The Lavender Pre-Commencement Celebration is a new stride to support and recognize our underrepresented community. Hosting this kind of ceremony is common among many community colleges and universities: Lavender Graduation—or, in our case, Lavender Pre-Commencement Celebration. Similar to Veteran, Black, and Chicano Pre-Commencement Celebrations, the Lavender Pre-Commencement Celebration is a ceremony conducted on numerous campuses to honor lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and ally students and to acknowledge their achievements and contributions to the College. This year, at Bakersfield College, we joined this tradition. Lavender Graduation is a cultural celebration that recognizes LGBTQ students of all races and ethnicities and acknowledges their achievements and contributions to the university as students who survived the college experience.
Lavender is important to LGBTQ history. It is a combination of the pink triangle that gay men were forced to wear in concentration camps and the black triangle designating lesbians as political prisoners in Nazi Germany. The LGBTQ civil rights movement took these symbols of hatred and combined them to make symbols and colors of pride and community.
The Lavender Graduation Ceremony was created by Dr. Ronni Sanlo, a Jewish Lesbian, who was denied the opportunity to attend the graduations of her biological children because of her sexual orientation. It was through this experience that she came to understand the pain felt by her students. Encouraged by the Dean of Students at the University of Michigan, Dr. Ronni Sanlo, then Director of the University of Michigan LGBT Campus Resource Center, designed and coordinated the first Lavender Graduation in order to acknowledge the achievements of three LGBTQ graduates in 1995. By 2001, over 45 institutions were holding Lavender Graduation Ceremonies and the tradition continues to expand to additional colleges and universities across the country.