One year ago, the GLBT Center celebrated its annual Lavender Graduation just days after the disappointing passage of North Carolina’s Amendment 1, which denies gays the right to marry. While several positive steps toward gay rights have occurred nationally since then, this year’s ceremony referred back to that moment in poignant ways.
Held for the first time in the beautiful new Hunt Library Auditorium on NC State’s Centennial Campus, the 2013 Lavender Graduation and Reception were the most well-attended and festive to date. GLBT Center Director Justine Hollingshead and Assistant Director Bekah Jaeger addressed a crowd of students, faculty, family, friends, and fellow Office for Institutional Equity and Diversity staff members, all allies of the GLBT community. In her remarks, Hollingshead pointed to rows of empty seats reserved according to tradition with lavender ribbon for GLBTQI graduates not able to attend, perhaps due to not yet having the personal freedom to publicly be part of the GLBT community. Hollingshead stated that this tradition will continue until the time it is no longer needed.
The ceremony included the presentation of graduates as well as the GLBT Center’s annual awards: the Thomas H. Stafford Lavender Leadership Award, which was given to Glen Edwards; the Evelyn Q. Reiman Outstanding Ally Award, which was given to Dr. Beth Neel; the Rachel L. Turner Rainbow Ally Award, which was given to Leslie Ware; and the It Gets Better Award, which was given to the College of Education and College of Sciences.
Rachel Turner, the student for whom the Rainbow Ally Award was named last year (pictured at top), was a graduating NC State senior this year. Active and well known in NC State’s GLBT Center, Rachel spoke movingly about how she began her work toward GLBT equality. Paradoxically, she thanked the author of Amendment 1 for inspiring her to work against it and causing her to meet many friends along the way.
Lavender Graduation is an annual ceremony conducted on numerous college campuses to honor lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and ally students and to acknowledge their contributions and achievements. The first Lavender Graduation began at the University of Michigan in 1995 with three graduates. By 2001, there were over 45 Lavender Graduation ceremonies at colleges and universities nationwide. Graduating students, including undergraduates and graduates, are invited to take part in the celebration, which occurs each year the week prior to university-wide commencement events. We hope to see you at next year’s Lavender Graduation!
For more information about NC State's GLBT Center, please see the GLBT Center website.