Lavender Graduation is a commencement ceremony honoring graduating LGBTIQA+ and allied students. It is a cultural celebration that acknowledges the achievements and contributions that students of all sexual orientations, gender identities, and gender expressions have made at Carolina. Recipients of the LGBTIQA+ Advocacy Awards are announced during the ceremony. This program is co-sponsored by the Program in Sexuality Studies, the Provost Committee for LGBTQ Life, and Student Life and Leadership.
- Must be approved to graduate in the most recent Fall semester or the current Spring semester.
- Must be one of the following at UNC-Chapel Hill:
- Undergraduate student
- Graduate student
- Professional student
- Doctoral candidate
Registered participants receive a bundle of gifts that typically include:
- a rainbow graduation tassel
- a relevant book (e.g. 2021's Song in a Weary Throat)
- a certificate of participation
- flowers (when in-person)
- purple decorations (when online)
Consenting participants are also listed on the LGBTQ Center website and in that year's edition of Aluminate.
Lavender Graduation is typically held the Sunday before University Commencement at 4:00 PM. The ceremony is open to the public. Registration is not required except when the ceremony is held virtually. Participants are given an invitation link to share with family, friends, colleagues, or mentors of their choice.
Register at go.unc.edu/LavGrad to be included in the ceremony. Participants can register with a legal or chosen name, customize how they are honored during the ceremony, and designate the amount of visibility they are comfortable with.
Registration opens on March 1st and closes three weeks before the ceremony.
Frequently Asked Questions
Lavender is important to LGBTQ history. It combines the pink triangle that gay men were forced to wear and the black triangle that lesbians were forced to wear while political prisoners in Nazi Germany. LGBTQ activists took these symbols of hatred, combined them, and created a symbol and color of pride and community.
How did Lavender Graduation start?
Now tradition at more than 200 colleges and universities across the country, Lavender Graduation began in 1995 at the University of Michigan. Ronni Sanlo, then the Director of the LGBT Campus Resource Center, organized the first Lavender Graduation with three graduates. She initiated Lavender Graduation after being denied access to attend her own children's graduations due to her sexual orientation and out of a desire to celebrate LGBT students. She has stated that her vision “is that Lavender Graduation will be an annual celebration at every college and university in the country and that the lives of our LGBT students will be fully honored.”
Who can participate in Lavender Graduation at Carolina?
Undergraduate students, Graduate students, Professional students, and Doctoral candidates who graduated in the most recent Fall semester, or are approved to graduate in the current Spring semester.
Who can attend Lavender Graduation at Carolina?
Lavender Graduation ceremonies are typically open to the public. Participants are encouraged to invite their friends, families and loved ones. Individuals from departments and units that co-sponsor Lavender Graduation such as the Program in Sexuality Studies or the Provost Committee for LGBTQ Life, or from departments and units that work closely with the LGBTQ Center or LGBTIQA+ communities are also likely to attend.
Past Lavender Graduates and Ceremonies
- 2021 Lavender Graduates and CeremonyCongratulations to Carolina's 2021 Lavender Graduates! We are so glad that you could join us for this year's ceremony, whether on the Zoom call or in spirit. We hope you will take the words of our keynote speaker K. Tajhi Claybren into the next phase of your journey. Thank you for allowing us to celebrate you!
- 2020 Lavender Graduates and CeremonyCongratulations to Carolina's 2020 Lavender Graduates!
- 2019 Lavender Graduates and CeremonyCongratulations to Carolina's 2019 Lavender Graduates! We are so glad that you could join us for this year's ceremony. We hope you will take the words of our keynote speaker Joy Messinger into the next phase of your journey. Thank you for allowing us to celebrate you!