In a celebration honoring over 140 graduating members and allies of the LGBTQ community Thursday, speakers and attendees at Georgetown University’s 11th annual Lavender Graduation emphasized work the university can continue to do to support the community on campus.
The ceremony, hosted by the LGBTQ Resource Center and the Tagliabue Initiative for LGBTQ Life, featured keynote speaker Joshua Guzmán (SFS ’10), an assistant professor of gender studies at the University of California, Los Angeles, and was held in the Healey Family Student Center Great Room. Three undergraduate students, a faculty member, a staff member, a medical student and a law student were given awards for their contributions to the Georgetown community.
Lavender Graduation sends an important message to the Georgetown community given the university’s previous history of overlooking its LGBTQ students, according to English professor and Department Chair Ricardo Ortiz.
“It welcomes everyone at Georgetown to celebrate the important milestone of graduation for students who identify either as LGBTQ or as allies of the LGBTQ community,” Ortiz wrote in an email to The Hoya. “That’s a really powerful statement of recognition, solidarity and support for a community that had historically been at best neglected, at worst violently marginalized throughout the University’s history.”
On-campus discrimination against LGBTQ students has historically been a frequent issue for the community. Following a string of hate crimes against LGBTQ students in 2007 that were not addressed publicly by the university, students responded by petitioning the administration for action through demonstrations in Red Square and sit-ins in the office of University President John J. DeGioia (CAS ‘79, GRD ‘95). The actions eventually led to the establishment of the LGBTQ Resource Center in 2008.
Diego Tum-Monge (COL ’19) won an award as Champion for the LGBTQ Community, Harry Clow (MSB ’19) as Bridge Builder and Angela Maske (NHS ’19, GRD ’20) for the Beyond the Gates award. Associate English Professor Christine So received the award for Faculty Commitment to the LGBTQ Community and Assistant Director for Residential Education Eileen Rodriguez was awarded Staff Commitment to the LGBTQ Community.
Tum-Monge was recognized for his work with the LGBTQ Resource Center and Georgetown Scholars Program. Winning the award serves as motivation to continue working for the Latinx and LGBTQ communities, according to Tum-Monge.
“For me, this award just accumulates everything that I’ve done and brings it in a space where I can say that I’ll keep fighting beyond this award that I share with the LGBTQ community here at Georgetown,” Tum-Monge said.
The Lavender Graduation was first established in 2009, one year after Georgetown’s LGBTQ Resource Center formally opened its doors. Georgetown’s past committment to the LGBTQ community was disappointing, and the university was belated in establishing the necessary resources and support centers for its LGBTQ students, according to women and gender studies professor and Academic Director of the Community Scholars Program Elizabeth Velez.
“I think that Georgetown came late to even having an LGBTQ center, and it’s so important for students to have this space where they feel like they’re understood and they’re honored,” Velez said in an interview with The Hoya. “I think Lavender Graduation is important in terms of celebrating them for the four years they’ve been here doing this work.”
There is still more that can be done to increase the visibility of and support for the LGBTQ community on campus, and the university should increase support for LGBTQ studies research by expanding supp, according to Ortiz.
“There is no field of the arts, humanities, or social sciences, including law and policy (and even some natural sciences), where the study of gender and sexuality doesn’t have central relevance, and that fact should be more fully represented by Georgetown given its mission as a teaching-centered research institution,” Ortiz wrote in an email to The Hoya.
Graduating students can take the values emphasized at Lavender Graduation with them as they transition into their lives after Georgetown, according to School of Foreign Service Dean Joel Hellman, who was present at the event.
“I hope that spirit is something that continues to drive students in their professional lives as they graduate,” Hellman said in an interview with The Hoya. “This is a great transition for them into the next stage of their lives, and I hope they take the lessons of this Lavender Graduation, which is an important feature on campus, and put that into the next stage of their lives.”