North Texas Daily

LGBT ceremony recognizes grads

LGBT ceremony recognizes grads

LGBT ceremony recognizes grads
April 14
00:20 2015

Steven James / Senior Staff Writer

UNT’s Pride Alliance will host the university’s first ever Lavender Graduation, a ceremony in which lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students are recognized for their accomplishments during their time in college.

The celebration was first created in 1995 by Ronni Sanlo, now the director emeritus at the UCLA LGBT Center, after being rejected from attending her children’s graduations because of her sexual orientation. The first Lavender Graduation was held at the University of Michigan in 1995.

The ceremony, which costs $1,000, will take place at 2 p.m. Saturday, April 18, in the Gateway Center room 243. Registration is open to all students who have applied for graduation. Pamela Curry from the LGBT project The Dallas Way will speak as a guest.

Pride Alliance student services coordinator Kathleen Hobson said many universities with LGBT offices on campus host Lavender Graduation ceremonies. Hobson said people who want to register can do so through a link on the Pride Alliance Facebook page, Twitter and other social media platforms.

“There are a lot of extra struggles that community may have to go through to get to graduation,” Hobson said. “The ceremony is just meant to recognize their achievement in making it to graduation and recognizing the fact that they may have to go through a lot more than another person in their graduation class.”

According to the Human Rights Campaign website, lavender was chosen as the color to represent the graduation after the human rights abuses in World War II. In the concentration camps in Nazi Germany, homosexual men had to wear pink triangles, and homosexual women had to wear black triangles. The LGBT community then combined the two colors.

“Depression and suicide ideations, substance abuse, all of those things are higher within the queer community,” Hobson said.

Hobson worked with intern Adriana Slaughter and a committee to bring the ceremony to UNT. Committee members were representatives of UNT Libraries, Office of Spiritual Life, UNT Glad and TRIAD.

She said the Lavender Graduation is similar to the UNT Raza and People of Nia Graduation ceremonies at the Multicultural Center, in that it celebrates students with their own specific identities.

Seven students currently have registered to participate. Non-graduates can also RSVP.

Graduates will be presented with a rainbow stole and certificate. Hobson said friends and family are welcome to attend.

According to nationalhomeless.org, 43 percent of drop-by clients in 2014 identified as LGBT, and 30 percent of outreach clients were LGBT.

Physics and integrative studies senior and Pride Alliance student assistant A.J. Aguinaga said even though he will not be earning his physics bachelor’s for another two years, he wanted to participate in Lavender Graduation this year for his integrative studies degree.

“It allows people to celebrate as a community together in their accomplishments,” Aguinaga said. “A lot of minority groups say, ‘I don’t see people that look like me, I don’t see people that look like me.’ I understand that completely, because that’s exactly what it’s like.”

During his four years at UNT, Aguinaga was a member of UNT Glad, worked at the Pride Alliance office, helped with LGBT events and created TRIAD, a UNT organization that works with the intersex and transgender community of Denton.

“There’s a lot of mental health and depression that are prevalent in the queer community, and then you have parents or family members that are not supporting their queer family members or queer children,” Aguinaga said. “To have that community is really important to feeling accepted. It’s like a family. You argue and you fight, but at the end of the day, a lot of us come together and have the same ideals.”

Many schools across the U.S. now offer Lavender Graduation for their students. Other schools that have Lavender Graduation include the University of Texas, Columbia University and the University of Tennessee.

“I think it’s a good thing,” geography sophomore Daniel Gardner said. “It’s good to acknowledge what they had to go through.”

Featured Image of Kathleen Hobson by Steven James – Senior Staff Writer

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