A confession – and a request – for LGBTQ Pride Month

By Anna DiStefano, EdD, Provost Emerita and retired Fielding faculty

Anna DiStefano, right, and her partner of 40 years Deb Karoff

For more than 20 years, the U.S. has “celebrated” Pride Month in June. It is a time to see and appreciate all the members of the LGBTQIA spectrum. I am happy that at least one month out of 12 is devoted to honoring the diversity of identities in this country – including my own as a lesbian.

However, I have to admit that when I think of my own development and experiences, “pride” is not usually where I go first. The positive connotation of pride is self-respect – and self-respect connotes honor and integrity. It has taken me way too long to feel proud of who I am as a lesbian. (Remember, I am getting up there in years!)

Anna in early days at Fielding

For me, first, there was obliviousness, then confusion, then denial, then fear, then – ta da – acceptance and tolerance and occasionally, appreciation. But pride? Internalized homophobia meant I didn’t tell close friends and colleagues, certainly not my parents, especially not employers. I was justifiably afraid of rejection, getting fired, and disgraced. Perhaps this sounds to you like the bad old days that are thankfully behind us. I hope so, and in that spirit, I’d like those of you who identify as heterosexual to do something.

In observance of this month, I am asking everyone to come out to the people in their lives as a celebrant of LGBTQIA identities. Remember, I am not talking to LGBTQIA people – although we will do it as well. If there is anyone in your life whom you think might be LGBTQIA, come out to them as someone who sees and appreciates them fully. Yes, I am suggesting you come out to them rather than waiting for them to take the first step. Perhaps you are concerned they will say you are mistaken and be offended? What a great opportunity to help the straight community become more aware of the variety of feelings and prejudices that identity labels can evoke.

As for me, it took the lesbians of St. Louis, the staff of Fielding, the support of the Unitarian Society, and the friends in my Santa Barbara community – not to mention Deb, my partner of 40 years – to help me live with honor and integrity and dare I say, pride.

Anna, right, and Deb on a recent adventure