Lavender Graduation celebrates LGBT students

May 4, 2017

Around 120 students from Georgetown’s undergraduate, graduate, and professional schools were recognized as a part of the LGBTQ Resource Center’s Lavender Graduation. The ceremony celebrated the achievements of graduating LGBT and allied students and their contributions to the greater Georgetown community while speakers reflected on the history of the LGBT community at Georgetown.

Rev. Michael Zampelli, S.J. (COL’ 82), a professor in the theatre and dance department at Santa Clara University, gave the keynote speech. He has been involved in ministry to the LGBT community, and he previously served on the board of the Catholic Association for Lesbian and Gay Ministry. He now runs a prison ministry in the Diocese of San Jose.

He spoke about his time at Georgetown and the lessons he has learned as a student and Jesuit priest. “My commitment to LGBTQ folks, in addition to many other things touching upon my religious life, was born of a failure, he said.

He said that while he was a student, gay students tried to form a group, which the university refused to recognize claiming that it was not in line with its Catholic values. The case went to court, which required the university to give the group the privileges of a university-recognized group without formally having to recognize it.

Throughout the process, however, Zampelli stayed silent. “Something deep inside pulled me toward every sign advertising a meeting or petitioning for support, something deep inside pulled me toward the people working hard to affect change,” he said. “Something deep inside pulled me, and I did nothing.”

Senior Speaker Luke Brown (COL ‘17) continued the theme of silence in his speech. “Silence. It can be uncomfortable,” he began after a long pause. “From an early age, we are taught to avoid silences, and yet so much of communication is never spoken, so much of communication is in what we don’t say, what we choose not to say, what we fail to say. Silence is familiar to queer folk.”

Four undergraduate students, a faculty member, and a student from both the medical and law schools received awards for their contributions to the LGBT community both at Georgetown and beyond. The ceremony also recognized the LGBTQ Resource Center’s ten Out for Change fellows, named after the student-led Out for Change campaign. This year’s fellows participated in the “Of ‘Masc’ & Masks: Exploring Queer Masculinities” discussion group as the first class of the Out for Change Fellowship.

The first Lavender Graduation took place at the University of Michigan in 1995, and now more than 150 colleges throughout the country carry on the tradition. Georgetown held its first ceremony in spring 2009, the same academic year the university established the resource center.

The university’s Catholic Chaplain Rev. Greg Schenden, S.J., Dean of Students and Associate Vice President for Student Affairs Jeanne Lord, and University President John DeGioia spoke about the activism that led to the founding of the LGBTQ Resource Center.

“Five hundred years ago, St. Ignatius reminded us that love shows itself better in deeds than in words,” Lord said. “Five hundred years later, President DeGioia reminded us of Ignatius’ words when he gathered the Georgetown community in the ICC…in response to a student-led Out for Change campaign to share his vision of creating and LGBTQ Resource Center on the Georgetown campus.”

Schenden echoed the theme of Georgetown’s commitment to its LGBT students and to diversity in general, adding that this commitment is in line with the university’s Catholic and Jesuit values..  “We have an imam, we have a rabbi, we have a Hindu priest, we have a Center for Social Justice, and we have an LGBTQ Resource Center precisely because we are Catholic and Jesuit.”

Image Credits: Jordan Silverman

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