Today, May 16, 2012, my alma mater, The University of Texas, is having its inaugural LGBT Alumni Reception following their Lavender Graduation Ceremony. What’s a Lavender Graduation you ask? Well, it’s just like a typical ceremony, but completely focused on recognizing the achievements of LGBT students in the graduating class. On one hand, there is a certain sense of pride in celebrating students who are members of the LGBT community in a separate ceremony. In addition to the larger, school-wide graduation, many universities and colleges across the nation are beginning to launch their own Lavender Graduation ceremonies.
As many of us know, college can be the most exciting, gratifying, influential and, of course, occasionally difficult four (sometimes five) years of our lives, especially for members of the LGBT community. Well intentioned university administrators, often pressured by separatist student activists, believe a Lavender Graduation ceremony is an opportunity for students to feel special, celebrate their identity and be proud of who they are. They contend these specialized ceremonies are a wonderful way to recognize the achievements of LGBT students, promote acceptance and encourage other colleges and universities to do the same. This trend of providing a specialized graduation is not isolated to just the LGBT community either. A number of colleges across the nation provide additional ceremonies for other groups as well, like Ohio University’s “Kushinda,” which is a joint celebration between students of African-American, Latino and Native American descent.
However, college is a place where we truly discover who we are, regardless of our sexuality, ethnicity or race. Does it make sense to provide separate (but equal) ceremonies? It’s almost peculiar to see communities that fight so tirelessly for equality separate themselves from the majority in order to celebrate a right of passage that is so universally recognized and applauded. Are we backtracking by providing these separate events, or celebrating a unique sense of pride that is deserved? There is something special about watching an entire, cohesive graduating class unified in their achievements, regardless of gender, ethnicity, race or sexuality. Does that send a stronger message than providing minority groups with their own additional ceremony?
That is a question that is not so easily answered. In my opinion, the larger achievement here is that our youth is becoming more accepting, more cultured and thanks to graduating from college, a lot smarter. However, at the end of the day, a separate graduation for members of a specific community is a bit silly and unnecessary. It sends the message that we are still divided, despite being unified by one common achievement. Holding a separate ceremony is counterproductive to a young students assimilation into larger society. The message is being sent that special treatment is recognized for those who are a bit different from the norm, which is not always the case in the big bad “real world.” Let us spread the idea that no particular community or minority deserves more attention than another, but that each individual student should be proud of their accomplishments and recognized in a ceremony celebrated by all their peers.
And there it is…