Caps and gowns make black the color most associated with graduation, but two Eccles School students celebrated their graduation in a lighter shade – lavender.
Fernando Herrera and Brian Truong – both Business Administration majors – participated in this year’s Lavender Graduation put on by the University’s LGBT Resource Center. The ceremony is held each year to honor graduating LGBT students and their achievements.
The tradition started at the University of Michigan in 1995, and it has since spread to dozens of campuses across the country. It has become an annual tradition here at the University of Utah, with students from across campus represented at the 13th annual celebration. The gathering featured four student speakers and a keynote address by Dean Raymond Tymas-Jones from the College of Fine Arts, as well as a welcome from the Utah Alumni Association.
But why have a graduation ceremony outside your degree?
“The college experience can be really difficult and onerous for [LGBTQ] people,” said Andrew Hayes, a student organizer of the event. “So we want a celebration that can recognize that and honor that we’ve survived.”
The color lavender is significant in LGBTQ history, Hayes added, as a symbolic blending of the pink triangles gay men were forced to wear in concentration camps and the black triangle that designated lesbians as political prisoners in Nazi Germany.
Each student received a lavender cord, or a stole for those who have completed the LGBTQ center’s student leadership program, that is included in their formal graduation regalia.
“This is the only graduation where I can be my true self,” said student speaker Heidi Qin.
Herrera and Truong were both excited to participate and proudly wore their lavender regalia to the Eccles School graduation.
“We want to be visible,” Truong said. “We want to let people know we’re here.”