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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Lavender Graduation celebrates graduating LGBTQ+ students

Photo by Hannah Shaffer

Senior Jesse Dennis walks off the stage of the Lavender graduation.

With less than 30 days until the first spring commencement ceremonies begin, the LGBTQ+ Pride Center hosted its own graduation ceremony in honor of LGBTQ+ students. 
On Saturday, April 9 at 7 p.m., the Texas A&M Pride Center celebrated LBGTQ+ Aggies with the Lavender Graduation ceremony in Rudder Theatre. The ceremony served to recognize the accomplishments of graduating students who identify within the LBGTQ+ community.
Director of gender and sexual diversity for the Offices of the Dean of Student Life Heather Wheeler, Class of 2003, said Lavender Graduation represents inclusivity and acceptance for the LGBTQ+ community at A&M.
“The first Lavender Graduation at A&M was held in 2014,” Wheeler said. “Our keynote speaker then was judge Phyllis Frye, the first openly transgender judge appointed in the United States.”
The annual ceremony is not offered only at A&M, Wheeler said. According to the Human Rights Campaign, over 200 colleges and universities in the United States celebrate Lavender Graduation ceremonies. The first Lavender Graduation in the nation was held in 1995 by Ronni Sanlo at the University of Michigan, Wheeler said. After being denied entry to her own child’s graduation because of her identity as a lesbian, Sanlo created Lavender Graduation for other students who felt excluded because of their identities, Wheeler said. 
“A lot of our students [at A&M] experience discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity,” Wheeler said. “Lavender Graduation is a time to flip that on the head and celebrate who they are and what their identities mean to them.”
Environmental design architecture senior and Squadron 20 cadet George Hass said the graduation allows LGBTQ+ students to celebrate their identities and the progress that A&M has made toward being more accepting of the community.
“On A&M’s campus, we sometimes don’t feel the most welcome,” Hass said. “The fact that Lavender Graduation is offered for us is nice. It makes me feel seen.”
Pride Center mentor and history senior Jesse Dennis represented the Corps of Cadets Delta Company, a unit composed entirely of veterans, as he walked the stage during the Lavender Graduation ceremony. Dennis said the ceremony helped celebrate not only LGBTQ+ students, but cadets as well.
“There’s a level of recognition for the achievements and success of queer students and cadets, especially at a historically military university,” Dennis said. “Those of us who are student veterans have that representation, and it can be shown across the university.”
Those who participated in Lavender Graduation received a lavender stole which can be worn at the commencement ceremonies in May. For Hass, the stole represents the achievements of LGBTQ+ students on campus.
“People don’t understand the significance of [the lavender stole] if they’re not necessarily a part of it,” Hass said. “A lot of us are really accomplished and are leaders in our own specific groups, and that means that we also deserve a little bit of recognition for it.”
Lavender Graduation allows participants to celebrate their academic achievements and leadership roles as well as their identity, Wheeler said. As graduates walked the stage, a list of their accomplishments during their time at A&M was read along with their name and degree. Family, friends and allies gathered during the ceremony to celebrate participants.

“It’s like you have someone in your corner fighting for you,” Dennis said. “Even when you can’t stand up for yourself, there’s someone who will.”

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