Lavender Graduation ceremony honors LGBTQIA Owls
Christopher Persaud found that he could make his four years at Temple into anything that he wanted.
Christopher Persaud’s laugh can fill an entire room—especially the laugh when he recalled Ruth Ost, director of the Honors Program, telling him as a high school senior that he would definitely change his major in his first year at Temple.
“I met with Ruth when I was touring Temple through the Honors Program. We’re close, and she still remembers me telling her what I was interested in and her asking why I was pre-med,” said Persaud, wearing an Andy Warhol t-shirt that’s a subtle indication that his passion doesn’t live in the medical field. “Ruth said, ‘No, you’re going to change your major, and you’re probably going to miss taking French.’”
She was right. By Persaud’s second semester, he switched his major from pre-med neuroscience to sociology and French—he did miss his high school French classes—and picked up an LGBT studies minor.
Persaud didn’t know what he wanted out of college, but quickly realized how many things he could do academically and socially that would work for him. Like working for a year as a peer health educator at the Wellness Resource Center, studying abroad in Paris, being a coordinator for the Honors Program Honorables of Color, conducting research with a faculty member, spending his summers in a social sciences research program at Harvard and interning at the William Way LGBT Community Center.
As Persaud talked through the threads of experience that he wove together as a Temple student, his eyes grew a little wider and his distinctive laugh inserted itself at the end of his sentences like punctuation. It’s that spark and determination to try it all that lead to Persaud’s nomination to be honored at the Lavender Graduation ceremony.
“It’s a very special recognition of the fact that, in addition to all of these other things that you do on campus, you are an LGBT-identified person, and just by being that person in whatever spaces you were in made an impact on people’s lives and experiences,” Persaud said.
Lavender Graduation is an annual event organized by the Wellness Resource Center recognizing the contributions and accomplishments of graduating seniors of the LGBTQIA community at Temple.
“Being a first semester freshman and being a gay student, coming to college made me ask, ‘OK, where are the things for me?’” Persaud said.
He sought out what he could get involved with on campus and realized that he could also talk about gender and sexuality in his academics—most of his sociology projects and research work have been around these topics and he was able to tailor his LGBT studies minor to his interests.
In the spring of his junior year, Persaud took LGBT Representation in the Media with Professor Adrienne Shaw in the Klein College of Media and Communication.
“I just loved it. At the time, I didn’t know this, but it’s exactly what I want to focus on in my research,” said Persaud, who just returned from a conference with Shaw in Los Angeles where they presented their research together. “Professor Shaw has been there for me so much in terms of figuring out what kind of graduate programs I want to apply to, and she’s my thesis advisor. I wouldn’t have made it through college without her.”
After graduation, Persaud is seeking research or nonprofit work on the East Coast for a few years before starting a PhD program. He admits that he still isn’t exactly sure of what he wants to do with his life, but after all he has done in his four years at Temple, he trusts himself.
“It’s funny, because being a senior I have so much advice that I didn’t expect to have,” Persaud said. “What I always tell incoming honors students is that you really can make Temple whatever you want it to be.”