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Lavender Graduation

4rd Annual Lavender Graduation Ceremony



Lavender Graduation Ceremony

Lavender Graduation Ceremony
For Class of 2024 Graduates Students, Faculty and Staff

Lavender Graduation is an annual graduation ceremony conducted at universities to honor LGBTQIA+ students and acknowledge their accomplishments and contributions. LGBTQIA+ is an acronym used to signify Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, and Asexual people collectively.  

2024 Ceremony:
As part of KCC’s Commencement festivities, we will be hosting our 4rd annual Lavender Graduation Ceremony for our students who identify as LGBTQIA+, on Tuesday, June 11, 2024. 3:00 PM - 5:00 PM  in U219 .



Lavender Graduation Ceremony

Marsha P Johnson & Sylvia Rivera: 
24 August 1945 – 6 July 1992 
2 July 1951 – 19 February 2002 

Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera are iconic figures in LGBTQ+ history due to their pivotal roles in the Stonewall Riots and their advocacy for marginalized communities. As trans women of color, they stood at the forefront of the fight for LGBTQ+ rights at a time when it was dangerous to do so. Both Johnson and Rivera were fearless in their activism, founding the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR) to support homeless LGBTQ+ youth and advocating for inclusivity within the broader LGBTQ+ movement. Their courage and commitment to justice have inspired generations to continue the struggle for equality, reminding us that the fight for LGBTQ+ rights must encompass all voices, especially those most often silenced or overlooked. 

Larry Kramer: 
25 June 1935 – 27 May 2020 

 Larry Kramer's was a fierce activist in the fight against the AIDS epidemic and for LGBTQ+ rights. As a co-founder of the Gay Men's Health Crisis (GMHC), he played a critical role in gaining support and resources for those with HIV/AIDS. Kramer's advocacy and ability to motivate others made him a leader in the LGBTQ+ community. His work, notably the play The Normal Heart, exposed the government's disinterest to the AIDS crisis, brought national attention to the human consequences of the epidemic, and has emphasized the urgency of the cause and continues to inspire activists today. 

Alison Bechdel: 
10 September 1960 

 Alison Bechdel has contributed to LGBTQ+ representation in literature and has been a pioneer in her role in expanding the discourse on gender and sexuality. Bechdel's work in the comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For and her graphic memoir Fun Home have resonated with readers for its raw, honest exploration of family, identity, and coming out. Bechdel is also known for the "Bechdel Test," a measure used to evaluate the representation of women in film and media. Her ability to challenge societal norms and facilitate meaningful discussions about gender equality and LGBTQ+ issues have solidified her status as a trailblazer for LGBTQ+ rights and a lasting voice for change. 

James Baldwin: 
2 August 1924 – 1 December 1987 

James Baldwin is an iconic LGBTQ+ figure due to his profound insights into the complexities of race, sexuality, and identity in America, as well as for his influential voice in the Civil Rights Movement. Additionally, Baldwin's essays, novels, and plays offer a compelling examination of the African American experience and the ongoing struggle for equality. His works, such as Go Tell It on the Mountain and The Fire Next Time continue to resonate readers and activists for their depiction of the tensions and challenges faced by Black Americans. Baldwin's engagement with issues of race and his exploration of LGBTQ+ themes helped pave the way for greater representation and understanding in American literature and culture.  

Audrey Lorde: 
18 February 1934 – 17 November 1992 

Audre Lorde was a fierce voice in the fight for fairness in the world of feminism, LGBTQ+ advocacy, and racial equality. She combined her identity as a Black lesbian feminist, warrior, and a poet who challenged intersecting forms of oppression. As a poet, essayist, and activist, she discussed the struggles and resilience of marginalized communities. Lorde's work, such as Sister Outsider, addressed issues of race, gender, sexuality, and class, offering a lens through which we understand the depth of identity and social justice.  She has inspired a multitude of people to accept their identities and work toward a more inclusive and fair world. 

