The University of Miami will be hosting the first Lavender Celebration, a graduation celebration for LGBT seniors, on May 6 in the Newman Alumni Center. The event is organized by UM LGBTQ Student Life and sponsored by the Toppel Career Center.
Lavender graduation was started in 1995 at the University of Michigan to honor LGBT students’ and allies’ contributions to their respective universities, according to information compiled by the Human Rights Campaign.
In 2013, a task force was created to evaluate the needs of the LGBT community at UM. Part of their job, according to planning subcommittee member Brian Reece, has been to look at nationwide benchmarks and translate them to UM-specific events and policies for the LGBT community.
Lavender Celebration is just one of those, said Reece, who is also the associate director of assessment and communication at the Toppel Career Center.
“We want to send them off feeling like they’re appreciated and always welcomed here at the U,” he said.
Attendees will have a chance to listen to an alumni speaker, be recognized for their achievements, receive a rainbow graduation cord and mingle at a reception after the ceremony.
According to Reece, those schools that are top-rated for being LGBT-inclusive all have programs at the end of the year for graduates. He has worked at several institutions that host Lavender graduation events annually, and the overwhelming sentiment from attendees has been of happiness.
“There’s a real sense of joy that I can’t describe,” Reece said. “We’re really excited to kick off this effort.”
For students like senior Timothy Bell, Lavender Celebration symbolizes the connection between members of the LGBT community.
“To me, sexuality does not define a person but it makes you part of a larger community,” said Bell, who will graduate in May with a BFA in Acting. “At the end of the day there are people like you that are people who care about you.”
Bell said that coming to UM helped him fully realize his true identity, both as an individual and as a gay man. A large part of that was having a web of support in the form of friends and fraternity brothers from Lambda Chi Alpha.
The inaugural Lavender Celebration will be a marker of the work the university and students have done over the past few years to make UM a safe, welcoming and comfortable place for LGBT people.
“This is important because it’s no longer a ‘we’re here, we’re queer, get used to it.’ It’s a celebration by us, for us,” Bell said.
Featured image courtesy UPride