On April 26, 2018 Jesuit Georgetown University will offer the annual “Lavender Graduation” for its LGBT students. The keynote speaker at this year’s ceremony will be Georgetown alumnus and Federal District Judge Pamela K. Chen. Nominated by President Barack Obama in 2012, Judge Chen is the first LGBT identified Asian-American federal judge. During her hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee:
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), who recommended the Chen nomination to Obama, introduced the nominee to the committee as he chaired the panel in the absence of Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.). Schumer made a special mention of Chen’s partner, Amy Chester…
Between 1991 and 1998, Chen was a trial attorney in the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, where she notably enforced the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act of 1994, seeking criminal prosecution and statutory damages against pro-life activists.
In an article about the 2017 Lavender Graduation, Georgetown LGBTQ Resource Center Director Shiva Subbaraman stated: “It’s quite amazing. President DeGioia has come since 2012. It’s one ceremony he will not miss no matter what happens…” John DeGioia is the 48th President of Georgetown University. The 2018 Invocation will be offered by Mark Bosco, S.J., Vice President for Mission and Ministry.
The first official Lavender Graduation was held at Georgetown in 2009. According to Georgetown LGBTQ Resource Center Assistant Director Julian Haas:
In response to that shame and guilt, this large ceremony of the entire campus community is really our way of saying, “We are proud of you despite what other things go on in our life. Because you are LGBTQ, we are proud of you.”
During the ceremony, several awards are presented to students and faculty, including: LGBTQ Bridge Builder Award and Outstanding Champion of the LGBTQ Community; with one of the qualifications for the latter award being “proven and documented leadership in challenging homophobia and heterosexism.” The 2017 recipient of the LGBTQ Bridge Builder Award, Luke Brown, stated at the 2017 ceremony:
We, white people, men, cis people and other privileged identities especially, must remember that marginalization and oppression do not exist somewhere out in the world. Rather they work through us and in us, whether or not we acknowledge that fact.
The Lavender Graduation movement began in 1995 and has since spread throughout the country. According to the LGBT civil-rights advocacy group The Human Rights Campaign:
For decades students at colleges and universities around the country have been celebrating both their academic achievements and their cultural heritages at specialized commencement events…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.
Other “Catholic” universities in the US which offer a Lavender Gradation include: Boston College, Loyola Marymount University and the University of San Francisco.