Christina Jorgenson: 
30 May 1926 – 3 May 1989 

Christine Jorgensen was one of the first people to publicly have gender confirmation surgery, becoming a pioneer for transgender visibility and rights. In the early 1950s, her transition and media coverage brought awareness to trans issues at a time when such topics were taboo and sometimes criminal. Jorgensen's courage in sharing her story and living openly as a trans woman challenged social norms and inspired folks within the LGBTQ+ community as she helped to destigmatize transgender identities and paved the way for acceptance and understanding. Jorgensen also became an advocate for transgender rights and a voice for dignity and respect. Her legacy continues to resonate as a representation of resilience and individual truth against societal odds. 

Leonard Bernstein: 
25 August 1918 – 14 October 1990 

Leonard Bernstein contributed to the LGBTQ+ world and beyond in the realm of music as a conductor, composer, and educator. As one of the most influential American composers of the 20th century, Bernstein's work spans symphonies, Broadway musicals, film scores, and operas. His musical West Side Story remains a classic because of it's innovative blend of classical and popular music with powerful storytelling. Bernstein led the New York Philharmonic and other major orchestras with energy and passion. Bernstein made music accessible and engaging, combining it with his exploration of social and cultural issues. 

Felice Schragenheim: 
9 March 1922 – 31 December 1944 

Felice Schragenheim was born in Berlin to Jewish family. Unable to complete her education, she became an active member of the resistance against the Nazi regime. Schragenheim procured weapons, worked undercover at a Nazi publication, and smuggled Jewish children out of Germany to safety.  She fell in love with Lilly Wust, a gentile woman who was married but separated from a Nazi soldier.  While Wurst was originally enmeshed with the Nazi party, she renounced it once she discovered that she loved a Jewish woman. Wurst eventually joined the Resistance. Their relationship and the courage of Felice Schragenheim is depicted in the critically acclaimed film Aimée & Jaguar. It was through this film that many came to know Schragenheim’s story.
Love did not conqueror all, eventually, Schrageheim was betrayed (not by Wurst) and was arrested by the Nazis.  Schragenheim was deported and probably died on a death march to a death camp. She died honoring all that she was.

Tracy Chapman
30 March 1964 

Tracy Chapman’s soulful voice, songwriting, and contributions to folk and pop music reverberate individuality and inclusivity in the queer world and beyond. Chapman's acoustic sound and socially conscious lyrics have connected with folks worldwide beginning in the 1980s. Her breakout hit Fast Car is a narrative of dreams and struggles, capturing the difficulties of life in a way that resonates across generations. Her music is personal and relevant, often addressing issues of race, gender, and social justice. As one of the few Black, queer female artists in the folk-rock genre, she has paved the way for diversity and representation in music.  

 Laverne Cox: 
29 May 1972 

Laverne Cox is an advocate and activist for transgender visibility and rights. Her work on the series Orange Is the New Black marked one of the first times a transgender woman played a transgender character in a major television series, breaking new ground in representation and bringing trans-visibility to mainstream culture. Cox uses her platform to educate and challenge discrimination, making her a leading figure in the fight for transgender equality, fostering a more inclusive world. Her influence highlights the significance of diverse representation and the power of authenticity in creating social change. 

Kate Bornstein: 
15 March 1943 

Kate Bornstein’s work challenges traditional notions of gender for all people, most notably for folks who identify as non-binary and transgender. As a writer, performance artist, and speaker, Bornstein's approach to gender and identity has been inspirational in embracing a more fluid understanding of the self. Her book Gender Outlaw: On Men, Women and the Rest of Us became a foundational text in queer and trans studies, challenging social norms and encouraging a more inclusive perspective. Her personal journey and openness continue to pave the way for acceptance and visibility for those who don't connect to binary gender roles. Bornstein’s work continues to challenge social and familial conventions, promoting a world where everyone can live their truth and be their unapologetic, authentic selves. 

