Human Rights Campaign Recognizes Eastern’s Pride Center

Written by Jordan Corey

A resource of education and support for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) community, Eastern’s Pride Center aims to foster a culture of knowledge, advocacy and inclusivity across campus. These efforts were recently recognized by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) when Eastern was added to its online list of schools that celebrate Lavender Graduation.

HRC is the largest LGBTQ civil rights organization in America, with more than three million members and supporters nationwide. It strives to end discrimination against LGBTQ people and help create a world that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.

Lavender Graduation is an annual ceremony conducted on college campuses to honor LGBTQ students and their allies. The event was first instituted in 1995 at the University of Michigan by Ronni Sanlo, inspired by her own experiences. Due to laws in place when she came out as a lesbian at the age of 31, Sanlo lost custody of her two children and was denied the opportunity to attend their graduations, helping her understand the pain felt by LGBTQ students.

Eastern Pride Center staff and guests at a recent Lavender Graduation ceremony.

Eastern began celebrating Lavender Graduation in 2016. “Lavender Graduation is, first and foremost, a celebration of LGBTQ+ students and their allies and their achievements through their college experience,” said Thomas Keane, graduate intern at the Pride Center. “It’s a way to not only acknowledge and celebrate the accomplishments of those students, but to highlight those accomplishments to the campus community.

“Several awards are given out,” continued Keane, “ranging from the LGBTQ+ Campus Community Award, which focuses on a student who has made a positive impact on the LGBTQ+ community on campus, to the Academic Excellence Award, which recognizes a student with high academic achievement who has positively impacted LGBTQ+ life on campus.”

The significance behind the color lavender lies in 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 of pride and community.

“Lavender Graduation serves as a message to our LGBTQ+ students that at Eastern we are proud of you and encourage you to be true to yourself,” Keane stated. “That we will always be here to support the LGBTQ+ community and that we appreciate all that our students have done not only for the LGBTQ+ community at Eastern, but for our campus and all of our students. We want them to know just how much of an impact they have had throughout their college experience before they graduate.

“The Pride Center is planning to continue this tradition,” he concluded. “We are already starting to plan our 2019 Lavender Graduation based on last year’s event — you’ll just have to wait and see.”