Lavender Graduation celebrates LGBT students at BYU | News, Sports, Jobs


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

Ashtyn Asay, Daily Herald

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Pins at the Lavender Graduation Celebration for BYU students held in Provo on Saturday, April 16, 2022.

Ashtyn Asay, Daily Herald

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It started raining on Saturday during Brigham Young University’s first-ever LGBT student lavender graduation, but most attendees were used to less than ideal conditions.

Lavender graduation ceremonies are held across the country to honor LGBT students in addition to the standard commencement ceremonies offered by colleges and universities. This practice was created by Ronni Sanlo, a lesbian author, educator and lawyer who was denied access to her own children’s graduation.

Today, more than 200 universities have sanctioned annual lavender degrees and hold them on campus, but this unsanctioned celebration for BYU students was sponsored by The OUT Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the LGBT empowerment, and Guru’s Cafe, a Provo restaurant. Due to the weather, the festivities took place in the garages of a Provo house.

A total of 22 graduating LGBT students received lavender graduation lanyards they can wear with their caps and gowns at BYU’s grand opening on Thursday. According to Roni Jo Draper, a former professor of multicultural education at BYU who helped plan and organize the event, the lanyards are meant to symbolize the extra work LGBT students had to put in to graduate from a university that do not fully accept them.

“I want them to know that we see them and know the extra work they had to do to be able to complete their education as LGBTQ people,” Draper said. “Not because of their sexuality or their gender identity, but because society has made it even more difficult to be in those bodies. My homosexuality is not a challenge for me, the way society reacts to my homosexuality is a challenge for me.

According to Tate, last name withheld for privacy and security reasons, Lavender’s graduation celebration was a more genuine expression of appreciation than other university-sanctioned events, most of which felt performative. .

“I didn’t really know what to expect, but it’s something that I really appreciate more than anything BYU has offered graduates because I know it’s like hardcore here,” they said. they stated. “I show up here and they say ‘we’re proud of you, and we’re really proud of you,’ and at all the other BYU-sponsored events they say ‘we’re proud of you, let me talk about all the things I don’t really love you for.

Tate, who will graduate from BYU with a bachelor’s degree in psychology, said they were forced to adjust their presentation based on where they were on campus for fear of backlash.

“When I was at home, when I went out with my friends, it was always a very safe place. But when I was in class, I knew it was always a little risky, but I’m a little stupid , so I was willing to take that risk,” they said. “People say it’s the smartest thing to be careful, it’s the smartest thing not to tell anyone, because there’s no way you’ll be kicked out.”

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

“With events like this, it’s hard to feel like BYU as an organization really wants you there, or wants to celebrate your presence,” she said.

Chan hopes that Lavender’s graduation can eventually be sanctioned by BYU in the future to show appreciation to the graduates, but she doesn’t see that happening anytime soon.

“Events like this are just ways to show support and love, and I think at BYU that doesn’t always sound like the message they want to send. I feel like in the mind of the administration, they don’t necessarily want to be hateful, I think it’s a bit unintentional,” she said. “I don’t know if I could see that happening in the near future.”

According to Draper, one of the biggest hurdles she faced while planning the lavender graduation for BYU students was finding grad students to invite, as many of them feel the need. to hide their identity. However, she hopes the lavender graduation could play a part in helping them feel seen and loved.

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



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