First lavendar graduation honors LGBTQ+ gradautes

Marshall University celebrated the first ever Lavender Graduation on April 25, which commemorated students in the graduating class who were members of the LGBTQ+ community.

“Lavender Graduation is an annual ceremony conducted on numerous campuses to honor lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning and allied students,” Vice President of the Lambda society Marcus Williams said. “It is an opportunity to recognize the achievements of these individuals in environments that have been less that supportive.”

Ronni Sanlo designed the first Lavender Graduation in 1995 at the University of Michigan after she wasn’t allowed to attend her children’s graduation due to her sexual orientation. Three graduates attended the first ceremony but by 2001 there were over 45 Lavender Graduations nationwide.

“The color lavender was chosen due to its significance to the LGBTQ+ community,” Williams said.

Several Marshall students, both graduate and undergraduate, were recognized for their achievements and membership to the LGBTQ+ community. They were donned with lavender cords which they can wear when they walk at graduation in May.

Keynote speaker, Kathy Seelinger, spoke about her experiences and her pride she felt for the Lavender graduates.

“We meet today not only to celebrate your impending graduation but to acknowledge that we are at the start of a new era, an era of hope and promise,” Seelinger said. “No one has to remind you of our shared history of misunderstanding, hatred and oppression.”

Seelinger talked about the history of oppression for the LGBTQ+ community as well as other races but also talked about the small victories we have made.

“How often do you hear people say visually impaired children? Probably never,” Seelinger said. “Usually they say children with visual impairments because it’s respectful to put the person before the identification of the disability.”

Marshall University President Jerry Gilbert also spoke at the ceremony.

“I’m sure if I could speak to each of you individually today I’m sure you would echo the feelings of being impassioned, persistent and being brave,” Gilbert said. “Because of who I am, a straight man, I cannot empathize first hand with your struggles but through the lives of friends and family members I can see what a difficult time you’ve had to face.”

Michaela Crittenden can be contacted at [email protected].