#DrewsViews: Lavender Graduation

by Drew Adams

Tis the season for grad bashes, yearbook signing, and Lavender Graduation! My GSA is hosting our first Lavender Graduation for the seniors this year, so it seems like a good time to talk about what it is and how it started.

Lavender Graduations are held each year on a lot of high school and college campuses to honor the LGBTQ students who are graduating. The Lavender Graduation doesn’t take the place of the cap-and-gown official ceremony, but it’s a chance to highlight the achievements of queer students and thank them for their contributions to the school. It also gives them a chance to be proud of who they are and how far they’ve come in the academic world.

Why lavender? The color lavender has been an important color in the history of gay rights because it’s a combination of the pink triangles that the Nazis made gay men wear and the black triangles that lesbians were forced to wear. It’s an example of reclaiming something awful and making it a positive symbol in the community.

Lavender Graduations started in 1995 in a somewhat sad way: Dr Ronni Sanlo, a Jewish lesbian and LGBT activist, wasn’t allowed to attend her kids’ graduations because of her sexual orientation, so the Dean of the University of Michigan where she worked encouraged her to hold the first Lavender Graduation. There were three students at that first Lavender Graduation, but the celebration has grown and spread to other schools since then. Dozens of colleges now hold Lavender Graduations each year, often through their student LGBTQ clubs or organizations. I’m excited that my chosen college, The University of Central Florida, is on that list!

Lavender Graduations can be as simple as a small reception or as big as a fancy ceremony. At my school, we’re having a Lavender Graduation breakfast for the whole GSA, and we’re giving the graduating seniors recognition certificates and lavender cords they can wear at the official school graduation. We’re also using Lavender Graduation to thank our GSA sponsors for all they do to support the LGBT students!

Is your school or LGBT group holding a Lavender Graduation?

About the Author:
Drew Adams is a transgender high school senior from Ponte Vedra, FL, who is committed to LGBTQ advocacy at the local and national levels. He serves as his high school GSA’s president and raises money for Northeast Florida’s LGBTQ youth outreach, JASMYN, to which he also donates food, toiletries and school supplies. Nationally, Drew serves as a youth ambassador and advocacy volunteer for The Trevor Project, a youth social media ambassador for the Matthew Shepard Foundation, and a Volunteer and Intern Coordinator for Point of Pride. On the legislative side, Drew lobbies for the Equality Act by visiting with his Congressional representatives and their staff.

Additionally, Drew has spent years fighting to change his school district’s bathroom policy to be trans-inclusive, and the fight is still ongoing. Drew is an International Baccalaureate student and a volunteer at the Mayo Clinic, and he hopes to go to medical school and become an adolescent psychiatrist specializing in transgender health. For fun, he practices Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, creates sculpture art and plays the piano.