With the coronavirus pandemic canceling graduation ceremonies, LGBTQ college seniors will have the opportunity to participate in a virtual Lavender Graduation on Saturday, the 25th anniversary of an in-person event that began in 1995 at the University of Michigan.
At the first Lavender Graduation, “LGBTQ+ students were largely unseen — and unsafe — on college campuses," said Shane Windmeyer, executive director of Campus Pride, in an email. "There has been tremendous progress since, but COVID-19 has made many LGBTQ+ students again invisible and unsafe.”
The event, cohosted by Campus Pride and PFLAG, nonprofits that help the LGBTQ community, will feature prerecorded material from members of the class of 2020, leaders in the private sector, elected officials and activists. Viewers are encouraged to use the #LAVGrads hashtag.
Rep. Sharice Davids, D-Kan., will contribute a clip in which she speaks about “the added challenges LGBTQ youth face in school, as well as her path to Congress and lessons she’s learned along the way,” according to her office. She will be joined virtually by Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wis., Rep. Angie Craig, D-Minn., and Chris Pappas D-N.H.
"Graduation is not a given. It takes drive, tenacity, and support from family and friends to achieve, which is doubly true for LGBTQ+ students,” said Diego Sanchez, director of advocacy, policy and partnerships for PFLAG National. “To members of the Lavender Class of 2020, PFLAG families across the country swell with pride in you.”
“I just wanted to congratulate the entire class of 2020 on graduating this year — even if it’s not how we imagined it,” said Grace Wright-Pazdra, graduating senior at Marymount Manhattan College, who studied politics and human rights.
“Our accomplishments are special and important and the point of view that we share with the world as LGBTQ individuals is equally important. Be proud of yourself for who you are and that you're graduating,” Wright-Pazdra said.
“I just wanted to extend my heartfelt congratulations to everybody who's graduating in the class of 2020, especially all of those amazing LGBTQ+ students,” said Greg Miraglia, head of the LGBT studies program at Napa Valley College.
“Your courage and your bravery in getting through college is really quite extraordinary, and I think your graduation signifies that. So keep it up, keep being strong, keep being courageous and keep being yourself,” Miraglia said, as Kyler Thompson, president of the LGBT club at Napa Valley College, cheered and clapped softly in the background of the Zoom call.