In 2017, the percentage of adults who identify as LGBT+ rose to 4.5 percent in the United States, according to a study by Gallup. More than ever, college campuses are choosing to celebrate those students by offering Lavender Ceremonies. These ceremonies are informal graduations held by universities to honor and celebrate members and allies of the LGBTQIA+ community.
Dr. Ronni Sandlo held the very first Lavender Ceremony at the University of Michigan in 1995. Sandlo was unable to attend her biological children’s graduation due to her sexual orientation. That experience made her more aware of that pain and discrimination felt by her students. This motivated Sandlo to create her own graduation ceremony to celebrate the accomplishments of the LGBTQIA+ students and allies in a safe and accepting environment.
Since then, more than 200 universities across the U.S. have established the ceremony as part of their traditions.
Interim Director of Residential Life, Monique Rew-Bigelow, and graduating senior Jessica Burley have been the driving forces behind bringing the Lavender Ceremony to Brockport after deciding to present at the 2018 Diversity Conference.
Burley says that this event is not a replacement to graduation, but rather a complimentary ceremony to honor the accomplishments of her fellow graduates in the LGBTQIA+ community.
“College is a time for transition on a lot of different levels. Anybody that wants to participate is welcome and encouraged too. It doesn’t mean you have to put a label on yourself. You can come as you are and participate, be a Brockport graduate, be a Brockport alum and be really proud of that,” says Rew-Bigelow.
May 3, 2019 marked the first Lavender Ceremony on The College at Brockport campus. With many more to come, the college continues to welcome diversity and celebrate inclusion into the future.