Lavender Graduation welcomes all, turns three on May 15

The LGBT Resource Center hosts Lavender Graduation on May 15. Like the center, the graduation ceremony boasts an open-door policy, but participants must register by May 11. (Photo by Troye Fox)

Lavender joins black and gold on Tuesday, May 15, when the UWM LGBT Resource Center hosts the third annual Lavender Graduation celebration in the Union Wisconsin Room, 7-9 p.m.

Lavender Graduation first came to campus in 2010 after two years of requests, planning and preparations by students, faculty and staff, the leadership Joan Prince, vice chancellor for global inclusion & engagement, and a generous donation from Joseph Pabst.

“One way UWM demonstrates a commitment to diversity is through the recognition of its LGBT graduates at Lavender Graduation,” says College of Letters & Science senior Samuel Busch, who watched his friends walk as lavender graduates during the 2011 ceremony and vowed not to miss his turn this year. “Because I believe in UWM’s mission to support all students – regardless of background, ethnicity, sex or sexual orientation – I am excited to walk in Lavender Graduation.”

“It’s a culmination of the UWM experience for LGBT students and folks on campus. We want to celebrate every student who graduates, and give future graduates a tradition to look forward to,” says LGBT Resource Center Director Jen Murray.

Reinforcing this message and the university’s recent ranking as the No. 12 gay-friendly university in the nation is UWM Chancellor Michael R. Lovell, who will speak at the May 15 event. Peck School of the Arts Associate Professor Kim Cosier and alumna Rachael Carlson will provide remarks and musical entertainment, respectively.

Every “lav grad” will receive a rainbow tassel at the ceremony, but caps and gowns are not required. All that organizers and participants ask is that attendees come with an open mind and be ready to hug and high five as needed. A cascade of cupcakes and other refreshments will be provided post-ceremony.

Come one, come all

LGBT is the standard acronym for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender. Many college students who identify as LGBT have supportive and loving families and friends who stand by them during college and celebrate them on graduation day. Lavender Graduation is for those students.

Murray and Assistant Director Warren Scherer prioritize the center’s on-campus presence as a safe space where any student can feel welcome and be totally zhim or zhirself. They pay particular attention to the needs of students who have been bullied or isolated as a result of their actual or perceived gender identity and expression.

“Some of our students come from families that do not celebrate their accomplishments,” Murray admits.

Lavender Graduation is for them, too.

That’s why, when Scherer invites students and supporters to Lav Grad, he uses a fluid definition of family. “Students are encouraged to bring family and friends, in however they define family and friends.”

“Any LGBTQIA student who graduated in fall ’11 or spring or summer ’12, who chooses to be recognized as a lavender graduate is welcome,” says Scherer.

QIA is the standard acronym for queer, intersex and ally.

Are you a lavender graduate?

The LGBT Resource Center is accepting any and all lavender graduation candidates through May 11. To walk as a lavender graduate on May 15, email lavgrad@uwm.edu