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Lavender Graduation

The history of Lavender Graduation

Lavender Graduation is an annual ceremony conducted on numerous campuses to honor lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and ally students and to acknowledge their achievements and contributions to the University. The Lavender Graduation Ceremony was created by Dr. Ronni Sanlo, a Jewish Lesbian, who was denied the opportunity to attend the graduations of her biological children because of her sexual orientation. It was through this experience that she came to understand the pain felt by her students. Dr. Sanlo designed the first Lavender Graduation Ceremony in 1995 attended by only three graduates. By 2001, over 45 Colleges and Universities nationwide held Lavender Graduation Ceremonies. CUNY SPH held its inaugural Lavender Graduation in 2021, and the tradition continues to be a valued one that we at the GSGA are honored to co-sponsor.

The CUNY SPH 3rd Annual Lavender Graduation Ceremony was held on June 22nd, 2023 to recognize graduates from the LGBTQIA+ community and come together in celebration and gratitude. 

Speeches from student leaders and graduates of the Class of 2023

This year we had the privilege of hearing from two student leaders who helped to organize this event and open it up to recent graduates who are part of the LGBTQIA+ community. Their speeches, included in the video above, capture the spirit of the day while also reminding us of the beloved elders who came before us and gave of their lives and bodies to make the world a better place, and serving as a call to action for community members and allies to keep fighting against injustices, discrimination, and hate.

Elise Ballan is a May 2023 MPH graduate in Community Health. She founded the CUNY SPH LGBTQ+ Association last year to establish a space for Queer students and CUNY network to connect, support, and learn together. She is a queer public health advocate currently located in the city of Durham, North Carolina, working to improve hospitality and service workers’ conditions and organize for solidarity.

Victoria Sunseri is a May 2023 MPH graduate in Health Policy and Management. She is a queer public health professional seeking to advance the health and well-being of all by promoting the development of safe spaces and policies that uplift historically-marginalized voices. She is grateful for the opportunity to be a part of this special event and to share in the achievements of the LGBTQIA+ community, and its allies.