 Billie Jean King: 
22 November 1943  

Billie Jean King is a former American No. 1 Tennis player worldwide. Winning 39 Grand and slam titles, 16 in Women’s doubles, and 11 titles in Mixed doubles. Starting her professional tennis career in 1964 and winning her first US Open in 1968. Five years later at age 29, she took part and won the “Battle of the Sexes” match against the elder Bobby Riggs. During the beginning of the 1980s, King then married journalist Larry King, became the first prominent female athlete to come out, costing an estimated 2 million dollars in endorsements. In 1987 Billie Jean and Larry King ended their marriage though they stayed close. Billie Jean, she had spent years hiding her sexuality due to her homophobic parents. On October 18, 2018, she and her former doubles partner Illana Kloss were married by former NYC Mayor David Dinkins.  

Lilly Singh: 
26 September 1988 

Born Lilly Saini Singh, Singh is best known for her YouTube channel and pseudonym IISuperwomanII. She is a Canadian comedian and author who came out as bisexual over social media in February, 2019. Gaining over 14.7 million subscribers and over three billion video views, she made the jump to late night television in 2019 hosting NBC’s A little Late with Lilly Singh, becoming the first person of Indian descent to host an American major broadcast late-night show until 2021. Since then, she has been acting in various TV shows.  

Ru Paul: 
17 November 1960 

RuPaul Andre Charles is a notable American Drag Queen, television personality, actor, singer and producer. With a career spanning over two decades, he is mostly known for hosting and judging the reality competition series “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” receiving 14 Primetime Emmy Awards, and three GLAAD media awards since its start in 2009. RuPaul relocated to New York City from Atlanta and taught in local public schools before becoming a popular act in the New York LGBTQ+ nightclub scene. In 1992, RuPaul released the single “Supermodel (You Better Work),” catapulting him to international fame. Because of the success of “Drag Race” and his talk shows where he did not shy away from discussing issues concerning LGBTQ+, female empowerment, and Black empowerment, he has been considered an overwhelmingly positive force for queer representation and drag performances, being dubbed the “Most Famous Drag Queen” by Fortune Magazine.  

Troy Sivan: 
5 June 1995 

Troy Sivan Mellet is an Australian singer-songwriter who gained success through YouTube and Australian TV. Born in Johannesburg to an Orthodox Jewish family before relocating to Perth Australia, he has since stated he does not identify as religious. In February 2010, he opened for  “We are the World 25 for Haiti,” a YouTube charity fundraiser for victims of the 2010 Haitian earthquake. In 2013, he was signed to Universal Music group, where he decided on August 7th that he did not want to live in secret and came out as gay via YouTube. Sivan kicked off the first for various content creators who decided to come out publicly via the internet. Since then, he has been active in music and various acting roles while also being open about his struggles with his sexual identity and body dysmorphia.  

Frank Ocean:  
28 October 1987 

Born Christopher Edwin Breaux, better known as Frank Ocean, Oceans is a two-time Grammy winner, rapper, singer, and songwriter mostly known for bending the R&B genre toward topics of social commentary and mixing of unconventional genres. In 2012, prior to the release of his debut album Channel Orange, Ocean came out as queer in an open letter posted on the blog site Tumblr, drawing comparisons to David Bowie’s coming out as bisexual forty years prior. Since then, he has been regarded as a key figure for various rap and R&B artists to come out.  

Queen Latifah:  
18 March 1970 

Born in Newark, New Jersey, Dana Elaine Owens adopted the stage name Queen Latifah at age eight and began rapping and beatboxing at age 19. Her prose and subject matter dealing with Black women’s issues such as domestic violence, street harassment, and sexuality was best captured on the lead single to her third album, U.N.I.T.Y., which made her the first solo female rapper to receive gold certification for her album Black Reign from RIAA. In 1993, she made the jump to acting starring as Khadijah James in the cult classic Living Single. In 2021, after years of speculation and calls for privacy, Queen Latifah came out, announcing her pride during an acceptance speech for the Lifetime Achievement award at the BET Awards, alongside her partner Eboni Nicholas and son Rebel for the first time before ending the speech with “Happy Pride!” 

