF State’s LGBTQQIA students, it was a time of inspiration and triumph for the graduating class of 2015.

Universities across the country host Lavender Grad to honor lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer, asexual, transgender, intersex and non-binary students in a ceremony supplementary to traditional graduation.

“With the unique obstacles LGBTQQIA students face, Lav Grad is an opportunity to celebrate each other’s accomplishments with those who made these feats possible,” said QRTC Assistant Director Mitch Lucas.

As keynote speaker, Mary Ann Begley, interim dean of students touched on the ceremony’s theme, which was glitter. She gave an address on “how to find your sparkle” through self-emanating authenticity in the pursuit of knowledge, professional aspirations and individual identity.

“Every student comes to college and faces obstacles and barriers. This group of students understand each other and share the same struggle,” Begley said. “These students will leave a trail of glitter that will not easily be forgotten.”

Sarah Pishny, Associated Students, Inc. vice president of Student Affairs, said she loved the intimate ceremony that highlights and recognizes the LGBTQQIA community.

“They all have a wonderful support system in each other because they’re all going through similar situations whether it be feeling ostracized, unaccepted or being on a quest for identity,” she said. “All of that makes a graduation like this is so meaningful.”

After spending six years at SF State to acquire a master’s degree in  Women and Gender Studies, Sebastian Ochoa-Kaup, director of QRTC, said he had mixed feelings about graduating.

“I kind of wish it wasn’t over,” Ochoa-Kaup said. “I’ve been here for so long, but there are still so many things I want to do for the campus community.”

Salvador Williams, graduating sexuality student attested to the positivity each of his colleagues contributed with their support and camaraderie.

“The master’s program  in itself is its own community,” Williams said. “We understand each other’s struggles as students and some of the things we face in our personal lives. Having that sense of solidarity made it much easier to get through this experience.”

In their commencement speech, Al Pugh, graduating science major and assistant director of Education  and Referral Organization for Sexuality, said they were grateful for the inclusiveness and continual encouragement of the queer alliance groups at SF State.

“Without supporting each other, we have no support,” Pugh said. “So many of us lose support from family and friends for being queer or trans, so it is important to keep each other strong and thriving.”

Pugh said that the queer family at SF State provided a love different from biological family or heterosexual friends. With a bond based on uninhibited honesty, shared idealogical perspectives on society and sexuality and freedom to express said sexuality, Pugh said their personal growth was due to the fortitude of their queer peers.

“I wouldn’t have made it this far without my queer family,” Pugh said. “We have sleepovers and study sessions all the time. We offer each other mental, emotional and even financial support. It’s just great to have a group of people who are so accepting and loving to be there for you no matter what.”

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