Thursday, May 9, 2013
Janelle Shaffer doesn't get her diploma from the psychology department at San Diego State University until next week.
But on Wednesday, she walked across a stage, hugged her family and said a preliminary "goodbye" to the university's LGBTQIA community at this year's Lavender Graduation.
The ceremony, now in its fourth year at SDSU, celebrates students who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or intersex. Allies of the community are included, too. This year was the biggest year yet with about 40 graduates participating.
She said the group of people she's found a second home with mean more to her than anything else. She was one of the lucky ones, she said. Her family was open to her coming out and they were at Wednesday's graduation ceremony to celebrate with her.
But, she said, "it's not easy for everybody. And that's exactly the reason this community is so strong and puts so much love out there for people who don't have as supportive families.
The Lavender Graduation celebration was one of seven cultural graduations hosted at SDSU this spring. The other recognition ceremonies included a student veteran graduation, an American Indian event and a Cultural Competency Certificate celebration.
Hundreds of students across the nation do exactly what Shaffer did Wednesday afternoon.
Since its inception in 1995 at the University of Michigan, the Lavender Graduation concept has proliferated and are a campus calendar staple at universities such as UC Berkeley, Georgetown and the University of Georgia.
Esther Rothblum of the Women's Studies Department and program adviser for the LGBT studies program at SDSU, said the graduation is even more of an event for participating students than the big ceremony with the entire student body.
"Some of them will say this is the first time they've spoken out in public about being gay and others will have their parents and grandparents and nephews and nieces in the room and so on," she said.