The Taylor Center for Equity and Inclusion announced the first Lavender Graduation Celebration – a ceremony that will honor all students who identify as LGBTQ+. Those who register for the celebration will receive lavender cords to wear during the May 2019 graduation ceremony as a gift from the Taylor Center. There will also be a reception to celebrate these graduates.
“The purpose of this event is to acknowledge the value and uniqueness of LGBTQ+ student experiences and celebrate the accomplishments of graduates during their time at St. Olaf,” Asisstant Director for Wellness, Gender and Sexuality Jon Mergens wrote in an email.
In the past, the Taylor Center, formerly known as the Center for Multicultural and International Engagement (CMIE), planned a similar event for international students, Mergens said in an email.
“This year, we decided to expand that to three separate graduation celebration events to represent the various identity groups our office serves (LGBTQ+ students, Students of Color, International Students),” Mergens wrote. “Celebrating the acomplishments and recognizing the work of our students is as important as advocating and rallying around social justice and change.”
Allies of LGBTQ+ students may attend the event but are not invited to wear cords. The cords are a symbol for LGBTQ+ students to recognize their specific experiences.
The event will take place on Wednesday, May 8 in Viking Theater from 4-6 p.m.
Zipi Diamond ’20, co-coordinator of Gay Lesbian or Whatever (GLOW), said she thinks the LGBTQ+ community is excited about the new celebration and lavender cords.
Diamond said she knows other institutions have similar events and is glad St. Olaf has joined in acknowledging LGBTQ+ identities at graduation.
“I hope that the College also takes steps to affirm Oles with LGBTQ+ identities as they go through college, not just when graduating,” Diamond wrote in an email.
Although this celebration is a step in the right direction, Diamond said GLOW and the LGBTQ+ community hopes St. Olaf will move forward in other ways as well. She exemplified all-gender housing options and all-gender bathrooms.
GLOW has previously hosted a senior banquet to celebrate LGBTQ+ graduating seniors and provided rainbow cords.
“I’ve heard a few students say they’re excited about lavender, not rainbow cords, since they are more subtle and, for students who are not out to family members, the lavender cords are less outing than rainbow cords,” Diamond said.