UM LGBTQ Graduates Celebrate Lavender Event

The annual tradition honoring graduating LGBTQ and ally students continues to grow, this year introducing new student awards and a keynote speaker.
Lavender Ceremony
Graduate student and LGBTQ Student Center employee Jessica Osborne, right, presents an award to Gabrielle Perry, who is graduating with a master’s in community and social change from the UM School of Education and Human Development. Photo: Evan Garcia/UM News

Nearly 40 students will walk across the University of Miami Commencement stage later this week proudly wearing the rainbow-colored regalia cord they received at Tuesday’s Lavender Celebration on the Coral Gables campus, hosted by the LGBTQ Student Center and UM Alumni Association. This was the fourth annual event celebrating the accomplishments of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning and ally students who are graduating from the University. UM is among more than 100 colleges and universities nationwide that host the annual tradition, which dates to 1995. 

In welcoming students, friends, parents, and other members of the UM community, Van Bailey, founding director of the LGBTQ Student Center, made a point to also welcome “those not with us who cannot love us for who we are—yet” as well as “all of the great LGBTQ-plus people of the past, who must be smiling on our growing, strengthening sense of belonging.” Focused on improving inclusion, visibility and support of LGBTQ students throughout the University, the center has engaged more than 3,500 members of the UM community in educational events and awareness-building dialogue since its 2016 opening. 

Contributing to the on-campus dialogue was a message delivered by Lavender Celebration keynote speaker Xavier Cortada. The three-time UM alumnus and renowned artist described the “blank canvas” upon which the graduates will be painting the story of their lives. 

“You need to understand that every fiber of your being is love,” Cortada said. “Too often there are limitations placed on that, and today I want you to understand how far you’ve come in breaking those limitations. Some people like canvases that hang straight, like a vertical portrait. I’m not a vertical canvas, but I still love vertical canvases; some of my best friends are vertical canvases.

"But there are other canvases that have other orientations. Our history is full of canvases that are torn, that have been beaten or bruised or broken. But through history we continue to weave that canvas back.” 

Among the Lavender graduates, two students were recognized at the event with an inaugural award for service to the UM LGBTQ community. The award is named in honor of the first undergraduate recipient, Danny Gomez. A biochemistry and public health major with a minor in LGBTQ studies, Gomez has been a driving force in uniting the LGBTQ student community, both before the center opened and over the past two years as the center’s lead program coordinator. The graduate student recipient of the Danny Gomez Legacy Award is Christina Robinson, president of the LGBTQ law student organization OUTLaw. Master's graduate Gabrielle Perry also was honored for her contributions as the LGBTQ Student Center's graduate assistant.