EDITORIAL: Celebrating LGBTQ success enriches our community


EDITORIAL: Celebrating LGBTQ success enriches our community

By Editorial Board

Columbia will host its first Lavender Ceremony May 1, as reported on the Front Page. Lavender Ceremonies celebrate LGBTQ graduates and their academic achievements at the college. Ceremonies like this have been held since 1995 by more than 200 colleges and universities nationwide. According to the Human Rights Campaign, the choice of lavender is a combination of the pink triangle gay men were forced to wear in concentration camps and the black triangle placed on lesbians as political prisoners in Nazi Germany. Lavender ceremonies, held separately from traditional graduations, are a way to reclaim these symbols and celebrate the success of LGBTQ students.

Reclamation is a tool of empowerment in the LGBTQ community, and Columbia’s choice to hold a lavender ceremony upholds that empowerment. There is a long history of LGBTQ people and other oppressed groups reclaiming words and symbols traditionally used to oppress them; there are a handful of words that were once slurs that can now be said casually in safe spaces.

This resilience in the face of forced submission shows the power of the LGBTQ experience to the rest of the world. The ability to stare oppression in the face and flip it on its head is an incredible and admirable strength, one that deserves to be celebrated. The LGBTQ community has faced a long and dark history, from being targeted by Nazis and forced conversion therapy, to the AIDS epidemic and the transgender military ban. There are incidents of discrimination and abuse against LGBTQ people headlining each news cycle, and still, queer people not only survive, but thrive every day. As graduates, artists, writers, performers and community members, LGBTQ people are refusing to sit in silence and shame.

The celebration of LGBTQ students is a celebration of overcoming adversity. It is a celebration of the vibrant and diverse student body that calls Columbia home. It is a reminder of the inhumane history generations before us have lived—and died—through to create places and communities that embrace us for who we are. It shows us that, for as much as we criticize the college and push it to go further in supporting students and their needs, there is a community here which sees and uplifts us.

At Columbia, LGBTQ students are not just invited to sit at the table but celebrated as honored guests. In a society that still forces too many to stay in the closet and often punishes those who do not, this is a welcome invitation and a breath of fresh air.

As a college with a significant LGBTQ community, Columbia should make the Lavender Ceremony a staple of its graduation season. As a lasting tradition, the Lavender Ceremony will show the Columbia community, including the friends and families of graduates, that everyone is welcome to come as they are. A Lavender Ceremony is something we can look at with pride and feel seen and valued by the college we have chosen to make our home.