Assistant News Editor
Forty seniors will don rainbow tassels on their caps to self-identify as members of the LGBTQ community at May commencement after participating in the first Lavender Graduation at VCU.
All graduating students who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered or queer were invited to participate in the inaugural ceremony. The event served as a precursor to the official commencement ceremony, but was not meant to replace it, organizers said.
The 40 students who participated in the ceremony were honored for their achievements as students at VCU and given their rainbow tassels.
Amber McNeal, a freshman member of QueerAction at VCU, helped organize the ceremony. She acknowledges the possibility of judgment of the graduates for wearing the tassels, but said it’s nothing they haven’t faced before.
“There’s a bigger issue if people are going to be targeted because they are expressing their identity and sexual orientation,” McNeal said. “That just points at a larger problem.”
More than 100 guests attended the Lavender Graduation held at Scott House on the 900 block of West Franklin Street on Friday night. Leticia Flores, Ph.D., director of the VCU Center for Psychological Services and Development, said the ceremony is a show of solidarity from the VCU LGBTQ community.
“It’s very much done in the spirit of solidarity and celebration,” Flores said.
“We’re all just very happy to be able celebrate these individuals as they finish their college of graduate school careers.
In the long run, the Lavender Graduation will serve a greater purpose, Flores said.
“It allows everyone in the VCU community to identify and see this as a really great thing so that in the future, there’s no greater consideration of sexual orientation or gender identity as (there is) about what major you’re in,” Flores said. “It’s just another part of the individual’s life that we celebrate.”
The first Lavender Graduation was held at the University of Michigan in 1995. The tradition has since spread to schools across the country, including Virginia Tech.
The color lavender is used for the ceremony because of its importance in LGBTQ history. Lavender is a combination of the pink triangle gay men were forced to wear and the black triangle used to mark lesbians as political prisoners in Nazi Germany.
VCU Lavender Graduation was sponsored by the VCU Department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies, VCU Office of the Provost, VCU and MCV Alumni Associations, VCU Committee for Equity and Diversity and the LGBT Subcommittee, QueerAction, MCV Health Collective and the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs. CT