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A Lavender Tradition

Annual Lavender Graduation honors graduates who are part of the campus LGBTQ community.
Graduates receive a rainbow cord to wear as part of their commencement regalia.
Graduates receive a rainbow cord to wear as part of their commencement regalia.

San Diego State University students are trading the traditional red and black for lavender on Wednesday, May 7, at the 5th annual Lavender Graduation. The event honors graduating students who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer or allies.

“I remember a time when a ceremony like this would have been impossible,” said Esther Rothblum, SDSU women’s studies professor and adviser for the university’s LGBT Studies Program. “Having the support of the entire campus community is very special.”

Arturo Garcia Sierra is a journalism major who will be participating in the ceremony. “It's important to offer Lavender Graduation to acknowledge the strong presence of the queer community on campus," he said.

"For me, it feels like the perfect way to wrap up my five years here. A lot of the work I did here — at The Aztec, in the classroom or with the Queer Student Union — was both a personal journey to self-embracement and my wish to promote visibility for the community, so it feels like the type of graduation I truly desire.”

During the ceremony, which is open to all SDSU students, graduates receive a certificate and a rainbow cord to wear as part of their commencement regalia.

Meaningful celebration

The Lavender Graduation ceremony is not a replacement for the university’s traditional commencement ceremony, said Rothblum, but an opportunity for students in the LGBT community — along with their family and friends — to celebrate their accomplishments in a personal and meaningful way.

“The rainbow cords symbolize for me my diversity and courage,” said Lucia Napolez, who majored in  both Spanish and international security and conflict resolution and minored in LGBT studies. “I will be proud walking with them on later this month.”

Sierra added, “One of the most important types of education I received in college, if not the most,  is understanding that I'm part of a complex community. Getting to know a lot of my peers from the queer community was both a joy and a life-changing lesson.”

The ceremony has grown each year beginning with just 18 participants in 2010, to more than 30 this year.

Graduates majoring in everything from LGBT studies to homeland security, journalism, psychology, business administration, women’s studies and public health will be participating in this year’s Lavender Graduation.

Event details

The Lavender Graduation is free and open to the public. It will take place at 2 p.m. on Wednesday, May 7, at SDSU’s Parma Payne Goodall Alumni Center. Refreshments will be served, and parking is free in Parking Structure 5.

During the event, three people will be honored for their work with SDSU’s LGBTQ community:  Aaron Bruce, SDSU’s chief diversity officer; Carrie Sakai, the co-chair of SafeZones@SDSU; and attorney Robert DeKoven, former Associated Students president and donor of this year’s honor cords.

This year’s SafeZones award will go to Anzio Jacobs, a student from the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, who is completing a semester-long internship at SDSU working with the SafeZones@SDSU.

SDSU Commencement

Approximately 9,300 degree candidates will participate in SDSU’s Commencement ceremonies May 16 to 19 at Viejas Arena.  SDSU Imperial Valley campus will also host a commencement ceremony May 15 on their Rollie Carrillo Quad. Schedules and additional information about SDSU’s Commencement ceremonies can be found online.

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