Lil Naz X: 
9 April 1999 

Montero Lamar Hill, better known as Lil Nas X, is an American rapper, singer, and songwriter who rose to prominence by simultaneously coming out as gay. He released the 2019 country rap single “Old Town Road” which became the longest running number one song at 19 weeks, since US Billboard Hot 100’s inception in 1958. Since then, Lil Nas X has been known for his queer visual and social media presence for Black, Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC) LGBTQ+ activism. The latter being regarded due to his video for “Montero (Call Me by Your Name)” where he was open and unabashedly queer in the visual sense, marking a difference from previous closeted or open gay artists that did not make their sexuality the subject of their music. To date, he has won two Grammys, five Billboard awards, five MTV Video Awards, and two BET Awards.  

Freddie Mercury:  
5 September, 1946 – 24 November 1991 

Freddie Mercury is best known as the lead singer and frontman of British rock band Queen. He was born Farrokh Bulsara to Parsi-Indian parents on the East African Island of Zanzibar before moving to Middlesex, England and adopting the name Freddie Mercury. In 1970 he formed Queen with guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor, impressing them with a 4-octave vocal range due to being born with four additional incisors. Often flamboyant on stage, Mercury was private about his sexuality due to social and political constraints of the time though he was often considered bisexual or gay which he denied publicly. However, his close friends were aware of his numerous affairs with men after 1976. In 1985, Mercury began a long-term relationship with Irish-born hairdresser Jim Hutton whom he referred to as his husband and wore a gold wedding band given to him the following year. In 1990 when Mercury revealed he has tested positive for HIV, he spent his last seven years under Hutton's care. He is considered an instrumental figure in the awareness of the disease that was often ignored by various governments or medical institutions.  

Frida Kahlo: 
6 July 1907 – 13 July 1954 

Frida Kahlo was Mexican painter known for her various self-portraits, exploring native folk-art, post-colonialism, gender, class, and race. She also documented her battles with chronic pain from polio and a bus accident at age 18. In 1927, she joined the Mexican Communist Party, and later married muralist Deigo Rivera in 1929. Throughout her life, she engaged in numerous relationships with men and women and identified as bisexual. As her health declined and various procedures to straighten her spine failed, she painted notable works such as The Broken Column and Wounded Deer. In 1954, at age 47, Kahlo passed after a long battle with chronic pain and illness. Her art and likeness have been used since then by LGBTQ+, feminist, and Chicano causes to show the complicated nature and experience of identity in society. In 2001 the US Postal Service honored her as the first Latina to put on a stamp, and in 2012 she was inducted to the Chicago Legacy Walk, honoring LGBTQ+ history and people.  

Harvey Milk: 
22 May 1930 – 27 November 1978 

Harvey Milk was an American politician and the first openly gay man elected to public office in California as a San Fransico Board of Supervisors member. Born and raised in New York in the suburb of Woodmere and later Bayshore, he acknowledged he was gay when he was an adolescent but pursued relationships in secret. He attended SUNY Albany, majoring in mathematics, and after being forced to accept an “other than honorable discharge” over a court-martial for his homosexuality military, Milk left New York for California in 1972. After becoming inspired to run over issues with how poorly San Franciso addressed LGBTQ+ Rights and funding for teachers, he ran in two unsuccessful campaigns before being elected in 1977. Milk served in office for 11 months, sponsoring a bill banning discrimination in public accommodations housing and employment based on sexual orientation. The bill would pass 11-1. On November 27th, Dan White, the lone supervisor who cast a vote against the bill, assassinated both Mayor Moscone and Milk. Being seen as a martyr to the LGBTQ+ community, Milk was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009. 

Elton John:  
25 March 1947 

Consider one of the premier British entertainers and songwriters, Reginal Kenneth Dwight is better known as Sir Elton Hercules John. Being one of only 19 EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony Award) recipients, he learned to play the piano early, studying at the Royal Academy of Music before releasing several hits beginning in the 1970s to today. Since the late 1980s, Elton John has been fundraising for the fight against establishing the Elton John AIDS Foundation, raising over 300 million since its inception. John has been with his long-term partner, Canadian filmmaker David Furnish, and marrying in 2014 when same-sex marriage become legal.  

