Lavender Graduation Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is Lavender Graduation?

Lavender Graduation is an annual celebration of community that recognizes LGBTQA students by acknowledging their achievements and contributions to Gallaudet University. The event also recognizes significant contributions made by faculty, staff, and student allies to improve our campus climate around LGBTQA identities. It is our opportunity to thank you for your contributions to the Gallaudet LGBTQA community! The evening includes a meaningful ceremony, keynote address, and presentation of awards. Graduates who participate will receive a certificate and purple stole and tassel that may be worn during Commencement and/or department ceremonies. The evening also features a reception and opportunities to meet new and old friends as we celebrate the Gallaudet LGBTQA community and tradition of pride and activism on campus.

2. What does LGBTQA stand for? What is an ally?

The acronym LGBTQA represents a broad array of various identities including (but not limited to): L: Lesbian G: Gay B: Bisexual T: Transgender Q: Queer/Questioning A: Asexual/Ally   A person who identifies as asexual may have little-to-no sexual feelings or desires. An ally may be a straight or cisgender person who believes in, unconditionally accepts, sympathizes with, and fights for the rights and dignity of LGBTQA-identified people.

3. Who attends Lavender Graduation? Who can participate?

If you are a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning or asexual student or a straight or cisgender ally who is graduating in the Spring or completed all graduation requirements the winter or summer of that academic year, you may register to attend Lavender Graduation. You must be registered in order to participate in Lavender Graduation, and receive your certificate, stole, and/or tassel if you cannot attend the ceremony.

4. When is Lavender Graduation?

Traditionally, we have hosted the Lavender Graduation two days prior to commencement, typically on Wednesday evening. Please check for further updates on the exact date.

5. Why should I participate as a graduate?

Lavender Graduation recognizes your accomplishments as an LGBTQA student or ally during your student career at Gallaudet. It is an opportunity to celebrate with community and serves as your formal "goodbye" to the Gallaudet LGBTQA community. You will be able to publicly thank supportive family, friends, teachers, mentors, and peers, and will serve as an inspiration to fellow students.

6. I identify as a straight ally and/or cisgender ally to the LGBTQA community. Can I participate in Lavender Graduation?

Yes! Straight and/or cisgender allies are welcome to participate in Lavender Graduation. You do not have to identify as LGBTQA in order to participate. Allies are those who take a stand when injustices occur against LGBTQA individuals and communities, but who are careful to lift and honor the voices and experiences of those who are themselves LGBTQA. Being an ally is a lifelong journey.

7. Do I have to choose between participating in Lavender Graduation or Commencement?

No, you do not have to choose between Lavender Graduation and Commencement. You may participate in both ceremonies. Lavender Graduation is held on Wednesday, May 11, 2016, while Commencement will be held Friday, May 13, 2016. If you register for Lavender Graduation, you will receive a purple stole and tassel on or before Wednesday, May 11th. Many Lavender Graduates choose to wear their purple stole and tassel with their graduation regalia (cap and gown) during Commencement and other campus ceremonies.

8. Do I have to be an LGBTQA student leader or significantly involved with the LGBTQA community on campus in order to participate in Lavender Graduation?

No, you do not. Lavender Graduation celebrates all sorts of achievements by LGBTQA and ally students regardless of their level of activism or involvement with the LGBTQA community at Gallaudet University.

9. What should I wear to the ceremony?

"Business casual" dress is encouraged. You are not required to wear your graduation cap and gown.. We recognize and celebrate the full range of gender identities and expressions and respect the right of individuals to determine how they are most comfortable dressing.

10. Who started the tradition of Lavender Graduation? Why Lavender?

The concept of the Lavender Graduation ceremony was created in 1995 by Dr. Ronni Sanlo, a Jewish woman and lesbian who was denied the opportunity to attend her children's college graduation because of her sexual orientation. With support from the Dean of Students at the University of Michigan, Dr. Sanlo realized that LGBTQ students of all races, ethnicities, and backgrounds needed to be recognized for "not only their achievements but for surviving their college years" in campus environments that were less than supportive (Sanlo, 2000). The graduation began with a vision of helping students to feel more connected to their institution and invited to celebrate their identities.

Thanks to the hard work and pioneering efforts of Gallaudet alumnus Stephanie "Najma" Johnson '14 and staff member Eloise Molock, Gallaudet University celebrated its first Lavender Graduation on May 8th, 2012. The Lavender Graduation tradition has since continued annually at Gallaudet, most recently under the planning auspices of the LGBTQA Resource Center. The 2016 Lavender Graduation is the fifth such annual event here at Gallaudet University. The color lavender plays a historic role in LGBTQA history and has considerable significance to the LGBTQA community. It is a combination of the pink triangle that gay men were forced to wear in concentration camps and the black triangle designating lesbians as political prisoners in Nazi Germany. The LGBTQA rights movement took these symbols of hatred and combined them to make symbols and color of pride and community.

11. Who is coordinating Lavender Graduation?

The Lavender Graduation Planning Committee consists of Gallaudet student organizers who collaborate with the LGBTQA Resource Center on campus to develop, plan, coordinate, and facilitate the event itself. Individual faculty, staff, alumni, and on-campus departments and organizations, including Rainbow Society (Gallaudet's LGBTQA student organization) assist in ensuring a successful event. Every year, Lavender Graduation would not be possible without the assistance of Campus Activities, Gallaudet Interpreting Service (GIS), and the Office of Diversity and Equity for Students (ODES), as well as the support of the University administration, faculty, staff, and student body.

12. Does it cost anything to participate in Lavender Graduation?

No. Lavender Graduation is free to participating graduates and attendees.

13. I would like to help plan and volunteer for next year's Lavender Graduation. How can I sign up?

We always welcome volunteers! Because Lavender Graduation is an event that will continue for years to come, we especially encourage first-year and sophomore students to step forward and help with the planning so that when it's your turn to graduate, you will already know how this event is run! Please email lgbtqa@gallaudet.edu to indicate your interest in volunteering. Thank you!