Rainbow-themed food and decorations complemented the safe, supportive atmosphere created for the graduation of LGBTQ+ students.
The Lavender Graduation was created as a safe place for LGBTQ+ students, some who have not yet come out to friends and family.
The event on April 18 was hosted by UCM PRISM; women, gender and sexuality studies; and the Center for Multiculturalism and Inclusivity.
MJ Miller, graduate assistant with Housing and Fraternity and Sorority Life, said this event wouldn’t have been possible without the outside help.
Miller said PRISM doesn’t have a lot of money so she reached out to other campus partners and explained the importance of the event to see if they could help support the graduation.
“The Office of Student Experience and Engagement sponsored the cords, Center for Multiculturalism and Inclusivity sponsored all of our food tonight, which made it easier for this event to happen without putting a strain on PRISM’s financial resources,” Miller said.
While there were only two graduates who walked and were presented cords in person, the ceremony gave others a chance to receive a diploma with their preferred name and be recognized by a group who supports them.
Bryce Klein, senior child and family development and women, gender and sexuality studies major, said events like this are important to help represent the LGBTQ+ community while in a safe space.
“I really think the significance for me, and a lot of trans students who don’t use their legal name, this is one of the only documents that will have their preferred name and it’s nice to have something that someone recognizes you as that name,” Klein said.
Throughout his time at UCM, Klein said he has been active in the LGBTQ+ community and forged important relationships.
“Sarah Ray Rondot — she’s been my mentor for at least two and a half years now. She’s been at almost everything that I’ve asked her to be at, even if she didn’t have to be,” Klein said. “All the ambassadors of the women and gender studies department are here supporting me and they were asked to come but they truly didn’t have to, so it’s nice to see all their faces.”
Klein said the support is an act of kindness and love.
“A lot of people in the LGBTQ+ community don’t get that all the time, especially in public settings,” he said, “so it’s good to be in a private setting where people show their beautiful hearts and support.”
Sean Ryun, senior biology major, gave a speech at the event, saying that being queer is not 100% of his identity.
“Being gay is just part of who I am and I didn’t really celebrate it,” Ryun said. “Then when I joined PRISM and I saw all of these beautiful queer people just being genuinely themselves and feeling comfortable, I fell in love.”
When Klein and Ryun were recognized that evening, they received a lavender cord that they will be able to wear during their graduation from UCM.
“Heck yeah I’m going to be wearing my lavender cord,” Ryun said. “It represents freedom. This is who I am and I’m not going to be anything else.”
Klein said the cord represents support that the department has given him.
“They have lavender cord for the LGBTQ+ community that represents how much they care about us, how much they support us and it’s nice to wear that on graduation day and just know that even if your biological family isn’t there, your student and faculty family is there,” Klein said.
The entire room was filled with a sense of pride and support. When Klein and Ryun walked the stage that night, their heads were held high with smiles that lit up the room. Cheers, clapping, hugs and congratulatory comments continued beyond the ceremony.
“The main graduation is nice and sentimental, but those aren’t the people who have seen you grow as a person,” Ryun said. “So having an event like this, having your advisers and the people that you’ve grown with for the past four years, it’s such a beautiful experience.”
Miller said she was very pleased with the event.
“We’ve been working on this since last semester, so getting to see it all come to fruition, even if it took a little while, was really worth it,” she said.