Edith Windsor:  
20 June, 1929 – 12 September 2017 

Edith “Edie” Windsor was an American LGBTQ+ rights activist best known for being the lead plaintiff in 2013. She earned her master’s degree from New York University in 1957. She began a 16-year career at IBM, becoming a renowned systems architect and the highest-level technical programmer in the company, even assisting the Atomic Energy Commission. However, she left IBM rejected in an attempt to name her partner, Thea Spyer, as a beneficiary of her insurance; this resulted in the FBI investigating her as part of the Lavender Scare. After the death of Spyer, Windsor filed a lawsuit alleging that due to Section 3 of The Defense of Mariage Act (DOMA) which provided the term spouse to only apply to marriages between a man and woman, the IRS found her marriage no exception, forcing her to pay $363,053 in estate taxes. In 2012, both the Southern District Court of New York and the Second Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed that Section 3 of DOMA was unconstitutional under the 5th Amendment. By March of 2013, the US Supreme Court heard oral arguments of the case and in June of that year issues a 5-4 decision affirming Section 3 of DOMA as unconstitutional. This decision is considered a landmark victory for the same-sex marriage movement and rights in the United States. 

 Chavela Vargas
April 17, 1919 – August 5,2012 

 Vargas was a Costa Rican born Mexican singer.  She is in the legendary category of musicians with Billy Holiday and Edith Piaf, all women of their time, performing timeless music while living their own life. Vargas fought the societal limits of gender while simultaneously changing the art form of popular song in Mexico and the wider Spanish speaking would. Vargas refused to traffic in the gender exactions of the time. She was masculine in presentation and refused to change the gender of characters in popular songs that she reinterpreted. If a song was sung to a woman, she sang as Chavela singing to a woman; however, Vargas didn’t identify as a lesbian until she was 81. She is often quoted to have said “Human beings love, and that’s all that matters. Don’t ask them who they love or why." Vargas was most popular in the 1950s, 60s and early 70s, and like many artists, she had a dark period where she struggled with addiction. Luckily, Chavela won her battle. She re-emerged later in life and was rediscovered and internationally acclaimed and celebrated. She died popular and well loved.  

Bayard Rustin
March 17, 1912 – August 24, 1987 

  Bayard Rustin was a complicated African American man. Early in life he was a communist and pacifist. The attempt Nazi conquest of Europe and the rise if Stalinism changed his point of view on pacifism and communism. Bayard was a strong unionist and believed the that the political fate of African Americans was best in coalition with unions, churches and American Jews, the same groups that formed the Civil Rights Movement coalition of the 1960s. This was no accident as Rustin was a major organizer and strategist of the mid-century movement. He, in fact, organized the historical 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. 

Rustin's life's work received the praise of both presidents Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama. Reagan celebrated Rustin’s belief in individual merit and Obama posthumously awarded Rustin the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his “unyielding [activism] for civil rights, dignity, and equality for all.” Nonetheless, when he died, his thoughts of social progress were in line with neoconservative thinking which alienated him from many LGBTQ+ and African American activities of his time. 

Simon Tseko Nkoli  
26 November 1957 – 30 November 1998 

Simon Nkoli was a freedom fighter against the apartheid regime of South Africa. He was born in Soweto and was as a youth activist with both the United Democratic Front of South Africa and the Congress of South African Students. He was imprisoned by the apartheid regime for his organizing and activist work. It was in prison where he convinced the African National Congress to support the civil rights of LGBTQ+ South Africans. In fact, Nkoli was part of the delegation of activists that helped convince Nelson Mandela to support the enfranchisement of LGBTQ+ rights in the new South African constitution.  Nkoli organized the first Pride March in South Africa. When he was diagnosed with HIV, he became an HIV/AIDS activist. He died of AIDS at the age of 38.