Today@Sam Article

LGBTQ Bearkats Celebrate Through Lavender Graduation

May 13, 2021
SHSU Media Contact: Emily Binetti

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Story by Mikah Boyd

Sam Houston State University’s Haven organization hosted the Lavender Graduation Celebration on May 12, to honor LGBTQ Bearkats graduating this semester.

Since 2009, Haven has worked with faculty, staff and students to turn SHSU into a “safe zone” for the LGBTQ community. They do this by providing training opportunities that educate participants on how to be an active ally in their community. In the training, Haven members aim to teach participants about inclusive vocabulary, the differences between gender and sexuality and how to be an effective supporter in the Bearkat community.

Megan Garzaglass, one of the Bearkat students being honored, came to SHSU for a PhD in Counseling Education, and discovered that the trainings created well-informed and accepting professors, as well as a LGBTQ safe space for all.

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"I found I was able to be myself as a Lesbian wife and mother,” Garzaglass said. “I was able to talk about my family and my life and I was accepted as a student.”

Haven organizes and hosts the Lavender Graduation Celebration, which is a special event to celebrate the students’ accomplishments during their time at SHSU, and provides a sense of community to LGBTQ graduates, their family and peers.

“We celebrate all those that have come before and fought for equal rights with life blood and tears. It has been a hard road, but each generation creates a path for those after and it is important to remember those that came first,” Garzaglass said.

This year’s event featured certificates, honor cords and gift bags donated by various university departments for the graduates. After receiving their cords, students provided words of encouragement to their fellow graduates and peers before crossing the stage.

Jessica Lam, LGBTQ rights activist, shared her inspiring story of perseverance as a transgender woman for the keynote address via Zoom. Lam encouraged the graduates to be true to themselves and continue growing as individuals and members of the LGBTQ community.

“The important things in life to understand and realize is that life is a journey. We’re all doing the best we can at any given moment, and two of the greatest lessons that you will learn in life are forgiveness and patience,” Lam said. “The decisions you make today will affect your tomorrow, but enjoy your youth and pay attention. It’s in these years you’ll create lasting friendships, you’ll also discover the acquaintances you need to network with in the future.”

Several members of the campus community also expressed words of encouragement to the students being honored at the Lavender Graduation, including SHSU President Alisa White.

“You have accomplished a lot. But guess what, you haven’t peaked. You haven’t accomplished anything like you’re going to accomplish,” White said to students. “You will do amazing things if you will embrace that future. Know that you have already shown your ability, your commitment to yourself, your commitment to finishing, your commitment to doing things when it’s hard.”

Those who wish to get involved with Haven for future events or the ally training program can reach out to the group via email - org_haven@shsu.edu.

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