Lavender Graduation celebrates LGBTQ graduates


Photo by Rachael Le Goubin.

Kelsey Leyva

Gender sexuality minority students received recognition for their involvement and accomplishments in the LGBTQ community alongside their allies Monday night at the first lavender graduation.

The ceremony honored three graduating seniors and three undergraduate students, and Molly Merryman, associate professor in the sociology department and co-coordinator of LGBT studies, gave the keynote address. Her speech focused on reflecting on the past to shape the future.

Merryman’s speech reflected on how the past shaped the future of LGBTQ rights, and specifically noted the Stonewall riots, which many associate with the beginning of modern LGBTQ rights.

“I could argue that Stonewall happened at the right time and in the right city,” she said, “and through that it captured the attention of many in this country, including people here in the Midwest. The year 1969 was a time of counter cultural revolution, sexual liberation and an ever standing Civil Rights Movement.”

Merryman discussed how these events affected today’s culture.

“So now we live in a time where white privileged gays and lesbians push for marriage equality, but at the same time the poor, working class and middle class and particularly trans-people are fired, lose their children and are evicted,” she said. “This is where you come in. You’re the product of liberal reforms that have allowed you to be out.”

Roxie Patton, program coordinator for the LGBTQ Center, said she could not have been more pleased with the event.

“I’m very excited with the turnout,” Patton said. “I think the great thing was we had faculty [and] staff. We had students. We had people from different campuses. Molly’s speech was spectacular, and I was just so excited to be able to recognize some of the amazing accomplishments of our students.”

Gina Milania Freeman, senior communication studies major, said she was happy to participate in the ceremony.

“I was excited that I was asked to come,” Freeman said. “Sometimes its just that black students need certain things, Hispanic students need certain things and it’s nice have something for all of the LGBTQ students.”

Merryman encouraged all attendees to continuing fighting for what they believe.

“It’s important to stay engaged. Don’t let that struggle limit who you are, and don’t let that struggle limit who you can be,” Merryman said. “And don’t let that struggle determine what it is you will care about and what you will do. Continue to fight.”

Contact Kelsey Leyva at [email protected].