LGBTQIA+ and gender non-conforming graduates in the Class of 2021 were celebrated as one “family” on May 18 in Arcadia University’s third Lavender Ceremony.
This nationwide annual celebration recognizes graduating students who are part of the LGBTQIA+ community. At Arcadia, the celebration was launched by Tessa Paige ’18 in 2018 and has since become a University-sponsored part of the Commencement season for undergraduate and graduate students.
“I think that the cool part is that for those who are not out, they have family in that room—we're all here for that community,” said Troy Young, assistant director for Engagement and New Student Programs. “We want them to feel seen and heard and loved.”
Each year, around 30 to 40 students participate in the Lavender Ceremony that occurs the week of Commencement. During this year’s virtual ceremony, Ernie Gonzalez ’06, Arcadia University 40 Under 40 and operations director of the Compass Community Center in Palm Beach County, Fla., spoke to attendees about the work he does at the center and his experience in the intersectionality of Latino heritage and LGBTQ+ identity.
“I think it’s very special for those who come,” said Young. “Families can come if they’re able to if the students would like, but we’re all here for the students if they don’t have anyone with them.”
Arcadia was the first private university in the Philadelphia area to host a Lavender Ceremony. Other colleges and universities in Pennsylvania to host a Lavender Ceremony include Temple University, Penn State University, Bloomsburg University, Carnegie Mellon University, Lock Haven University, and University of Pittsburgh.
The Lavender Ceremony was created by Dr. Ronni Sanlo, a Jewish lesbian, and is backed by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). According to the HRC, the color lavender was adopted by the LGBTQIA civil rights movement to change the meaning of World War II hate symbols— specifically, the pink and black triangles gay men and lesbian women were made to wear. Lavender, a combination of the two colors, is now used to promote pride and community.
Moving forward, Young said he hopes the ceremony returns to in-person next year, where students can bring their families and friends to celebrate their accomplishments. His dream for the ceremony is to bring in more community members to the celebration, including having more alumni, faculty, and staff engagement.