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Lavender Graduation honors LGBTQ students and allies

By web

Section: News

April 26, 2013

This past Thursday, members of the 2013 graduating class marched in the second annual Lavender Graduation to receive recognition for their numerous accomplishments while at Brandeis. However, this was not simply an early graduation exercise. Instead, Lavender Graduation was a way of celebrating LGBTQQIA students and their allies in an intimate, yet formal, environment.

The LGBT community has not always had a positive relationship with the term “lavender.” However, judging by the plethora of streamers, balloons, and clothing in different shades of purple, the color has been reclaimed for honoring these students.

Professors Bernadette Brooten and Susan Lanser served as MCs for the night. They welcomed the fifteen graduates in the audience with an oral history of the LGBT community at Brandeis. Both remarked upon the continuing trend toward more openness on campus since each began working at the university. Professor Brooten also noted that this was the 35th year of the Women’s and Gender Studies Department as well as the 30th year since Triskelion (Trisk) was founded.

Dillon Harvey ’14, the coordinator of Trisk, delivered a student leadership speech. Noting his junior status in comparison to most in the room, he continued to encourage the graduates to “always remain aware, vigilant and brave” in addressing adversity, and advising them to “commence the house down” during their graduation ceremony with the rest of the student body.

Halee Brown, a member of the Sex and Sexualities Symposium and Trisk, gave a heartfelt speech, recalling the victories of the past few years, including Trans Awareness Week, gender neutral changing space in the pool facility, and of course, Lavender Graduation itself. She still pointed out, however, the necessity of a full time coordinator for sexuality and diversity. She closed in saying, “My Brandeis is queer Brandeis; it’s up to you all to stick with your inner rebel and push until everyone’s Brandeis is queer Brandeis. It’s the best Brandeis I know.”

Jennifer Cleary (THA) was the keynote speaker of the night and gave a little more traditional graduation fare. She expressed the importance of “not planning for the rest of your life” and encouraged the audience to partake in the mantra several times. “Look around and take a mental picture of this moment … Remember who is around you,” she said.

Jesse Beal, the Program Coordinator for Sexuality and Gender Diversity, explained that a Lavender Graduation takes place at many different universities throughout the country, including Georgetown University, the University of Southern California and the University of California-Berkeley. The presence of one is taken into account in the campus climate index, a tool to determine how LGBTQ friendly a campus is. Beal also talked about how “homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia exist here too” and how those seniors recognized work very hard to make Brandeis more aware of it. The presence of many university officials, including Andrew Flagel, Alwina Bennett and Jamele Adams “all show that queer issues are Brandeis issues.”

Many of the graduates were impressed by the intimate yet sophisticated atmosphere of the event. Andrew Honig ’13, was not an active participant in queer organizations before becoming involved with the Sex and Sexualities Symposium this past year. Honig said, “When I first started, I felt [the community] was very closed off,” but he has seen that the community has become more open since then. The Lavender Graduation reflected this close-knit atmosphere.

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