Lavender Graduation Celebrates LGBT Students at BYU | News, Sports, Work



A central part of the Lavender Graduation Celebration for BYU students held in Provo on Saturday, April 16, 2022.

Ashtyn Asay, Daily Herald


Pins at Lavender’s graduation party for BYU students held in Provo on Saturday, April 16, 2022.

Ashtyn Asay, Daily Herald

It started to rain on Saturday at Lavender’s first graduation for Brigham Young University LGBT students, but most in attendance were accustomed to continuing in less than ideal conditions.

Lavender graduation ceremonies take place nationwide to honor LGBT students as a complement to the standard opening ceremonies offered by colleges and universities. This practice was created by Ronni Sanlo, a lesbian author, educator, and lawyer who was denied entry to her children’s graduation.

Now, over 200 universities have sanctioned Lavender’s annual graduations and are holding them on campus, but this illegal celebration for BYU students was sponsored by The OUT Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to empowering LGBT people, and Guru’s Cafe, a restaurant Try it. Due to the weather, the festivities took place in the garages of a Provo house.

In total, 22 LGBT graduate students were donated with lavender graduation cords that they can wear with their hats and dresses at the official BYU launch on Thursday. According to Roni Jo Draper, a former professor of multicultural education at BYU, who helped plan and organize the event, the ropes are meant to symbolize the extra work LGBT students must do to graduate from a university that does not fully accepts.

“I want them to know that we see them and we know the extra work they have to do to be able to complete their studies as LGBTQ persons,” Draper said. “Not because of their sexuality or gender identity, but because society has made it harder to be in those bodies. “My surprise is not a challenge for me, the way society reacts to my strangeness is a challenge for me.”

According to Tate, the surname hidden for reasons of privacy and security, the celebration of Lavender’s graduation was a truer expression of appreciation than other university-sanctioned events, most of which felt performing.

“I was not really sure what to expect, but it is something I really appreciate more than anything else that BYU has set for graduates because I know it is as unconditional here,” they said. “I show up here and they say ‘we’m proud of you, and we’re actually proud of you’, and at all the other BYU-sponsored events they’re like ‘we’m proud of you, let me talk about it all the things you don’t really like. “

Tate, who will be graduating from BYU with a bachelor’s degree in psychology, stated that they were forced to adjust their presentation depending on where they were on campus for fear of negative feedback.

“When I was at home, when I was out with my friends, it was always a very safe place. “But when I was in class I knew it was always a bit dangerous, but I’m kind of stupid, so I was willing to take that risk,” they said. “People say it’s smart to be careful, it’s smart not to tell anyone because then there is no way they can exclude you.”

According to Sarah Chan, who will graduate from BYU with a bachelor’s degree in environmental science, the removal of a section in the honor code on “homosexual behavior” regarding same-sex intimacy in early 2020 – followed later from a letter pulling that removal – made it hard for her to feel wanted as a student at Provo.

“With events like this happening, it’s hard to feel like BYU because an organization really wants you to be there, or wants to celebrate being there,” she said.

Chan hopes that eventually Lavender Graduation can be sanctioned by BYU in the future to show appreciation for graduates, but she does not see this happening soon.

“Events like this are just a way to show support and love, and I think at BYU this is not always like the message they want to send. “I feel like in the minds of the administration they do not necessarily want to be hated, I think it is somewhat unintentional,” she said. “I do not know if I can see it happening in the near future.”

According to Draper, one of the biggest obstacles she experienced while planning Lavender Graduation for BYU students was finding graduate students to invite, as many of them feel the need to hide their identity. However, she hopes Lavender Graduation can play a role in helping them feel seen and loved.

“I want them to know that they are valuable, that they are valued, that other people in the community see and value them,” Draper said.


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