Lavender Graduation

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Lavender Graduation is an annual ceremony conducted at universities to honor LGBT students and to acknowledge their accomplishments and contributions.[1] It was created by Ronni Sanlo, a Jewish lesbian keynote speaker in LGBT communities.[2] Lavender Graduation is an informal complement to the graduation ceremony, rather than a replacement.[3]


Sanlo began this tradition because she was denied access to attend her own children's graduations due to her sexual orientation. Sanlo mentions that up "until 1995, there were no ceremonies to honor our LGBT students. There were only ceremonies for students of various ethnicities and for other groups like ROTC, but nothing for our students, those to tend to feel most disenfranchised from their colleges and universities."[4]

The first Lavender Graduation took place at the University of Michigan in 1995 with three graduates. In 1997 Sanlo took the ceremony with her to UCLA, where it was an instant success. By 2001 over 45 campuses nationwide included such ceremonies.[1]


The ceremony includes a commencement speaker. This speaker can be a student or a guest.[3] Attendees can be of any sexual orientation/gender and can attend formal commencement. It is usually held before formal commencement.

The color lavender is important to LGBT history because it combines the pink triangle that gay men were forced to wear and the black triangle that marked lesbians in Nazi Germany into a symbol of pride.[1][5]


Speakers include Congressman David Cicilline, who spoke at Georgetown’s Lavender Graduation in 2011, and Alexandra Billings, at the University of Illinois at Chicago.[6][7]


Jonathan Saenz, President of Texas Values, a Texas based organization advocating for traditional family values, stated, “This special Texas A&M ceremony essentially promotes and celebrates dangerous and risky sexual activity that can fiercely jeopardize a person’s well-being....I’m not sure this is the most responsible way for a university to prepare students for the real world.” Saenz saw this as a direct violation of the then ban on gay marriage. The A&M Student Senate and one state Legislator unsuccessfully tried to delete funding from the LGBT resource.[8]


  1. ^ a b c "Lavender Graduation". Human Rights Campaign. Retrieved 15 February 2015. 
  2. ^ "About Ronni". Retrieved 15 February 2015. 
  3. ^ a b "Lavender Graduation tradition celebrates LGBT students". USA TODAY College. Retrieved 15 February 2015. 
  4. ^ "Lavender Graduation: A Time for Celebration". Campus Pride. Retrieved 15 February 2015. 
  5. ^ "Lavender Graduation: A Time for Celebration". Campus Pride. Retrieved 15 February 2015. 
  6. ^ .O'Keeffe, Kevin. "Lavender Graduation Tradition Celebrates LGBT Students." USA TODAY College. 3 May 2014. Web. 30 Apr. 2015. <>.
  7. ^ Hauswirth, Kevin. Web. 30 Apr. 2015. <>.
  8. ^ Wright, John. "Anti-gay Leader Says A&M’s Lavender Graduation “celebrates Dangerous and Risky Sexual Activity”." Anti-gay Leader Says A&M’s Lavender Graduation “celebrates Dangerous and Risky Sexual Activity”. Web. 30 Apr. 2015. <>.