Middlebury will host its first Lavender Graduation ceremony this year to honor the achievements of queer and transgender students during their time in college. The ceremony will be held at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, May 11 in Wilson Hall for LGBTQIA+ students from the classes of 2022 and 2022.5.
Lavender graduations have been held at colleges around the country since 1995, with over 115 colleges already celebrating lavender graduations annually. With no connection to official graduation, these ceremonies are a time for queer and transgender students to receive special recoginition that they may not receive otherwise.
“This ceremony is intended to be a reclamation of Middlebury as their own — a final ode to their perseverance, achievements and explorations as LGBTQIA+ Middlebury students,” Assistant Director of the Anderson Freeman Resource Center Janae Due wrote in an email to students.
The use of the word lavender to describe LGBTQIA+ events and subjects is related to the color’s importance in queer history. It originated from the color combination of the pink triangles gay men were forced to wear and the black triangles that lesbians were forced to wear in concentration camps in Nazi Germany. “The LGBTQ civil rights movement took these symbols of hatred and combined them to make symbols and color of pride and community,” according to the Human Rights Campaign.
There will be a welcome address by President Laurie Patton, a dinner, a speech by Bella Costantino-Carrigan ’22, recognition of the graduates and, finally, students will receive a lavender stole. Graduates will be able to invite students, faculty and staff of the college, although no members outside of Middlebury will be allowed to attend.
Janae Due is in charge of both Lavender Graduation and the ceremony for first-generation students. Due said when they first arrived in the fall of 2019, creating a Lavender Graduation ceremony at Middlebury was a big priority. However, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, their goals were postponed until an in-person ceremony could commence. While a virtual Lavender ceremony may have been possible in 2020, Due did not want to hold the first ceremony at Middlebury online instead of an in-person space.
“It’s just a lot more personalized and specific to the journey that queer and trans students may have had here at Middlebury,” Due said.
Meg Haberle ’22 looks forward to attending the college’s first Lavender Graduation ceremony.
“I haven’t been super involved in a lot of the queer orgs on campus,” Haberle said. “But it’s a universal part of my identity, and it’s nice to be able to be a part of that.”
Other efforts to support LGBTQIA+ students on campus are in progress, including the creation of two new buildings specifically for LGBTQIA+ students. The first is the Prism Center, which will be an affinity space center and lounge where queer and transgender students may find a safe area to congregate as well as provide education and outreach for students, faculty and staff. It is supposed to open in the fall of 2023 in a restructured 23 Adirondack View. The second building will be the Effervescence House which will be an affinity housing space for queer and trans students of color. Due says that although the change may be slow, systematically this institutional support will help to build a brighter future for LGBTQIA+ students at Middlebury.
Orly Berke (she/her) is in the class of 2025 working as a news editor. She is currently undeclared but looking at double majoring in art history and political science. She has written for newspapers since freshman year of high school and have loved it every moment of it. Along with the newspaper, Berke is Vice President of the College Democrats as well as Treasurer of the Middlebury Darkroom Club. In her free time she enjoys cooking, movies, and film photography.